10 classic Queen live performances

Queen live on stage at Wembley Stadium
Queen live on stage at Wembley Stadium (Image credit: Peter Still\/Redferns)

We asked one of our many resident Queen experts to pinpoint ten pivotal live moments from over four decades of performance. 

Liar: Brewer Street studios, London 1973

Filmed for a promotional press kit after the release of their 1973 debut album, this is Queen taking baby steps. The sound of their future is all here though: silks, satins, elaborate feathercuts, cod-Zeppelin riffs, wannabe Beach Boys harmonies and a mad gospel breakdown at 4:20 mins.

Stone Cold Crazy: Rainbow Theatre, London 1974

Queen’s November ’74 performance of this standout track from the freshly minted Sheer Heart Attack album is a tribute to their frantic energy and musical telepathy. Sparks? Roxy Music? This is the real sound of brain-boggling 70s art-rock, dressed up in a Zandra Rhodes tunic and a satin catsuit – for your pleasure.

Killer Queen: Dutch Top Of The Pops, 1974

As an alternative to that overexposed UK Top Of The Pops appearance, try this Dutch TV turn recorded in November ’74 two days after Queen’s Rainbow Theatre show. Rarely have Queen looked – and sounded – as imperial as they do here: Mercury singing his dainty, Noel Coward-style ballad to Brian May’s one-man orchestra of chiming guitars, while wearing a single black leather glove.

Ogre Battle: Hammersmith 1975 

From Queen’s Middle Earth period, this tale of mountain-dwelling giants was a mainstay of their mid-70s live show, including this Christmas ’75 performance. Contains the line “and the soup is cold on the table” delivered by a white jumpsuit-clad Freddie with unquestioning and hilarious conviction. Incidentally, the riff starting at 0:48 mins is Metallica’s entire career condensed into five seconds.

Let Me Entertain You: Japan, 1979 

A forgotten gem from the rather wonky Jazz album, Let Me Entertain You is old ham Freddie promising to prostitute himself for his audience - whatever it takes, dear. His message is made all the more dramatic for being delivered here in head-to-toe black PVC. Listen out, too, for Mercury addressing the audience in their native tongue.

We Will Rock You: Live In Montreal 1981 

This is how you open a show. Queen make their big entrance to a soundtrack of ominous drones and seismic thunderclaps, before Brian May peels off that world-famous guitar riff, and Freddie Mercury orders his audience of ice hockey jersey-wearing Canadians to “Getup! Getup!” A big noise, indeed.

Dragon Attack: Milton Keynes Bowl, 1982 

By 1982, Queen were in trouble, with new album, Hot Space, deemed ‘too disco’ for the patched denim and bullet-belt brigade. Live, though, they were unstoppable. This version of The Game-era track mashes dance rhythms with chopping metal guitar. And just look at John Deacon: like a photocopier engineer on dress-turquoise Friday, but still bringing the funk.

Hammer To Fall: Live Aid, 1985 

Queen’s Live Aid mini-medley is now the stuff of legend. In among the obvious hits was Brian May’s nursery-rhyme rocker, Hammer To Fall. Never has a frontman worked harder than Mercury does here: dropping to his knees, masturbating his mic stand and finally bending over and offering his stonewashed Wrangler denim-clad behind to the adoring throng. “Give it to me one more time!

One Vision: Wembley 1986 

Back on top of the world after their Live Aid victory, Queen played on what was then the biggest stage ever built at the old Wembley Stadium. As this fantastic version of their peace-and-love-to-all-races anthem demonstrates, Queen absolutely owned every last inch of it.

We Will Rock You/We Are The Champions: Japan, 2014 

The crown, the leopard skin catsuit, the sheer chutzpah of stepping into the shoes of the greatest frontman ever to prowl a stage… if anyone should be singing with Queen in the absence of Mercury, it deserves to showboating popinjay Adam Lambert.

Queen + Adam Lambert: By Royal Appointment

Mark Blake

Mark Blake is a music journalist and author. His work has appeared in The Times and The Daily Telegraph, and the magazines Q, Mojo, Classic Rock, Music Week and Prog. He is the author of Pigs Might Fly: The Inside Story of Pink Floyd, Is This the Real Life: The Untold Story of Queen, Magnifico! The A–Z Of Queen, Peter Grant, The Story Of Rock's Greatest Manager and Pretend You're in a War: The Who & The Sixties.