I had only become a Queen fan 2 years ago, in 2003, which is way too late for me to witness an authentic Queen concert. This was the closest thing I can get to a live Queen experience, and so it was very special to me. I'll have to be cliche and spend a lot of time describing the setlist, so try not to mind that. :)
I arrived at the Hollywood Bowl 20 minutes late, thanks to the wonderful Hollywood traffic. Fortunately, the show only started the moment I sat down on my seat, and the beginnings of Lose Yourself blared out the speakers as the It's A Beautiful Day intro faded out. Now, I've tried my best to not read about anything regarding the tour before the show so as to not be spoiled, but I've heard of them starting with an Eminem song. Still, when the moment came, it was pretty awkward to hear such a song being played at a good ol' rock concert. However, halfway through, Brian (still hidden behind the curtains) played some licks with his Red Special to augment the song, and the crowd roared its approval. The song then ended, and Paul made his way out, dressed in all red, singing Reaching Out. After a few lines, the curtain fell, and the full band exploded into Tie Your Mother Down. The noise was unbelievable; the crowd went crazy throughout the song, especially the 2 guys in front of me (who got more and more drunk as the show went on, making for an amusing sight). Apparently Brian got too excited, as his strap almost came off during the first minute of the song, and he had to let out a slight smile as he put it back on. Some White Man licks followed the song, and I thought I'd went back in time to 1977. Fat Bottomed Girls then followed, after which Brian "formally introduced us Queen people" to Paul. Another One Bites The Dust followed shortly, and the band ended the Queen extravaganza with Crazy Little Thing Called Love, which included an extremely loud "READY FREDDIE!" response from the crowd.
Paul got on the keyboards, and introduced the next song as "something he wrote one evening a long time ago," and started the melody to Bad Company. I hadn't heard this song before, but the crowd went nuts again, and I could see why as the song was pure rock'n'roll. After that finished, the lights dimmed, and Roger took walked to the front of catwalk with Jamie and Danny, both armed with acoustic guitars. He dedicated this next song to Freddie, and started Say It's Not True. I haven't heard this song as well, but I have to say, it is beautiful. The sombre content of the lyric combined with the light rhythm set the tone for the song, but this is also when the waiters started making the rounds with their assorted food and beer. Sure enough, Roger addressed this after the song, commenting that he "knows it's been 23 years since we've last been here, but I swear I just saw a fucking waiter." :) He then made his line about condoms, and Danny was apparently wearing 2 and Jamie 3. He then gave the stage back to Brian, and up he walks with an acoustic guitar in hand.
The Queen fans knew what was coming, and the 2 guys in front of me stood up. He talked a bit before starting '39, and one of the two guys began shouting in approval, telling his companion that he owes him 5 dollars. :) Brian ended with the "God bless all of you in California" line, getting his cheap pop. He then started Love of My Life after dedicating it to Freddie. He started to let the audience take over the vocals, but a lot of people didn't join in, and he decided to sing the whole song himself. That was a pretty disappointing moment, to be honest. I wanted magic to happen, but nope. Ah, well, maybe next time.
Brian stayed in front, but got back his Red Special. The slow version of Hammer To Fall started, and I can't help but stand up, knowing what's coming next. Sure enough, the band blasted back with the fast version, and the audience went crazy again. Paul came back to take over the vocals, and the band followed with Feel Like Making Love, which I noted for its amazing light displays. During the chorus, blue, red and green lights flashed at us consecutively, and it gave for an amazing display. Everyone then left the stage again for Roger's Let There Be Drums, which he kept short, as he apparently likes it. He then started the countdown for I'm In Love With My Car, but his mic somehow ended up far from his mouth, and he had to adjust before starting again. The song went without a hitch though, and the drunk guy in front of me started emulating driving a car and praising all its parts. :) The lights then dimmed again, and a sole spotlight focused on Brian. I made sure to time his solo, and it clocked in at 4 and a half minutes, surprisingly. Maybe he wasn't all that happy with his guitar? Still, it was worth it just to hear the deafening Chinese Torture being implemented into the solo. The huge screen on the back then played some scenes from London, I believe, including the Dominion Theatre and Buckingham Palace. Brian (I believe) re-enacted his playing on top of the Palace as Last Horizon started, and the video gradually changed to stars, and the disco ball started spinning, turning the whole stage into an array of stars. That, combined with my first listen to the simply beautiful Last Horizon, made the experience one-of-a-kind.
Brian finished off with a bang, and Roger came out again to start These Are The Days of Our Lives. Nothing much of note happened on the first verse, but they showed some clips of Queen in their Japan trip on '75 for the second verse, and the crowd exploded when we saw John and Freddie. It was an amazing moment, to say the least, and it was even better when Roger followed up with Radio Ga Ga. Disappointingly, not many hands came up for the chorus, but the drunk guy and I made sure we played our part, and clapped the hell out of ourselves. Again, Paul came back out, and as the next song started, he told us to welcome SLASH! Sure enough, he came out in all his hairy glory, and Can't Get Enough progressed with an overload of guitar. As the song ended and Slash left, we are hit by Rock'n'roll Fantasy, which I unfortunately hadn't heard before the concert as well. I was aching for another classic Queen rock tune, and was rewarded with I Want It All. By now, the drunk guy and I dropped all pretense, and went crazy over every riff (perhaps too late). The lights during this song were crazy; we were continuously blinded with the repeated flashing of the white lights. I was seeing red flashes by the time the song ended, but wasn't given any time to recover as finally, Bohemian Rhapsody started.
Now, I'm a major Queen fan, and have heard almost all of the songs that they ever played, but Bohemian Rhapsody remains the best for me. The video screen showed us Freddie during the Wembley concert, and thanks to the wonders of technology, he looked like he was right there in the Bowl with us, just above Roger's drumkit. It was an amazing sight to see, although all of us knew that it was just an optical trick. The song went on with the operatic bit, which showed multiple clips of Freddie in his full glory. Finally, the moment where the band exploded into the rock and roll part of the song came, and many heads in the audience started banging. Paul came back out for his "duet" with Freddie, and we were just enjoying every second of it. Eventually, the last chord of the song (which came WAY too soon) brought about a flaming Queen crest on the screen, and the crowd was at our loudest. Everyone took their bows and took their (fake) leave, but everyone obviously knew that it was not the end of the concert. The drunk guy: "Don't you even dare!" The trademark few minutes of cheering and clapping to an empty, dark stage commenced, and we were rewarded with the opening keyboard chords of Show Must Go On. I knew that that song meant the show was coming to an end very, very soon, and after All Right Now, I was begging Roger to not start the We Will Rock You beat.
Unfortunately, he did, and everyone started clapping along to the beat. Brian's solo is still godlike, even after hearing it so many times. We Are The Champions then rightfully followed, and everyone was finally on their feet, singing along and waving their hands. Again, it ended much too soon for me, and a few minutes later, I was clapping and cheering the band while they were taking their bows along with God Save The Queen blasting out of the speakers.
Well, that's the end of my story. I stood there for a while, looking at the stage and reliving back the concert. As I left, I was demanding that Queen come back for a proper US tour next year. Being only 17, I have a lot of time to catch up on the great music of the 70s and the 80s that I missed out on, so they better come back!
(And if you're reading this, sorry to the elderly couple that I must have blocked half the concert by standing up and going crazy).
The Queen + Paul Rodgers show at the Hollywood Bowl was exciting in that it was one of just two American shows scheduled for the "Return of the Champions" tour and their L.A. presence had garnered some media coverage from such national outlets as Entertainment Tonight. Songs such as "Radio Ga Ga", "Hammer To Fall" and "I Want It All" had never been performed live to American crowds.
I arrived at the Bowl an hour early. It was a cool, drizzly night up in the Cahuenga Pass. For anyone who hasn't seen a show at the Hollywood Bowl, it's a uniquely beautiful experience. A huge expanse of 20,000 seats beaming from the cavernous proscenium stage set in a backdrop of California's golden mountains. Whenever I go to the Bowl I think about acts such as The Doors and Jimi Hendrix who made legendary stops there. (Maybe that's why the band picked Jimi as their pre-show music?)
I'm an absolute fan of Queen but I had no illusions about this show. Freddie Mercury was sadly absent. The remaining members are in their fifties and needed some help from session musicians. This concert was about pure indulgence and nostalgia. It's the unapologetic enjoyment of hearing these classic songs played live for perhaps the last time. Amongst the crowd, I overheard the incessant comparisons between Paul Rodgers and Freddie Mercury. I also noticed a suprising number of kids in the sell-out crowd, all of which are far too young to remember Queen with Freddie and were maybe hoping to see the Queen "magic". In many ways, there was a very uncomfortable feeling at this show - an awkwardness that hampered some of the fun. I think we were all expecting Freddie to come racing out onto the catwalk, and in that sense, it's a show full of anti-climaxes.
Criticism aside, these guys are still really good. Brian May sounded better than ever. He pulled himself through "Love of My Life" with a broken guitar string and a songless crowd. Roger stepped out to take over vocals on "Say It's Not True," which was a wonderful emotional high point of the show. Even though we'd never heard the song before, he somehow managed to connect with the sadness that much of the crowd was feeling.
The L.A. crowd was very energized by the Bad Company songs. Queen helped him on some ripping renditions of "Bad Company", "All Right Now", "Can't Get Enough" (featuring Slash!), "Feel Like Makin' Love" and "Rock & Roll Fantasy". Bad Company gets tremendous radio airplay in America and I think these additions to the setlist gave the crowd a fun feeling.
I loved Roger's quip in the middle of the show as he looked down into the front rows of the Bowl crowd. "Did I just see a fucking waiter? I didn't know this was dinner theater." Rock concerts in L.A. are decidedly more frilly than in other cities.
I felt like the crowd REALLY woke up when "Bohemian Rhapsody" came in. Any image of Freddie on the big screens seemed to spur a crowd eruption. The Freddie montage during the song's "opera section" was an amazing moment and when Paul and the band rocked out, every man, woman and child (lots of children) were on their feet cheering.
Unfortunately due to the rainy conditions, the catwalk was rendered unusable for most of the show. I think this hurt the mood somewhat.
And the show ends on a strong note with "We Will Rock You" and "We Are The Champions". Most everyone was swaying arm-in-arm to the chorus. In the end, the show manages to overcome some of the strangeness of a "different" lead singer, especially one who is markedly less dynamic than Freddie. Yes, these guys look pretty old and slow on the big screens but they still play cleaner than The Rolling Stones. And then there's Brian May, who is absolutely one of the best guitarists in the world. For anyone like me who thought the "Wembley '86" was Brian's best performance, I can assure you - he's even better now.
Will be interested to hear some stories from people who see the 2006 shows!
I've been feeling kinda icky all week, haven't felt like going to any concerts at all. Didn't stop me from indulging in one of my favorite games of bidding super low prices on Ebay concert tickets, then either getting outbid or not hitting the reserve. So I was pretty surprised to wake up Thursday to find out I won a pair of tix to Queen/Paul Rodgers at the Hollywood Bowl for 99 cents plus $14.95 Fed Ex from a broker in Wisconsin.
I immedietly tried to give away first the whole pair to my mom (Queen is her favorite band) but she is also sick and wouldn't want to go without Freddie Mercury. Tried to invite friends and also made a lame attempt to trade off the pair for a single Stones ticket anywhere in the state. Luckily I felt a little better by showtime.
Outside the Hollywood Bowl, there were more people trying to sell tickets than going inside. No one wanted to take my pair in K2 for a better single without any extra cash as well. Made one last round yelling "CHEAP TICKET CHEAP TICKET" which only attracted hoardes of people trying to unload their own tickets.
Finally I was going to give up and have two seats to myself when a guy approaches me needing a pair together. He had a single like 20 feet in front of me, in Sec E row 20. Not much of an improvement but at least I am helping a guy out instead of wasting the ticket or giving it to a scalper. I also noticed lots of empty seats several rows ahead. So I ended up in Sec E row 7 a few seats away from where I was at the NIN show.
Paul Rodgers is a little unsteady while Brian May and Roger Taylor were totally amazing. As usual with the Hollywood Bowl, it just isn't loud enough, though the volume seemed to briefly spike upward a bit midway through.
About an hour into the gig, this really skinny chick comes down my row and sits to my left. Then a minute later she moves to the empty space to my right. I think, wow, what a crack ho, then immediately feel bad, there is no way a crack ho would be at this concert. She is probably in the final stages of cancer, here for one last night out. She is starting to cough. Not the kind of thing I would notice at a concert with appropriate volume. Its persistent and a little unsettling. Then she asks me where the restroom is. I point and say "Out there I guess." "You mean I have to go all the way out there?" WTF? I shrug. Possibly the stupidest question I have ever been asked at a concert. Obviously someone not used to public, or private restrooms.
Then another group comes in and fills out the rest of the row. So I don't have much space. She takes something out of her pocket, and starts rolling it under a lighter. Then she sticks it in her mouth. It doesn't look like anything I have ever seen weed smoked out of. Then she pulls her sweater over her head and I see the glow of the lighter. After a while her head re-appears and she blows out the smoke. It dissapates quickly. I don't smell weed. I don't smell tobacco. I might smell a faint something but it could be various unrelated concert smells.
A few minutes later the process repeats itself. I am almost leaning into the lady next to me. I point to the crackhead and say "I think she is going to light herself on fire" followed by "I don't think that's weed." This generated some exciteable yet inaudible chattter amongst that party. They kept looking over, and staring at her. She said "Is that why she is coughing?" I hope she wasn't spreading tuberculosis or hepatitis.
I have been to over 500 concerts. I have seen vomit, blood (including my own), the restrooms at the Hollywood Palladium and a compound ankle fracture during Slayer at Ozzfest last year but never seen anything disgusting as that emaciated creature smoking crack.
When Slash appeared during "Can't Get Enough" she leaned over and asked "Do you see Slash's gold bracelet" which I didn't. Maybe she was only smoking pure vitamin A. Still I had a hard time getting into the show even though I still didn't feel like backtracking 13 rows to my regular seat.
Its all still too fresh in my mind but I don't know if I want to go to another concert. I am tempted to just burn all my tickets.