QUEEN – A Night at the Odeon. Can you believe it’s been 40 years since Bohemian Rhapsody? : REVIEW
The legendary British rock band Queen has been inexplicably busy these past few years despite losing their incomparable or unmatched front man Freddie Mercury to AIDS almost 25 years ago. Queen’s debut album was released in mid-1973, and despite all of the outside elements seemingly stacked against them, they gained massive notoriety in places like Britain and Japan from their stage show and amazing music after only a year. However, in 1975 Queen’s fame finally crossed the Atlantic and spread to the rest of the world when they released their fourth album A Night at the Opera. The album did well ubiquitously due mainly to their smash hit single Bohemian Rhapsody. This dreamchild of Freddie Mercury sounded like no other pop music up until then, and even since its release. Bohemian Rhapsody has since become a staple in AOR/Classic Rock stations, and a major footnote in rock music history.
On Christmas Eve 1975, Queen rocked the Hammersmith Odeon (aka the Eventim Apollo these days) to a capacity crowd as well as Britain’s BBC2 show The Old Grey Whistle Test. It was the first live performance of their brand new #1 single Bohemian Rhapsody, as well as a fantastic setlist drawn from their first three albums. 40 years later, the band commemorates the event with a blu-ray, a DVD, a CD, even vinyl version. If you have the money, they even have a box set version that contains all of the above and more. Bo Rhap was performed here with the entire “operatic” section ignored while the song was spread out over a medley of four songs. Later on they included the section via prerecorded tape while the band left the stage.
Unfortunately, the rest of their new album A Night at the Opera was ignored as well, yet the material performed this night was incredible nonetheless. It is basically the same setlist as Queen Live at the Rainbow released a year before. The band opened the show with Now I’m Here written by guitarist Brian May, a glorious rocker that not only showcases the heavier side of Queen, but the band’s individual talents rise to the top with a number like this. Besides Bo Rhap, the band had another pretty big single, Killer Queen that was fairly new at the time taken from their third album Sheer Heart Attack. It should be noted that the band performed this song in a shortened version within the medley. I think this speaks to the band’s belief in their albums as a whole at the time and not necessarily the hit singles.
Queen fans will be delighted with included tracks like March of the Black Queen, Bring Back that Leroy Brown, Liar and especially the closer and Sinatra-esque In the Lap of the Gods Revisited. This version differs a bit from the previous year with a slightly more powerful presentation. The audio version is longer by two major tracks than the video is. While the camera crew packed it up after Freddie bid the audience farewell, the band then came out to perform two more numbers, Seven Seas of Rhye and the very rare See What a Fool I’ve Been (released only as a b-side to Seven Seas in 1974). Those folks who are still unfamiliar with Queen’s infamous album tracks will get a major rock history lesson with this CD. The band’s singles that you hear on the radio show a certain side to the band but their true A-list material is made up of the stuff that you never hear on the radio.
The blu-ray has a few extra songs from a 1975 Japanese concert, it looks like it was pieced together from multiple handhelds in the audience. There is also a fabulous rockumentary about 12/24/1975 Odeon concert with new interviews from Brian May and drummer Roger Taylor. I pray that this annual digging into the Queen archives for mass consumption will continue in the next few years. The band has a few more pro-shot concerts in their bag that would be very welcome by Queen fans around the globe.