Review Summary: Greates live performance of the band!
Queen have its share of live albums, but this one is the best up to now. The concert registration is compiled from two shows in Montreal in 1981. Previously this was released as the DVD "We Will Rock you". The sound of that DVD left much to be desired, because the registration was meant to be shown in theaters. On that DVD the ambient sounds were greatly reduced, and the sound was a bit dry and mixed up-front. The idea was that when it was shown in the theater, the projection would replace the actual band, the theater and the audience would take care of the ambient sounds. But at home, the DVD didn’t sound right. Queen always hated this and after being able to buy the publishing rights, Queen remastered the picture and sound. This CD and the DVD of the same name is the result.
Of all the Queen shows released officially, this is the best one. It's an almost perfect show. The sound quality is really amazing and the band is in top form. These shows were not part of a tour and were scheduled to film it. The band wasn’t tired. But due to troubles with the director, Freddie was really annoyed by the camera’s and made the band play more aggressive than usual. The set list is great and the show captures the band in their prime. Later on, they became somewhat of a stadium band.
“We Will Rock You” opens the show in great fashion. It's not the famous slow version, but a fast rocker. This fast version was never released on an album, but from in the late seventies and early eighties it opened the show. This is a good version, though performances of this song seldom vary in quality. Sounds of thunder built anticipation and then Brian May comes in aggressively, as do the rest of the band. Great guitar and great vocals.
Then Freddie asks if you want to get crazy and they give one of the last performances of “Let Me Entertain You”. An up-tempo song about the band doing their best to entertain the public. Not a bad version of the song, but not very special. Some nice bass playing though. It fits the Queen’s philosophy to start their concerts in the highest gear to make sure the audience is awake and in to it.
“Play the Game” is a classic song that really shines. On the album the song starts with an eighties sounding synthesizer intro. Live it is replaced by some wonderful piano improvisation by Mercury. It’s rockier than the album version. The guitar solo fits the song perfectly.
“Somebody to Love” is one of my favorite songs by Queen. Live it is a completely different beast. The piano and vocal intro differs from show to show. Great vocals by Freddie and Roger. Queen used to change their songs quite a bit in a live setting. The songs are less polished, speeded up a little and rockier. This song looses it’s gospel feel somewhat and is a rocker. This is a fun song for the drummer. This version is one of the best, aside from their stunning rendition of the song on “Queen on Fire at the Bowl”.
Before starting “Killer Queen” Freddie talks to the audience to get them loose and to coment on the registration. John Deacon starts with the bass of “Under Pressure”, but Freddie tells him jokingly to “F*ck off”. “Killer Queen” is shortened and more of a medley version. The first part is played and a part of the guitar solo.
It segues into “I'm in Love with my Car”. The only song in the concert that is sung by Roger. Also one of the last performances of the song. I’m not a drummer, but I find it amazing to see that people can play the drum and sing a song at the same time. This song doesn’t differ much from the version on “Live Killers”.
“Get Down Make Love” is a groovy song about making love. It’s middle part is used as an opportunity to improvise with panning vocals and guitars, with drum flourishes. But no synths! After three minutes, Freddie blows a whistle and the song continues and is ended.
“Save Me” is a beautiful ballad and this version is most touching I've ever heard. It’s Brian that starts the song on the piano. It nice to hear him play for a change, he has a softer playing style than Freddie. After Brian picks up the guitar, it’s Freddie that takes on the piano playing duties. Very nice!
“Now I'm Here” speeds things up and it is a rousing version. It’s about the first American tour with Mott the Hoople. Speeding up the song makes it a lot better. The bass sounds great and on top of the bass and drum foundation, Brian can improvise on his guitar.
Then the song comes to a premature end. Freddie starts with an audience participation. The audience enjoys it and slowly bass, drum and guitar are added to built up tension that is released when they segue into a groovy “Dragon Attack”. I have no idea what the song is about, but it sounds cool. The song is carried by the bass line, with funky drumming and guitar improvisations. Then a reprise of “Now I’m Here” finished the first half of the concert.
“Love of my Life” is an intimate acoustic song. On the album it’s played on the piano, but live it’s played on an acoustic guitar. Usually the audience participates a lot, but this time it's a bit timid. Freddie seems to remark that they don’t know the song. I’m not too fond of this song, it’s a bit boring.
“Under Pressure” is performed for the first time, without Bowie of course. The bass sounds awesome and the only time Freddie uses his falsetto voice when singing “These are the days it never rains but it pours “. I think that later versions are better, like the one on “Live Magic”. That one sounds more epic.
Then an improvisation of the band. A bit of a song that they were working on at that time. Though promising it never became a real song. Then “Keep Yourself Alive” is played. A nice song with one of the few drum solos by Roger, who says that he dislikes them.
A nice up-tempo solo that continues into a tympani solo. By using pedals Roger can change the pitch of the sound and it’s quite a melodic effort.
Then the band can rest when Brian May shows his skills on the guitar. Some 5 minutes of various guitar themes and delay effects. Great, if you like that kind of thing.
Then two songs are played that were missing on the “We Will Rock You” DVD and are also missing on the DVD version of “Rock Montreal”. “Flash” was a hit at that time. I really enjoy this song because it’s so different. The staccato piano and drumming are complemented by some nice drum fills. It makes the concert a bit more loose.
“The Hero“ starts with drums thundering in. Aggressive guitar and bass playing. A highlight for me on this album.
A nice version of “Crazy Little Thing Called Love”, the last time they performed it as a four-piece band. A fifth keyboard player was added in future shows. It’s not that rockabilly anymore. Freddie starts on its acoustic guitar and for the short solo Brian uses a Telecaster instead of his famous self made “Red Special”. The song is extended by a guitar solo. That solo became lengthier in later shows, but here it’s short and sweet.
The only cover of the night is the famous Elvis song “Jailhouse Rock”. It is a nice loose version that was actually part of the encore.
The live version of “Bohemian Rhapsody” cannot top the studio version. The operatic part is performed from tape, as usual. Not that special, though the audience seems to like it.
The energy level stays high with a rocking version of “Tie Your Mother Down”. Faster and more aggressive, an awesome rocker but not that special.
The well known bass of “Another One Bites the Dust” is awesome. The song is slow and majestic, with again great vocal improvisation by Freddie.
As if they had energy to spare, “Sheer Heart Attack” is absolutely stunning. It’s almost a punk song, insanely energetic and really aggressive. Roger said it was a tough song to play towards the end of the show. He had to drum almost standing behind his kit because of the high tempo bass drum.
The show finishes with the well-known couple “We Will Rock You” and “We Are the Champions”. They are nice versions. It’s nice to hear that Brian always finds other ways to play the guitar intro and his solo in “Rock You”.
The performances of “We Are the Champions” do not vary that much through the years. But it’s a great closer!
“God Saves the Queen” is played from tape and Freddie thanks the audience. And he jokes “Let’s go and get f*cked”.