“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 : Freddie Mercury - Part 1 (Episode 34)
Freddie Mercury’s flamboyant stage presence was a vital factor in Queen’s status as the greatest live band in the world. In this week’s archive interview, the singer routinely crowned rock’s ultimate showman provides some fascinating insights into how entertaining visual theatrics played a vital part of any Queen show.
“It's like, you do your music and then entertainment plus.” Freddie Mercury
Part of the reason why Queen are widely regarded as the ultimate live act is the indisputable fact they had one of the greatest frontmen in the history of rock and roll. In a two-part Queen The Greatest Live special, the series delves back into the archive to get some fascinating insights from Freddie Mercury.
Faced with the force-ten showmanship of Freddie Mercury, resistance was futile. Not for nothing did he scale Classic Rock Magazine’s 2004 poll of the greatest frontmen of all time, and as he explains in this week’s archive interview, thrilling a stadium crowd took more than a facsimile of the studio material.As we have heard in previous episodes, Queen’s passion for putting on an entertaining show was paramount from the very start. And as Freddie confirms, the visual side of their performance has always been essential.
“People want to be entertained. How boring if we reproduce note-for-note what was on the album,” says Freddie. “People might as well just sit at home and listen to the album. It's a show, it's entertainment, and our songs take on a different meaning when we do a stage show.”
“Visual theatrics have always been there from any kind of theatre entertainment. All the greatest acts have used it, in one way or other, like Jimi Hendrix or the Stones. It has to be there. It's a form of entertainment. It's like, you do your music and then entertainment plus. And I, sort of personally, you know, I just like doing that anyway. I'd hate to go on stage and just sit and sing my songs. I have to move. It depends on each song. If there's an aggression in some song I have to show it.”
Right from the start, Freddie pushed the visual theatrics further than any rock ’n’ roll singer before him. As he reflects, during Queen’s ascent in the early-’70s, you might find him dressed as a harlequin, fluttering amongst the dry ice in a Zandra Rhodes-designed batwing tunic or even pirouetting onto the stage as a ballerina. “At that time, to introduce a certain kind of balletic look into rock ‘n’ roll was sort of outrageous. And I thought, you know, what’s a real funky rock ‘n’ roll audience going to say to this prancing ballerina coming on? I thought, Fine, I'll sing my rock ‘n’ roll songs with a tutu on – I don't care.”
As the scale of Queen’s live shows grew through the 70s and into the 80s, the need to innovate and evolve became even more important. Similarly, Freddie also felt it was vital to pay attention to every last detail.
“We're learning a lot after every show, and I personally do a lot of research after every show to find out what's going right, especially like the lights, they're very sophisticated lights and they can do so much more. I think every day I learn something, you know, ask the lighting man to do something new.”
“We're interjecting the show with new songs. So, every time we do a new song, we have to have a new light thing. The light cues can be different, you know, forever. I mean, you can have a new show every day if you wanted to.”
All the while, at the heart of every performance was a showman who seemed supercharged by the energy exchange between crowd and band. “I'd hate to go on stage and just sit and sing my songs, explains Freddie. “I have to move…”
Photo: © Queen Productions
Next Week: Queen The Greatest Live - Freddie Mercury – Part 2