There never was, and never will be again, a performer like Freddie Mercury.
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He had that je ne sais quoi that separates the professional performer from the near-mythical icon (with Mercury being the latter, of course). And he had worked hard to create this larger-than-life onstage persona; he was intentional in his grandiosity. “I’m very frivolous, and I like to enjoy myself, and what better way to do it than on stage in front of 300,000 people,” Mercury said in an interview. “I just cook on stage, that’s just my nature. That’s not what I’m like in real life, my character’s built up of all kinds of ingredients and this is one element of me.”
He added, “On stage, that’s my job and I don’t like to go on stage, sitting on a stool and do a show. I’m very volatile, in that way, and I like to actually put a song across in the way it is. It’s all part of showbiz and theatre, that’s another side of me.”
So, with Freddie Mercury at the helm of the rock band Queen, some of music’s most memorable live performances were created. Read (and watch) below as we highlight just a few of Queen’s best live performances.
1. “Bohemian Rhapsody,” Live Aid 1985
There is no other way to start a list of Queen’s most iconic live performances than with the band’s 1985 Live Aid set. In front of 72,000 fans and an estimated total of 1.9 billion fans tuning in—the biggest-ever TV audience at that point—Mercury gave arguably the best performance of his life. Mercury danced and raced across the stage as Queen played hits like “Radio Ga Ga” and “We Are The Champions” with almost electricity. And, by the time he sat down to pluck the piano notes of “Bohemian Rhapsody,” the crowd had completely and utterly fallen head over heels for Queen and its campy frontman.
2. “I Want To Break Free,” Wembley Stadium 1986
Written by Queen bassist John Deacon, “I Want To Break Free” was performed at almost every live Queen performance after its release in 1984. And in 1986, prancing about on a stage larger than some homes, Mercury delivered the soaring song for one of the best renditions of the tune.
3. “We Will Rock You,” Rock in Rio 1985
In early 1985, Queen headlined two nights of the inaugural Rock in Rio music festival in Brazil where each night the band was playing for around 300,000 fans. It was an unfathomable amount of people, and yet, Mercury was able to connect with the audience in very personal ways. In a particularly epic moment, Mercury walks out draped in both the Union Jack flag and the Brazilian flag before busting into a foot-stomping rendition of “We Will Rock You.”
4. “A Kind of Magic,” Wembley Stadium 1986
Magic was always surrounding Queen when they performed. But when Mercury donned his iconic yellow, military-styled jacket and snapped his fingers to the beat of “A Kind of Magic,” the audience was nearly transported to a different dimension. It was that good. Check it out for yourself if you don’t believe us.
5. “Ay-Oh,” Live Aid 1985
We’re returning to Queen’s iconic Live Aid performance for a moment to touch on the impact of the “Ay-Oh” phenomenon. Mercury, as the well-attuned performer we’ve described him to be, knew that he had to find a way to connect with his fans on a more intimate level when performing in massive stadiums. So, he deployed a call-and-response tactic to get every fan in attendance to participate. Watch below as Mercury connects with his audience through a series of “Ay-Ohs.”
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