Top 10 Queen Performances From the Freddie Mercury Tribute Concert
On April 20, 1992, musicians from virtually every genre banded together at London’s Wembley Stadium to pay tribute to Queen‘s Freddie Mercury. The one-of-a-kind entertainer and vocalist passed away on Nov. 24, 1991 from bronchopneumonia brought on by AIDS, and his former bandmates brought together his many friends and admirers to honor his legacy, and raise money for AIDS-related charities.
While many of the acts appearing on stage performed a generous helping of their own original material, the sparks flew when Queen’s three surviving members joined with the guests to perform some of the band’s best-loved songs. Here is our list of the Top 10 Queen Performances from the Freddie Mercury Tribute Concert.
‘Radio Ga Ga’
The various eras of Queen were on display throughout the Freddie Mercury Tribute Concert. And while many understandably favor the group’s biggest hits, this gem from Queen’s 1984 record The Works stands out as a highlight. While Paul Young doesn’t quite have the chops to match Freddie’s vocals on this song, there is something about watching 100,000 people all clap in unison that sends a chill up our spines. What better way to begin our list of the Top 10 Queen Performances from the Freddie Mercury Tribute Concert?
‘Hammer to Fall’
While Extreme might have been pegged as a power ballad band for their 1990 mega-hit “More Than Words,” future Van Halen vocalist Gary Cherone cuts loose in delivering a great vocal performance on “Hammer To Fall.” Black Sabbath‘s Tony Iommi seems more than content to play the sideman in the song, faithfully adding rhythm guitar before he too spreads his wings to take the song’s final guitar solo. Cherone’s hip-swaying can be a little much to take but given the size of the audience that he was performing in front of, it is understandable for that enthusiasm to manifest itself in unexpected ways.
‘Innuendo / Crazy Little Thing Called Love’
Considering that Robert Plant had lived through the death of a bandmate with John Bonham‘s passing, it is fitting that Queen would ask Plant to tackle the the title track from 1991’s Innuendo. That was, sadly, to be Freddie Mercury’s final album with Queen. Plant’s vocal performance on the song is appropriately passionate; he and the members of Queen then playfully launch into “Crazy Little Thing Called Love,” eliciting a wild response from the audience.
‘We Will Rock You’
Many frontmen have a natural sort of charisma that ultimately draw people into the band. Freddie Mercury was one of those frontmen. Guns N’ Roses‘ Axl Rose is another. What you see is largely what you get with the song but that isn’t necessarily a bad thing. There is nothing in the way of surprise moments to be found in the all-too-short video. Rose more than capably commands attention on the legendary song while the sing-along from the audience during the chorus is an absolute thing of beauty, closing out the first half of our list of the Top 10 Queen Performances from the Freddie Mercury Tribute Concert in style.
‘Stone Cold Crazy’
It should serve as little surprise that Metallica‘s James Hetfield would have show up to sing this heavy-hitting track from Queen’s 1974 record Sheer Heart Attack. Metallica previously covered the song on Rubaiyat: Elektra’s 40th Anniversary. The only thing that’s a little strange is seeing Hetfield perform without a guitar strapped around his neck. Still, his on-stage enthusiasm is contagious, as evidenced by the brief interaction with Queen drummer Roger Taylor at approximately two minutes in the video.
‘Tie Your Mother Down’
‘Someone to Love’
Forget “Wake Me Up (Before You Go Go),” George Michael proves himself a more than worthy vocalist to honor Freddie Mercury with his performance on “Somebody To Love.” Fleshed out by a gospel-influenced chorus who help to provide an upbeat slant to the song, Michael has little difficulty in delivering a solid take on Mercury’s varied vocal range in the song.
Originally released on Queen’s 1982 album Hot Space as a duet with the legendary David Bowie, “Under Pressure” was performed by Bowie and Eurythmics’ Annie Lennox during the Freddie Mercury Tribute Concert. Although Lennox’s performance is a little on the melodramatic side at times, Bowie’s steady, calm demeanor helps keep the performance in balance.
‘The Show Must Go On’
Passion. That is the first word that comes to mind when watching Elton John‘s electrifying performance of “The Show Must Go On.” Found on Queen’s final studio album with Mercury, it was arguably the most appropriately performed song during the whole concert – considering that mortality isn’t something that people are often willing to contemplate in such an open forum. With John at the helm, however, fans could take solace in Mercury’s steadfast words of encouragement.
Originally issued in 1975, “Bohemian Rhapsody” was becoming a hit all over again thanks to that famous scene from Wayne’s World, released just weeks before in February of 1992. This take, which tops our list of the Top 10 Queen Performances from the Freddie Mercury Tribute Concert, starts out with Elton John doing an amazing job handling the first half of the song before Axl Rose bursts onto the stage to sing the very rocking second half. After the pre-recorded mid-section of the song, Rose’s energy lends an extra urgency to the song before ending with John and Rose arm-in-arm. This track is arguably one of the best representations of exactly what Queen stood for musically, expertly delivered by musical legends in their own right.