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Queen Queen On Fire: Live At The Bowl Review

Live. Released 2004.  

BBC Review

If you need a reminder of just how invincible Queen were in concert, look no further...

Richard Banks 2003

When Live Aid rocked the world in 1985, Queen shared an audience of 72,000 people at Wembley. Undeniably, they stole the show. It was inevitable, really; after all, by that stage the band were eating crowds of that size for breakfast and still finding room for an encore. Three years earlier, they had filled the Milton Keynes Bowl with 65,000 of their own adoring fans as part of the Hot Space tour.

Luckily, the camera crews were there to record the event for posterity. Partially broadcast by the BBC in 1982, a bootleg has been circulating ever since. For the Queen completist, therefore, Queen On Fire will make a great stocking filler this Christmas; digitally remastered on DVD and double CD, it features the 25-song set in full.

With hindsight, Hot Space isn't one of Queen's best records; in truth, it's an ill-advised funk/disco album that they and their fans would probably rather forget. Thankfully, it only provides four of the songs on offer here. Otherwise, Queen On Fire is practically Greatest Hits I in concert, give or take a few tracks. All the live favourites are here: "Love Of My Life", equal parts graceful lullaby and football terrace chant, but as charming as ever; "Now I'm Here", spliced cleverly with The Game's "Dragon Attack", and "Fat Bottomed Girls", sounding fatter than ever. And of course, it wouldn't be a Queen gig without a little of Freddie's playful crowd mastery.

As promising as the track titled "Guitar Solo" on the second disc here will sound to fans of Brian May and his 'Red Special', those familiar with "Brighton Rock" from 1974's Sheer Heart Attack will find it more than a little disappointing. Whereas the latter is a virtuoso masterpiece showcasing May's flair for riff juggling, his somewhat directionless solo escapade on this album pales in comparison.

It's almost a relief, then, when the rest of the band return for "Under Pressure" (sans Bowie) and proceed to rip through nine of their biggest hitters, during which Brian makes up for his earlier lack of lustre with a blistering rendition of "Tie Your Mother Down".

The set finishes predictably but majestically, with Queen's pomp-rock coup de grace: "We Will Rock You", followed by "We Are The Champions" and "God Save The Queen". If you need a reminder of just how invincible Queen were in concert, look no further.

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