Queen The Greatest Live – 21st Century Queen: Hammer To Fall (Episode 46)

21st Century Queen: Hammer To Fall
21st Century Queen: Hammer To Fall © Queen Productions Ltd

“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 – 21st Century Queen: Hammer To Fall (Episode 46)

A hallmark of Queen’s music, both live and in the studio, is how it has constantly evolved and encompassed different sounds and styles. The band have never been afraid of trying new things. One area that is always a delight for the audience is when a classic track is presented in a completely different style – such as from the Queen + Paul Rodgers tour in 2005, with this compelling re-imagining of Hammer To Fall.

One of the great joys of a Queen show is watching the band twist their standards into bold new shapes. To any fan onboard since the mid-’80s, the jagged opening guitar crunch of their 1984 classic Hammer To Fall is instantly familiar, heralding one of the band’s hardest-rocking cuts. But as we see in this week’s archive footage from the band’s Return of the Champions tour with Paul Rodgers in 2005, a great song can be presented a thousand different ways – with even the heaviest headbangers often revealing a tender heart beneath the overdrive.

Written by Brian May, and released as the fourth single from 1984’s The Works album, Hammer To Fall was always a deeper song than its thrilling route-one riff implied. Interpreted as an ode to the paranoia of the Cold War era (‘For we who grew up tall and proud/In the shadow of the mushroom cloud’) and the great leveller of death (‘Rich or poor or famous/For your truth it’s all the same’), Brian gave the official explanation on his website. “Hammer To Fall is really about life and death, and being aware of death as being part of life – the hammer coming down is only a symbol of the Grim Reaper doing his job!”  [SOAPBOX: 24 April 2004]  READ HERE

Performing a carbon copy of Hammer To Fall each night could never satisfy this creatively fearless band. In this week’s episode of Queen The Greatest Live, the song is slowed to a stately pace and stripped to its aching soul, with Brian leading in the song amidst a waterfall of harmonies worthy of a gospel choir, before noughties-era frontman Paul Rodgers joins him for a touching duo performance.

But of course, Queen would never send the hardcore rockers in the crowd home disappointed, and as the glistening chords of the reimagined song curdle into a squeal of feedback, Brian rises from his stool to fire the revved-up riff on all cylinders. For this happy audience, the hammer has well and truly fallen. 

Queen The Greatest Live – 21st Century Queen: Hammer To Fall (Episode 46)

Next week : Queen The Greatest Live : I Was Born To Love You

Photo: © Queen Productions