The night Brian May, Roger Taylor and Paul Rodgers took to the stage in the Echo Arena, Liverpool, must rank as one of their finest performances. Solid as a rock and as tight as crab’s shell, the stunning backdrop screen and loads of dry ice heralded the band before Brian, Roger and Paul ripped into Hammer To Fall, Tie Your Mother Down and Fat Bottomed Girls – complete with White Man intro – at breakneck speed, grabbing the audience by the throat from the off and never letting go.
Although The Cosmos Rocks is the new album, its not until a quarter into the 2 hour 20 minute set that a new song gets an airing. C-Lebrity is what Queen do best. A light-hearted dig at wannabe stars who don’t do anything other than appear on reality TV shows. Although not really a Queen album, but rather a Paul Rodgers outing with heavy Queen influences, The Cosmos Rocks is still quality and the songs from the album here fit as snugly in the set as anything else. We Believe, Surf’s Up …School’s Out and a truly fine Cosmos Rockin’ show what the new line up can do. The only downer, really, is that Small wasn’t played, which is the song of the album.
Still, let’s not be picky. There were more highlights than a Hair By Herbert salon on offer, after all, so to ask for more would be greedy. I Want It All, The Show Must Go On and I Want To Break Free all cruise through into the pretty-damn-perfect zone, before Brian takes up the acoustic guitar for the now traditional homage to the late, great Freddie Mercury with Love Of My Life – which still manages after all these years to induce a solid mass forming in the throat and a dampening of the eye – as sung by the pitch-perfect masses before him. Upping the tempo again with a rocking version of ’39, backed by the rest of the band, then came THE highlight.
Roger Taylor’s not one for loving drum solos, but you’d never guess it from this. For fifteen minutes he delighted the crowd by playing a truly stunning rendition of rock percussion that simply got louder and harder the more drums were added a piece at a time, before closing on I’m In Love With My Car to huge and thunderous applause. This, followed quickly by Roger’s vocals on A Kind Of Magic, underline that although Freddie is in a class of his own, Queen never were a one-man band.
Paul, too, is a quality act and playing his own back catalogue of hits – especially the delightfully soulful Seagull – drags the attention back to the fact that this his show as much as Roger and Brian’s. Alright Now, though cropped, still has the power to drag people to their feet and keep them there.
Bohemian Rhapsody sees Freddie performing on the big screen Live In Montreal from 1983, whilst Roger and Brian provide the backing music that has reached legendary status, before Paul fills in on the rock section and Fred closes on the Any Way The Wind Blows line of musical poetry that will never die.
At sixty-two, the new Chancellor of Liverpool John Moores University might be forgiven for wanting to slow down just a little. Not a bit of it. Brian May still has the vigour to rip out an astonishing guitar solo and The Red Special is the unique sound of Queen. Here, the piece was delivered with immaculate precision and sent the crowd wildly into chants of the man’s name over and over and over again. Pure class.
All too soon it was encore time, with the traditional We Will Rock You and We Are The Champions precluding May’s studio version of The National Anthem that finally ended one of the greatest concert experiences this or any other Arena is ever going to see. Now it’s on to Manchester on Bonfire Night to do it all over again.
Click Here To Read Chris High’s Interview with Chancellor Brian May
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