After what has seemed like an unbearable wait, they’re back. South America is rocking to QAL and they are sounding as good as ever. Since the last echoes faded away in Sheffield, there have been thousands of fans waiting for this and the anticipation has been almost unbearable for everyone.
The excitement was further built up by Brian tweeting that there would be “at least ONE big surprise”, so there was plenty of speculation as to what this could be. Ideas ranged from John Deacon returning to play a couple of songs, to a whole host of new songs – including Lucy. There was a further hint from the Queen tour blog that there was some unfamiliar material in the setlist.
The early birds queueing up outside the Ibirapuera Arena in Sao Paulo were able to hear snatches of the sound check and there was a rush of excited tweets yesterday afternoon that Keep Yourself Alive and Great King Rat had been heard – and also Ghost Town. But this didn’t seem to sound anything like the recorded version and a couple of tiny snippets of it posted on YouTube had a distinctly “hard rock” edge to them. Nobody reported hearing Lucy in the sound check, but there were rumours of it being included in the set somewhere.
Over here in the UK, keeping up with concerts in South America requires more than a touch of insomnia and not inconsiderable stamina. Sao Paulo kicked off just after 2.00 a.m.in my part of the world and the strains of One Vision from the audio stream woke me up. I think I must be attuned to those opening chords.
We’d already been warned on Twitter that getting reliable audio or video streams out of the arena was going to be difficult as the Wi-Fi signal was poor and even the crew were having to use 3G. There must have been a lot of crossed fingers worldwide, but I managed to pick up most of last night’s action through a patchy Mixlr stream and some intrepid souls who were trying to broadcast through Periscope. Great efforts in difficult circumstances guys!
Today (in between feeling like one of the living dead), I’ve managed to catch up on some of the YouTube footage as the sound quality from last night was a bit variable and it was difficult to get an accurate idea of how things really were in the arena.
So, how was it for me?
It completely exceeded expectations. Brian, Roger and Adam had only a few days to rehearse but everything sounded as tight as ever. Queen have always worked on the premise of trying to get their live performances as perfect as possible; sound, lights, pyrotechnics – it all has to be just right and they have always put a lot of energy into putting on a great show for their audience. “Too much is never enough” applies at all times.
South America have always loved Queen; they were the first major rock band to tour Latin America and they broke attendance records by filling massive arenas. The setlist for Sao Paulo was immense – twenty-eight songs; all the regulars from the UK/Europe tour plus some of the “occasional” numbers such as Days Of Our Lives, Don’t Stop Me Now and The Show Must Go On. And Ghost Town; the sound check wasn’t just a red herring.
I’m far too sleep-deprived to work my way through the whole set, and in any case there are a number of other tour dates to talk about before the end of September. So, in the order they appeared in the setlist, these are my highlights from Wednesday night:
- Love Of My Life – Brian’s tribute to Freddie that never fails to bring a tear to the eye. This is one of the songs that the South American audiences really made their own in the 80s and they were in amazingly good voice. This is so worth a listen:
(video from vanglam76’s YouTube uploads)
- Somebody To Love – this is always one of my favourites and Adam’s voice was at its bodacious best for all that ornamentation and killer high notes. Freddie’s homage to Aretha Franklin is such a great showpiece for Adam’s voice and the crowd were clearly loving it
- Ghost Town – this has become something completely different. While the original is a lonely, dusty place on the edge of Hollywood, populated by tumbleweed and pale spectres, the new QAL version is dark and brooding; Transylvania with Dracula and a demon guitarist. Transformed into hard rock, I thought this was tremendous and for me, it made complete sense of a song that I’ve struggled with. It’s also great to see that Brian and Roger’s backing of Adam is so steadfast and including one of his own songs in the set is another demonstration of this
(video from MFranklin1910’s YouTube uploads)
- Who Wants To Live Forever – this has been a QAL favourite since the iHeart Radio gig and Adam nailed it yet again. His vocals are so impressive on this incredibly difficult song and whenever they perform it, you are aware that an audience of thousands are holding their breath
- I Want It All – this is another song that is a fantastic blend of voice and guitar. It’s one of Queen’s powerhouse numbers and is a huge crowd pleaser. As usual, Adam and Brian started it with the “riffing” improvisation that became so popular during the UK and Europe gigs earlier this year. This is one of those spectacular songs that you can listen to again and again
- We Will Rock You – I’ve picked this out as one of my highlights because I think there had been a conscious decision to give another reminder of Rio 30 years ago. Adam reappeared bedecked in the Brazilian flag and the crowd went absolutely wild. And this is such a brilliant pic!
Those were a selection of the best bits for me, but there were many, many more that I could pick up on; the crowd reaction to Killer Queen, more beautiful singing from the audience during Save Me, Brian’s guitar solo (I haven’t found this on YouTube yet, but look out for it as it’s one of the best I’ve ever heard him do), the roars of approval at Bohemian Rhapsody. it was all there and it was all good and it was almost as though they had never been apart.
The audience reactions were great; the place sounded as though it was absolutely rocking and I think they would happily have stayed there all night to listen to more. This was been a triumphant return for Brian and Roger and an amazing introduction to South American for Adam. They just seem to win wherever they go, and once again it was heartwarming to see the two “originals” from Queen enjoying their music so much. This tour has been called “Dont Stop Them Now” and I feel sure that they are going to want to do more in 2016, particularly as next year sees a number of very significant Queen anniversaries.
I suspect Rio will be even better than this and I’m off to get some sleep in preparation for another very late night tomorrow.