Queen was a band that was initially, and perhaps unintentionally, underrated. To some, they were a garish glam band, to others, heavy metal wannabes. Indeed, their sound and style were far more extravagant than most, a hard rock outfit with a keen sense of art and excess. Hit albums and chart topping singles aside, they were something of a novelty, albeit one with the skill and confidence that allowed them to command a stage and, on occasion, blow away the competition. In Freddy Mercury they possessed a disciplined and distinctive singer, in Brian May an actual guitar god, and in drummer Roger Taylor and bassist John Deacon, a rock solid rhythm section that proved the envy of others. Together they made for an awesome ensemble, a band that’s sorely missed, even today.
If those strengths were evident on record, then they certainly were in live performance. It would be difficult, if not impossible, to watch Mercury interact with an audience and not be wholly mesmerized by his cool, charisma and remarkable showbiz savvy. Those qualities were fully evident during Queen’s iconic performance at Live Aid and presumably as well at the Hammersmith Odeon on Christmas Eve 1975, the concert captured with this dynamic archival recording/film. With a set list boasting 19 songs, among them such Queen classics as “Killer Queen,” “Bohemian Rhapsody,” “Liar,” “Seven Seas of Rhye,” and the searing “Keep Yourself Alive,” A Night at the Odeon finds the band at the peak of their prowess, all their arched drama on display in full, remarkable frenzy. Mercury’s singing is simply superb, displaying every ounce of passion and finesse that he evidenced on record. For their part, May, Taylor and Deacon soar in full throttle, as powerful a three piece as any outfit before or since. It was, in short, an utterly amazing show.
Not surprisingly then, A Night at the Odeon is an extraordinary document, one that captures Queen in full flight, flush with drive and determination. Barring the unexpected resurrection of Mr. Mercury, it’s a performance destined never to be repeated. Such is the stuff of which legends are made. Long live this Queen.
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