“Queen: Live at Wembley Stadium” may be the finest concert ever captured on film.
I’m a bit biased, though. One of the first 45-rpm singles in my collection was Queen’s “We Will Rock You/We Are the Champions,” and the first full-length LP was Queen’s soundtrack to “Flash Gordon.” The latter has all the staples of great rock and roll: Screeching guitars, stylistic excess, and bombastic lead singing.
Recorded in 1986 in front of 70,000-plus screaming fans, “Live at Wembley” perfectly encapsulates Queen at the height of its powers. John Deacon and Roger Taylor nail down the rhythm section, while Brian May and the inimitable Freddie Mercury prove why they are one of the most potent guitar/vocal combos of the twentieth century.
Listeners who find Queen’s studio work fussy and overwrought will have little to complain about here: For live consumption, the band tailored its catalog toward the fast and furious. Songs like “Tie Your Mother Down,” “Another One Bites the Dust,” and “Hammer to Fall” are reimagined here as straight-on rockers and actually eclipse the studio versions.
From the opening strains of “One Vision” to the expected closing of “Rock You” and “Champions” (with the surprise “Friends Will Be Friends” sandwiched between), every second of Mercury’s vocal prowess (what range, though some have said that even in ‘86, he may have been losing some of his vaunted strength) and May’s shredding guitar licks are captured via multiple camera angles and pristine sound. The sight of Mercury working the crowd — inviting them to sing along and become part of the show – is stunning. Queen played on an immense stage, yet the show is still intimate.
A second DVD in the set provides behind-the-scenes interviews and documentaries, some recorded at the time of the show and others almost 20 years later.
Overall, ”Live at Wembley” is worth considerably more than the ten dollars I paid for it, and I recommend it highly to any fans of live music in general and Queen in particular.
(Universal Studio will release the movie “Flash Gordon” on DVD in August, hopefully with the band’s great music sounding better than ever.)