Review Summary: Is "Live Killers" really that much of a "Killer", or does it fall flat of being one?
What do you get when you combine Freddie Mercury’s vocal nodule ridden voice with tons of overdubs? Is it a messy mix of horror? No! You get “Live Killers”! That’s not a bad thing though, as when this album was recorded during the 1978-79 “Jazz” tour, Freddie wasn’t doing too well when it came to vocal ability. Queen had set out on the tour just weeks after they finished recording “Jazz”, and to make matters worse, it was a worldwide tour that lasted for several months. During the recording of “Live Killers” however, Freddie’s voice was gradually recovering, but not at top shape. So when recording “Killers”, the band had overdubs in mind, as usual when recording live albums. Queen manages to deliver a great performance (or performances considering the notorious search for the sources of “Live Killers”), but even with the overdubs, Freddie’s voice isn’t in top shape. The set-list is a good one, with it being diverse, something common during the “classic-era” of the group, and showing how different the band’s set was before it would be smothered with hits (Take the 1986 “Magic” tour for example).
The first side of the record doesn’t really showcase the band’s skill, and fails to really gain any momentum until “Get Down Make Love”, with the use of the Red Special, makes for a somewhat trippy listen. From there-on out, “Live Killers”, doesn’t fail to amaze and manages to stay consistent, making the listener feel as they are actually at a Queen concert (albeit, with loads of overdubs and the censorship on “Death On Two Legs”). Side One focuses on what I call the "Death On Two Legs" medley. As mentioned before, this particular medley compared to previous tour's medleys, is lacking in both consistency and momentum, and simply fails to spark any interest.
Side two, consisting mainly of the acoustic set, shows the unity of the band and how good they work together despite the songs being stripped down to mostly acoustic instruments. Side three is simply a Brian May showcase, with a great solo on "Don't Stop Me Know". The grand highlight of the side (and the album) has to be "Brighton Rock", featuring a blistering solo by May. Utilizing the Red Special to its full capabilities, he manages to layer notes upon notes upon notes to make an absolute and utter feast for the ears. Side four, like side two, is a full band effort, with all of them giving their all. Despite that, it happens to also be a chance for the rhythm section to shine, with Roger Taylor and John Deacon's abilities put to their fullest.
While not the greatest live record out there (Yessongs comes to mind…), “Live Killers” is an essential record for a Queen fan and/or anyone who loves listening to classic live acts performing, especially in their prime.