Looking back at the 1970s and 1980s, sometimes many forget how big the band Queen was. If it weren't for Freddie Mercury's death in 1992, we might still be talking about Queen being as big a band as the Beatles. Even as Queen moved into the 1980s, while their popularity did slightly decline in the United States, it continued to be very high in Europe. Their performance at Live Aid is widely considered one of the greatest of all-time and their subsequent "Magic" tour is considered one of the all-time greatest concert tours. Queen would release a DVD and CD from that tour entitled "Live at Wembley 86" - and that performance might be considered their all-time best. Even before the "Magic" tour, Queen still performed many legendary concerts. One such concert was recorded in Montreal in November of 1981. The CD - "Queen Rock Montreal" is a great representative of those performances (this CD serves as the soundtrack for Queen's concert film, "We Will Rock You") While it might be a tad below the "Live at Wembley" performance, this performance is not far behind.
This is such a great concert, there isn't room to discuss everything on here. Here are ten "things to listen for" on this concert. These are in no particular order:
1.While Freddie Mercury is a brilliant vocalist, Roger Taylor really holds his own. Not only does he deliver thundering drums throughout the concert - he is simply outstanding providing the main background vocals. Taylor's performance on "Under Pressure" is going to make you forget that David Bowie would perform this song with Queen.
2. The fast version of "We Will Rock You" is a real treat to open the concert. In a lot of ways, I kind of like this up-tempo performance much better than the original. (Yes, the original is the penultimate song of the concert)
3.John Deacon is one of the all-time great bass players and this performance really showcases why. Songs like "Under Pressure" and "Another One Bites the Dust" are well-known for Deacon's bass work, but his presence is felt many other places. "Dragon Attack" and "Get Down Make Love" might be some of the best examples.
4.Following "Crazy Little Thing Called Love", I like how Queen follows it up with a cover of "Jailhouse Rock". This is a terrific Rockabilly tribute by Queen.
5.I was thrilled that "Keep Yourself Alive" was included on the setlist. The real highlight of this was the 1+ minute jam to intro the song. While Brian May's guitar is a highlight of the song, ultimately it is Deacon's bass work that really sets the stage for this intro jam.
6.Queen fans are probably used to the pre-recorded version of the "Opera" section of "Bohemian Rhapsody" - sandwiched in between the live beginning and live end of this song.. The way they use it actually works - and makes for one heck of a performance. "Queen Rock Montreal" is no exception. However on this particular recording, it is more obvious hearing the transitions in and out of the pre-recorded section.
7.This concert has two selections from Queen's "Flash Gordon" soundtrack - the well-known "Flash" song and a segue into another song called "The Hero". I liked how these songs held up under the live setting. Taylor's drums really shine on these performances. It is worth noting that these songs were originally omitted from the video release.
8.From the setlist, I was disappointed that there was not "Fat Bottomed Girls" or "Bicycle Race" from the "Jazz" album. However I was pleased with the inclusion of "Killer Queen", "Get Down Make Love", the Flash Gordon songs, "Dragon Attack", and "I'm Love with My Car". These songs seemed to disappear from Queen's setlist in the latter years of the band.
9.The concert includes two "solos" by Roger Taylor (Drums and Tympani) and Brian May (Guitar). Overall, I liked Taylor's solo. Although May's is not bad, I've heard more solid ones.
10.It is also worth noting this CD was actually recorded over a two day period. Normally I prefer a live recording to be from a single night - as this captures the magic of a great performance. However, "Queen Rock Montreal" does a great job at providing a seamless thread between the performances. The continuity is so good that it sounds like it was taken from a single night. It is also worth noting that the entire set list from the Montreal performances are included on the CD.
The liner notes include a short write-up on the concert as well as a lot of photos from the shows. Overall, this is simply an outstanding concert - and an outstanding video of the concert. You will find yourself watching the concert and bonus material over and over again. This is another gold standard for live performances on CD. This is a must for Queen and music fans.