The blockbusting Bohemian Rhapsody film recreated the entire spine-tingling Live Aid setlist. And rightly so. Every second was pure magic and pure history being made, watched by millions around the world. The movie showed how the band realised more than most how to create ‘stadium rock’, music to engage a huge live audience with a clever hook, hand clap or call and response. But the band almost didn’t take the stage at all, after years of divisions and doubts. So, it was particularly powerful when Taylor realised everything had suddenly changed.
The movie famously condensed some timelines and moved other events around. Some slammed the decision but Taylor and Brian May make no apologies for simply obeying the dictates of filmmaking.
Either way, the rifts within the band were very real at that time.
May recently told Mojo magazine how much the personal relationships between the band members had “suffered” through the early 1980s. Freddie Mercury, in particular, had disappeared into his own solo projects.
May said: “Freddie became estranged for a while… We definitely hesitated about doing Live Aid.”
But the band also feared their lack of cohesion and loss of closeness might mean they were not able to deliver a proper performance.
May added: “The chances of making fools of ourselves were so big.”
There was a lot riding on that one performance. Queen didn’t just have something to prove to the world, they needed to prove it to themselves.
And then something remarkable happened as Freddie took the stage and the audience into the palm of his hand. The performance built to historic levels until Taylor looked out over the stadium at one special moment and just knew everything had changed.
Taylor told Mojo: ” There was a point during We Are The Champions where the audience was swaying as one, like a field of wheat, and I thought, ‘Oh, OK.’
“I went back to Freddie’s later and at some point in the night said, ‘You know what, Fred, I think we were really good.’
“It gave us a second wind.”
LIVE AID JULY 13, 1985. QUEEN SETLIST: BOHEMIAN RHAPSODY, RADIO GA GA, AY-OH (Freddie call and response to the audience), HAMMER TO FALL, CRAZY LITTLE THING CALLED LOVE, WE WILL ROCK YOU, WE ARE THE CHAMPIONS.