“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: Expect The Unexpected (Episode 26)
In an exclusive Queen The Greatest Live interview, Brian May and Roger Taylor reveal how they love to keep the audience on their toes with some well-placed surprises. Guaranteed to create a special and unique experience for fans, and helping keep the band fresh on a long tour, it has led to some truly crowd-pleasing
“Why do we cover other people’s songs? It’s just an instinct. Sometimes you just want to give it that thing which you loved when you were a kid. Maybe like ‘Heartbreak Hotel’.” Brian May
“Those things like ‘Tutti Frutti’, Little Richard. Yeah. Kind of telling people this is why we love rock and roll, because these songs really influenced us.” Roger Taylor
Some 50 years since they first took on the world, Queen continues to be hailed as one of the greatest live bands of all time. The band’s legendary 20-minute live performance at Live Aid in 1985 was earlier this month voted by the UK public as the most memorable festival moment of all time, according to a new poll.
Throughout the band’s illustrious touring career, Queen always sought new ways to thrill and surprise their audiences. Band fans quickly came to learn that in attending a Queen show, as seen in this week’s Queen The Greatest Live episode, audiences
had learned to Expect The Unexpected.
Offering ‘the unexpected’ in this episode is rare footage of the band performing a rock and roll tribute to their own personal early music heroes – Elvis Presley, Little Richard, and Ricky Nelson, taken from the band’s history-etched Magic Tour July 1986 pair of London Wembley Stadium concerts, the very last concerts the band would perform in the city.
Interacting with their audience has always been a vital part of the Queen’s live experience. An early innovation into the Queen live show which has evolved over the years to still be an integral part of the band show to this very day, sees Roger Taylor step down from the drum riser and join the rest of the band as they go acoustic at the front of the stage, to give the crowd an up close and personal experience.
Roger Taylor says: “We’ve done that in a number of ways for a long time. We used to have a completely separate stage at the front, which would then actually descend with a little mini bass drum kit on it.
“So we’d come down to the front and it just formed one of the more intimate parts of the show. These days, with this sort of set-up, you can reach out with this long catwalk and really get out into the audience with people, which is very good in arenas. You’re surrounded by an audience then, and it’s great. You really feel like you’re in touch with people you know, and you can actually look at people.”
In addition to those moments, and with the intention of giving the crowd full value by packing as much into a show as possible, Queen found a well-constructed medley would keep the audience on their toes as one song suddenly takes a very different direction into another, as seen in this episode as Bohemian Rhapsody segues into Killer Queen.
Brian May says: “There’s a moment when you think, ‘Oh, isn’t it a shame? Can’t do this song, this song, this song’. It’s hard to know what to leave out, the thing of too many hits. So what if we could just do a little piece of this and a little bit of that, just little hints of stuff, so people feel like they heard the song. So we used to do quite a long medley of Killer Queen and all sorts of other stuff.”
Interestingly, as Brian explains, merging songs in this way is not a task to be taken lightly. “Very often I don’t like other people doing medleys, it kind of puts me off doing them. I see people doing a medley. I think, ‘why don’t you just sing the bloody song?’ Because you do deprive people of the structure of the song and the narrative of the song. So, you don’t get the beginning of the story and the end of the story. You go into another song which can be frustrating. You’ve got to be quite careful with medleys, to be honest.”
But perhaps the most unexpected moment of any tour would be when Freddie, Roger, Brian and John, despite having a wealth of their own songs to choose from, would spring a surprise on their fans by finding the space to cover someone else’s song, as seen here in footage from the 1986 Magic Tour in which the band salute some of their own personal favourite songs and artists with a three-song medley of Elvis Presley’s “(You’re So Square ) Baby I Don’t Care”, Ricky Nelson’s “Hello Mary Lou”, and the Little Richard classic “Tutti Frutti”. Recorded live at London’s Wembley Stadium, on 12th July 1986, the medley would become a fixture of their final 1986 tour and feature on the band’s Live at Wembley ‘86 double album released in late May 1992.
Says Brian: “Why cover other people’s songs? It’s just an instinct. Sometimes you just want to give it that thing which you loved when you were a kid. Maybe like ‘Heartbreak Hotel’. And every now and again we would want to go into that area. I suppose it refreshes us and sometimes it’s quite refreshing for the audience. It’s out of the blue. They don’t expect it. It just brings something out of you, you can be a bit more reckless with other people’s material than with your own sometimes. Fun. It’s just fun, I guess.”
Roger agrees: “Yeah, absolutely. Those things like ‘Tutti Frutti’, Little Richard. It’s kind of telling people this is why we love rock and roll, because these songs really influenced us. It’s nice to do those. It keeps our interest up and kind of broadens the show a bit.”
Queen The Greatest Live: Expect The Unexpected (Episode 26)
Next week: Queen The Greatest Live – Tutti Frutti
Photo: © Queen Productions