Live At Wembley Stadium (DVD)

Queen

Parlophone / Hollywood Records, 2003

http://www.queenonline.com/

REVIEW BY: Melanie Love

ORIGINALLY PUBLISHED: 11/05/2008

Few bands have ever done bombast better than Queen, and this is never more evident than in the context of their live shows. Everything’s larger than life, from the incredible lighting rigs to Brian May’s rich, singing guitar riffs to the packed crowds (this sold-out outing at Wembley Stadium had the band playing to over 120,000 fans). Queen sounds excellent in the studio, all crisp harmonies and layers of orchestral guitars, yet somehow their material has always translated well to the stage. Even stripped of the multitracking, the group sounds just as full onstage, which is owed part to how well their voices mesh together -- drummer Roger Taylor’s gravely rasp, the sweet, almost frail tones of Brian May, and, of course, Mercury, who can veer from falsetto to baritone as quick as you can say sequined catsuit (bassist John Deacon claims to have never sung a note, though he’s always outfitted with a microphone anyway).  Plus, despite the fact that Queen was more notorious for their gleeful, boundary-pushing antics, the four members were truly excellent musicians, and on July 12th, 1986, they sounded as tight and as energetic as ever.

The Live At Wembley Stadium DVD features the band on its Magic Tour, supporting their 1986 album, A Kind Of Magic (a somewhat patchy collection of songs that acts as a sort of soundtrack for the film Highlander, with six of the nine tracks appearing in the movie. On disc, A Kind Of Magic is a little too synthed-up for my taste, but the live cuts featured here finally seem in their element. Show opener “One Vision” is blazing, with crunching guitars, powerful drums, and Mercury caterwauling about the stage in a display of energy that kind of exhausts me just watching it; one moment he’s pumping his fists, then the camera cuts away for a second and picks up on him swinging from the rafters or scaling the drum risers. It’s grittier and faster than the album version, featuring an extended intro to up the anticipation in those first few moments before the band sprint out. my_heart_sings_the_harmony_web_ad_alt_250

From there, the show is a solid mix of new material, big hits, and a few past gems thrown in for good measure. Following a blistering rendition of “Tie Your Mother Down,” with Mercury’s voice deep and lascivious as ever on this number, the band dig up “In The Lap Of The Gods…Revisited” from 1973’s Sheer Heart Attack. It’s a lovely, soaring number, all swaying harmonies and Mercury’s rich, clear vocals. For the abuse his throat suffered over the years, from heavy smoking to his frequent polyps, he still sounds incredible, whether he’s handling the string-laden, wrenching ballad “Who Wants To Live Forever” or bringing the roof down with a short, cheeky rocker from The Works, “Tear It Up.”

Still, it’s not just Mercury’s show, though from his opening line, “Hello there, my beauties, is it happening?” he has the audience in the palm of his hand -- as always. On “Another One Bites The Dust” and “Under Pressure,” John Deacon’s classic basslines take center stage, while later in the setlist “Radio Ga Ga” has Roger Taylor’s deep raspy backing vocals providing a nice counterpoint to Mercury’s crisper tones on this Taylor-penned track.

Meanwhile, “Love Of My Life,” a staple in the Queen concert repertoire, sounds as lovely as ever with just Mercury duetting with the audience and May lending his light, sweet acoustic guitar.  Mercury’s call and response with the audience has always been one of his go-to tricks, seen every time he closes out the show with “We Are The  Champions” or “We Will Rock You,” but there’s a wistfulness and a sincerity to the interaction on “Love  Of My Life” that takes it to a more intimate place. The moment here where Mercury says plainly, “I still love you,” and the audience erupts into cheers is simply breathtaking, an ever-poignant reminder of what a talent the world lost with his death in 1991.

Queen shows have retained some staples since the band began touring in the early ‘70s: Brian May’s epic, echoing guitar solos after “Now I’m Here” and a short medley of covers in the setlist. Their Wembley show has the group skimming through “(You’re So Square) Baby I Don’t Care,” “Hello Mary Lou (Goodbye Heart),”  “Tutti Frutti,” and “Gimme Some Lovin’” before they finally launch into their most definitive hit, “Bohemian Rhapsody.” The medley itself is fairly solid, full of raucous energy, but it still would’ve been nice to hear another gem from their back catalogue in those five minutes instead.

Live At Wembley Stadium is a breathless, near-seamless look into a band arguably at their peak, and they sound on top of the world. For all their envelope-pushing in the studio, Queen made the live show their own, too, and there’s really no better proof of their brilliant energy than this DVD.  

Rating: A-

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© 2008 Melanie Love and The Daily Vault. All rights reserved. Review or any portion may not be reproduced without written permission. Cover art is the intellectual property of Parlophone / Hollywood Records, and is used for informational purposes only.