WEMBLEY STADIUM 1986
|Review by Collectors music reviews
Queen’s twenty minute set at the Live Aid event on July 13th, 1985 simply revitalized Queen’s career. Although they didn’t completely lose popularity in the early eighties, many forgot just how potent a live act they were and how charismatic Freddie Mercury could be, given a big enough stage.
The importance wasn’t lost on the band either. They composed “One Vision,” the opening track of their new album A Kind Of Magic, as a commemoration of the event and opened every show on their last tour with that number. Both their latest LP and the Magic tour of Europe were great successes.
It also wasn’t coincidence that almost a year to the day Queen returned to Wembley for two massive sold out shows. They were scheduled in the middle of the itinerary and were among four scheduled for the UK that summer. (Knebworth, which was the final show of the summer, was scheduled later).
The first night is the same old source, but from a much lower generation tape, as the old version had worse quality. This version sounds much better. The second night is a new source, taped right near the stage in great quality. You can hear the whole concert performed as live as it was in fact, without all those overdubs present on the official releases.
Wembley Stadium, London, UK – July 11th, 1986
Queen filmed this show in addition to the second in order to test the cameras and make sure the film crew got the cues down. “A Kind Of Magic,” “Another One Bites The Dust,” “Tutti Frutti,” “Crazy Little Thing Called Love” and the tail end of the encore “We Are The Champions” and “God Save The Queen” were included as bonus footage on Live At Wembley Stadium in 2003, and the entire show on Live At Wembley Stadium: 25th Anniversary Edition.
This audience recording has never been pressed onto silver disc (or pro-CDR), but has been in circulation. Wardour obtained what must be the master recording. It’s a significant improvement, being very clear, well balanced and extremely enjoyable.
The show is also more enjoyable than the better known second Wembley. Freddie has a stronger voice and the band are much more relaxed, delivering one of the best performances of the tour.
Disc one starts with the taped introduction and the band hitting the stage for energetic versions of “One Vision,” their pean to Live Aid the year before, and “Tie Your Mother Down.” Freddie jokes with the massive crowd, “Hello my beauties! Everyone feeling in a crazy mood?… Then take your clothes off!”
“In The Lap Of The Gods…Revisited” starts the first of three medleys in the set. The anthem from Sheer Heart Attack segues into a bit of “Seven Seas Of Rhye,” “Tear It Up” from Works and ends with a brilliant “A Kind Of Magic.” It’s a shame Freddie’s voice can’t duplicate the studio recording because it is such an uplifting, joyful song.
The funk section of the show consists of two songs, “Under Pressure” and “Another One Bites The Dust.” Before the latter Freddie, with a towel in his hand, jokes, “I’ve got to get the snot out of my nose before I can sing. Fuck anybody who doesn’t like it.”
After this portion of the show is the first real break in the energy. Every night on the tour, before starting “Who Wants To Live Forever” from A Kind Of Magic, Freddie has to address the break-up rumors which seem to dog every big British band. “I can tell you straight from my bowels that we’re not gonna do it” he promises. This performance is hampered by Brian May’s out-of-tune guitar in the in the solo.
The footage from this night shows how heavy the rain starts to fall by the time they play the acoustic set. The longest they played since the Jazz tour in 1979, it starts off with the gravity of “Love Of My Life” and “Is This The World We Created?” Before the latter Freddie says how some of the receipts from the British shows are going to the Save The Children fund and dedicates it “to all these people who are doing it all year long in their quiet way.”
Before they play “Bohemian Rhapsody” Freddie asks, “is everybody nice and wet? It’s the only way to be in England.” The show ends on a powerful note with “Hammer To Fall” and “Crazy Little Thing Called Love,” joined onstage by Spike Edney on second guitar on the former and boogie piano on the latter.
The show ends with “Radio Ga Ga” and the encore set with “We Will Rock You,” “Friends Will Be Friends” and “We Are The Champions” and at the end Freddie tell them, “thank you for being so special tonight, and putting up with the rain – and putting up with us.”
Wembley Stadium, London, UK – July 12th, 1986
The second night in Wembley is one of the most famous and well documented concerts. It was broadcast live on the radio and was rebroadcast several months later (with overdubs). The Live Magic CD in 1986 included “Hammer To Fall” from this show, and the entire concert was officially released in 1992.
Much of the footage was issued on VHS in 1989 and on DVD in 2003 (accompanied by a 2CD release featuring the soundtrack) and again for the 25th anniversary in 2011.
There have been countless unofficial releases of the radio broadcast, but Wardour presents, for the first time, a complete audience recording of the show. The very beginning is slightly distorted, but it clears up to be as good as the first night. The taper was very close to the stage and captured all the details in the performance. Without the overdubs, it is a true “warts-and-all” recording which reveals the bum notes and scratchy voices.
Freddie’s voice sounds very weak and the band’s nervousness is evident in the first song where Brian messes up his solo in “One Vision.” But after a tighter “Tie Your Mother Down” Freddie tells the audience “hello again my beauties! Is it happening??”
After “A Kind Of Magic,” the track marked “Day-O” is the little vocal game Freddie plays with the audience. This one not only appears on the official release, but the snippet where Taylor punctuates Freddie’s high note with a drum smash was used in “Mother Love” on Made In Heaven.
“Under Pressure” sounds strangely flat, but after Freddie says “I see a little boogie coming on … what’dya think?” they play a monster version of “Another One Bites The Dust.” At times it feels like the stage is going to be reduced to splinters from the heavy beat. Afterwards Freddie addresses the break-up rumors by saying the journalists are “talking from here” and bending over. “My apologies but I say what I want.”
“Who Wants To Live Forever” fares much better than the previous night.
May has his solo spot after the impromptu improvisation after “I Want To Break Free.” Omitting any reference to “Brighton Rock,” the ten minute clinic includes all of May’s mannerisms, from the heavy metal riffage to the harmonized duet to the dainty little melodic ditties.
After “Now I’m Here” May thanks the audience for “making this the hottest ticket this country’s ever seen.” The acoustic section includes the normal cover tunes plus a stab at “Gimme Some Lovin’” by the Spencer Davis Group (mostly instrumental – it’s obvious Freddie doesn’t know the words).
“Hammer To Fall” is almost ruined when May flubs the solo, but “Crazy Little Thing Calls Love” sounds much better and the band get into a spontaneous version of “Big Spender,” a live staple from their early days. “Radio Ga Ga” is tight, but the second encore of “We Will Rock You,” “Friends Will Be Friends” and “We Are The Champion” have hesitancy in the performance, almost as if they’re trying too hard to not make any major mistakes.
Wembley Stadium 1986 is another great Wardour release, essential for the collection. Soon after its release even the fans on the Queen Online message boards (who generally have little use for silver pressed bootlegs) singled this out for particular praise and adulation. It’s another A Kind Of Magic era title worth having.