Complete Queen concert from Milton Keynes Bowl, 5th June 1982. Tracklist: Flash, The Hero, We Will Rock You (Fast), Action This Day, Play the Game, Staying Power, Somebody to Love, Now I'm ... See full summary »
Freddie Mercury's lip sync is completely off during one shot from "Killer Queen" (apparently the picture and the sound were from different concerts in this case). However, this has been fixed in the new DVD release. See more »
A review is just the opinion of the author...So please do not be upset if mine and yours differ as neither is defacto, but each is, hopefully, interesting. That said, here goes...
I always use "Under Pressure as a dividing line separating early and later Queen, therefore the few years around it is what I refer to as Mid-Period Queen. This concert in 1981 in Montreal fits into that time frame. It's a good time to see them as they are still growing, however they've already achieved major success worldwide. With almost a dozen "hits" to their credit (and "misses" that were not bad either) even casual fans would come away from a Queen show quite impressed. So, we have a setting for a good mid-period Queen showcase.
The show starts out with a much changed tempo, and stripped down, version of "We Will Rock You". It works and I think years later The Eagles must have noticed as they did the same thing rearranging "Hotel California" on "Hell Freezes Over" DVD. What follows is basically a fairly spirited concert version of their hits. It's clear in short order you are watching a very tight band with an extremely unique sound which is in no small order due to the charismatic Freddie Mercury. Freddie Mercury is no cookie cutter front man, he's equal parts Opera, Broadway, Vegas, and Rock. His persona carries the energy with his band-mates providing a solid backup. Speaking of the band: Brian May has the super distorto-crunch chording and saccharine coated double tracked leads that are as indigenous to Queen's sound as Mercury's bombastic vocals. I see May here as not a master guitarist, but a master sound-scapist. What many casual fans will be surprised to witness here is the fact that Roger Taylor was as important as May in the Queen "wall of sound". Mr. Taylor is like a Keith Moon with more control...Plus, he is one heck of an excellent vocalist. Yes, Roger Taylor could have been a front-man as he sings better than Phil Collins for instance. You'll be amazed at just what a big piece of the Queen sound Roger is responsible for, excellent! As for John Deacon, well he's Bill Wymann which is to say boring and but good to the point of being invisible. 2/3'rds the way through the only thing occurs which is out of place, mind you not at show you're physically at, but in the context of a video concert. What am I talking about? Well the obligatory Kettle Drum Solo of course! Seriously, there is a drum solo that segues into a kettle drum solo that culminates with a guitar solo. It's all "noodling" and it's boring in the confines of home video. It is the only break in an otherwise excellently paced DVD. And speaking of the DVD we must address the sound and the video quality. Keep in mind the finest home set up at the time had a VHS-HiFi deck with about 240 (best case) veritcal lines of resolution with a 4:3 aspect ratio and audio that likely had artifacts from helically scanned FM-modulated sound which, though capable of a good frequency range, still sucked when reproduced from mass produced video cassettes. So, what I'm saying is the DVD is a revelation. Video quality is great! It's been converted to 16:9 aspect ratio and it really rocks. The film frames must have been individually tweaked to remove all imperfections while retaining the soft warm quality of analog film. For a 1981 filmed concert the lighting was amazing. Most concert videos of the period were so dark you couldn't turn the brightness/contrast high enough to resolve detail...Not a problem here as this concert is clear and well lighted throughout. I thank the director for that as he correctly understands this is tantamount to the home viewer's enjoyment. As for the sound, well apart from some hard pans of various instruments to mimic the camera's position (common in all 80's and many 90's concert videos) it, too, is great. Sounds warm in a very analog way, but it's with clarity and good upper treble air. I listened on very revealing Martin-Logan electrostatic speakers and I'm happy to report I heard the metallic attack of the cymbals and the upper harmonics very well indeed. Good original sound, and even more importantly very well remastered here.
As you can tell I recommend this concert to both the casual and die-hard Queen fan. The production is solid but very low key due to no slickness or over-the-top special effects. Refreshingly straightforward. I'd go further and include even the non-fan as well since the songs are accessible and eminently listen-able, plus Freddie Mercury is a spectacle that Rock is not likely to see anytime soon again. "We Will Rock You" does his legacy justice. To close it's poignant that ten years later (to the day this Montreal show was recorded many say) Freddie Mercury passed away. Most folks still did not know he was gay at the point of this show. You do see that he was no longer playing up his masculinity but was the more ambiguous cabaret persona which was really him...Just a very flamboyant singer who in another era might have been Rudi Vallee. This stuff is a great time capsule of a great band...Miss it at your own peril!
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