With Freddie Mercury gone for some two decades, it’s easy to forget Queen’s power and majesty — its essentially new amalgam of power pop, metal, and eye-popping theatrics. The sense of loss surrounding this thunderous concert, too, is simply staggering.
They were, at once, filled with ornate splendor, yet nervy and lean. Cocksure, yet profoundly vulnerable. Arena-rattling rock stars, with a balletic, multi-octave gay lead singer. And those juxtapositions, those molecular contradictions, made Queen — then, as now — a galvanizing force.
Hungarian Rhapsody: Live in Budapest, a new concert film due November 5, 2012, via Eagle Vision, starts with this grinding, energetic take on “One Vision” and continues through a hit-strewn 1986 setlist that eventually finds Mercury wearing a king’s cape and crown for “We Are the Champions.” That basically says it all, right?
Along the way, Queen makes passes at art-rock (“Seven Seas of Rhye”), touches on hard rock (“In the Lap of the Gods … Revisited,” “We Will Rock You,” “Tear It Up”), dabbles with pop rock (the now deeply touching “Who Wants To Live Forever”), and with synth rock (“Radio Ga Ga”), and then blends it all together into a fizzy new thing (the ageless “Bohemian Rhapsody”). An expanded double-CD available with the DVD even finds the band fooling around with early-rock chestnuts like “Tutti Frutti” and “Hello Mary Lou (Goodbye Heart),” a hit for Ricky Nelson.
Sadly, this would be the last major tour for Mercury, who was stricken by and ultimately succumbed to complications related to the AIDS virus. May and drummer Roger Taylor subsequently chose to go on, featuring a series of guest vocalists from George Michael to Paul Rodgers to Adam Lambert. Though that certainly is their right, what you miss most of all with these subsequent editions is the sense of daring and delight captured here.
May still plays with a furious creativity, all under his now-familiar mop of frizzy hair, and Taylor gooses everything along from behind. Without their late frontman (not to mention the funky thump of bassist John Deacon), however, it remains only interesting, hardly indispensable.
On the other hand, you could never look away from Freddie Mercury. This film, remastered in hi-def and presented in amazing 5.1 surround sound for its theater run, is the same way.
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‘Hungarian Rhapsody: Live in Budapest’ also includes a 25-minute documentary following Queen from their show–stealing performance at Live Aid in July 1985 through the following year to this ground-breaking concert in Budapest before 80,000 fans. This was said to be the largest concert ever held there, and the first by rock show staged behind the Iron Curtain.