“Queen The Greatest Live” The Greatest series returns with a year-long celebration of Queen Live.
A 50-week YouTube series going behind the scenes to reveal what goes into creating a Queen show, featuring moments from iconic performances and demonstrating why the band is regarded as the ultimate live act.
Queen The Greatest Live: Under The Lights (Episode 9)
In an exclusive new interview, Brian May and Roger Taylor explain why lighting is so important to the Queen live experience – and look back at the band’s most ambitious productions over the decades.
“It was pretty much like a pizza oven.” Brian May
When Queen formed in 1970, the band were determined their live shows would dazzle all the senses. Now, in an exclusive interview for Episode 9 of Queen The Greatest Live, Brian May and Roger Taylor explain why lighting is such a vital part of the band’s audio-visual spectaculars – and reveal their favourite moments under the lights.
Queen The Greatest Live: Under The Lights (Episode 9
“For that two-and-a-half hour that we’re onstage, we are in complete control of the environment – that means the sound, the lights, the temperature, everything,” says Brian. “We’ve always thought the lights are not just objects to illuminate, they’re objects in themselves and they’re part of the environment. And that’s a kind of rock ‘n’ roll thing, I think. I think we imbibed that from seeing stuff that we enjoyed when we were kids.”
Coming up on the London circuit of the late-’60s, the Queen lineup watched the evolution of rock show lighting at firsthand, and having taken inspiration from pioneers like Pink Floyd, they resolved to push the envelope further still. “There were so many acts going around that had hundreds of lights, all different colours, and it just made white,” remembers Roger. “So we had this idea of just having red, green and white. And it was very effective.”
As their concert venues grew rapidly in the early-’70s, Queen’s productions became ever more ambitious, and over the past five decades, the lineup have worked with the lighting sector’s greatest visionaries and most cutting-edge technology. (In fact, by the time of 1982’s Hot Space Tour, the lighting rig was so heavy that a proposed show at the Royal Albert Hall was cancelled over fears the famous domed ceiling could not support it.)
In this new interview, Roger recalls one trailblazing lighting rig nicknamed the ‘Crown’ that could be raised and lowered during the show (a first for rock ‘n’ roll), as well as the suspended lighting banks colloquially known as ‘Bic razors’ and much-copied since. Yet the drummer also explains how, at a Queen show, less is sometimes more: “Sometimes the most effective light is one single powerful spotlight, to focus the entire arena on that performer.”
Meanwhile, Brian reflects on the dynamic lighting pods that responded to his guitar solos, as well as the infamous ‘pizza oven’ rig whose tungsten bulbs made concerts a physical ordeal for the band. “In those days, they were hot, they were incandescent, all of them, they were all tungsten,” he remembers. “And when it came down, it was pretty much like a pizza oven. And Rog used to get frightened. There was smoke coming off his stool when he went off for the encore. I don’t quite how we survived that!”
“We also had a different set up where we had lights in pods, and in each pod there was a man running it and operating it so you could actually interact with these pods. And there’s some footage of me doing the guitar solo and playing to the pod and sort of moving it. It would sort of interact with me and talk to me when I’m playing.“
“That was a lot of fun. Michael Jackson saw that and said, I want that. And he did.”
Next week: Queen – Tie Your Mother Down