Continuing on with their rapid fire tour of South America, QAL played at the legendary Rock in Rio festival and then travelled south to Porto Alegre. It must have been an amazing experience for all of them, for different reasons. For Brian and Roger, it was the return, 30 years after the first festival when together with John and Freddie, they blew the place away. I’m sure they could never have imagined getting the chance to be there for a second time. For Adam, it was a debut at one of the biggest festivals in the world. No pressure then.
After a really solid performance at Sao Paulo, Rio was a considerable step up for everyone. Not only was there the issue of that enormous crowd, but there were logistical challenges – which I think did have an effect on the overall show. Of course for Porto Alegre they were back to their usual arrangements. For this reason, rather than do a straight review, I think I’m going to make a few comparisons between the two gigs as there are some points of interest that I’ve seen talked about on Twitter.
OK, the most obvious difference is that for Rio, QAL were part of a much, much larger show and for Porto Alegre they were the reason for the show itself. But – the buzz on Twitter about Rio was that QAL were one of the most eagerly anticipated and talked about bands. They have been huge on this continent for decades and the fans have never forgotten. Of course, that sort of expectation adds its own stress to the situation.
As it was, Rio – although an amazing gig, wasn’t entirely trouble free. First of all, the band were dealing with a rather different stage space. This sounds an odd thing, but when you are used to working with a familiar stage set, it can be very off-putting dealing with a strange one. Your journeys around the stage are different and this can be a vital factor; injuries from falls can be very unpleasant (remember what happened to Dave Grohl of the Foo Fighters earlier this year?). Sight lines to your fellow players are altered, lighting states will vary and some lighting cues may work differently (or not at all). And with Rio being a festival involving many other performers, rehearsal time is limited and detailed run throughs are generally not possible. Therefore you have to get on stage and get on with it – and hope that you don’t get too distracted. Even the most seasoned performers can slip up under these conditions.
There were definitely some technical issues; these included mic failures – this was particularly noticeable during Save Me when Adam had to be rescued by some very quick work from Rufus, as you can see in this clip:
(video from MegaEverton81’s YouTube uploads)
There were also a few bits of unfathomable lighting and I noticed one or two tuning problems for Brian – I’m guessing that this was down to the heat and humidity, as guitar strings don’t like being subjected to this sort of thing and I think the onstage temperature would have been in the high 90s, even at midnight. Adam also mixed up one or two vocal lines; a couple of bits of Don’t Stop Me Now were in the wrong order, but this time he absolutely nailed The Show Must Go On, which is one of the songs that he’s slipped up in before now.
(video from Queen + Adam Lambert Live (unofficial)’s YouTube uploads)
So, before I move on to Porto Alegre, this whole thing about performance errors. It’s caused a few bits of furious debate on social media. Of course, the Adam haters have picked up on his slips and don’t approve; in fact some of the QAL disapprovers have also hinted that other errors are a sign that the rest of the band ought to give up and draw their pensions. Reasonable criticisms? Not in my universe, I’m afraid, although anyone who disagrees is quite at liberty to create their own parallel universe and live happily in it.
At the other end of the scale, I’ve also noticed a few of Adam’s fans getting very upset at the implication that he could get lyrics wrong. Here’s a thing; if you perform live, things can and will go wrong – and this happens to absolutely everyone. I’ve never met a professional performer in my life who hasn’t made an error at some point. I’ve done some beauties, and I can honestly say that there is nothing compares with the utter terror of forgetting your words. Having your teeth out or doing a bungee jump just doesn’t compare; your brain turns to soup and everyone knows you’ve fucked up. That’s how it feels, but actually what happens is that your professional training takes over and you cover it up. Most of the time your audience don’t realise a thing.
But – there are people who notice errors; I notice them, but that’s because I spent years at music college learning how to notice them…. and criticise them,,, and obsess about them. And years later I’ve come to the conclusion that a lot of the time, it can spoil your enjoyment of the music. Errors happen because it’s live and dangerous – and that’s the way Queen have always done it. They could take the easy way out with tapes and all sorts of other devices to relieve the stress of performance and make everything safer, but that’s not what they want. They want that risk; they want to dive off Niagara Falls every time they perform and if there are little slips, who cares? Nobody dies and the music is still amazing.
Now I’ve had my little rant about that, let’s move on to Porto Alegre. This was different again from Sao Paulo and Rio. and the word on Twitter was that this was easily the best yet. As I have to try and earn a living by working during the day, I couldn’t stay up half of the UK night to watch this one, so had to catch up later with social media and the material on YouTube. it’s been more difficult to find clips with a high sound quality as the TV stream for Rio was excellent and there wasn’t anything comparable to watch.
The standout thing about Porto Alegre was the joy. I think in many ways, Rio was quite a tough gig; it would have been very emotional for all of them, for different reasons and sometimes that can get in the way. But when you can stand there and perform for the love of it, we all get that love too. Don’t Stop Me Now shows this beautifully, although the sound on this clip is a bit patchy, I’m afraid.
(video from vanglam76’s YouTube uploads)
By all accounts, Porto Alegre sounded incredible. I’m hoping that when some of the other guys I know get back home, I’ll be able to get some reviews from them to post on here. With a bit of luck, more clips will be uploaded on to YouTube to give us a better idea of how good it all sounded. The important thing is that the guys were obviously able to really relax into this performance and it just demonstrated how well they work together.
Today there have been some more encouraging sounds about more QAL in 2016. When interviewed about his feature-length 3D film project, Dr Brian was also asked about the possibility of more music being on the agenda. The article from Billboard is here:
And in any case, if they are enjoying themselves so much performing, Don’t Stop Them Now?