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Inside Queen's Unforgettable Live Aid Performance

Updated October 17, 2018 416.8k views12 items

When Queen performed at Live Aid, they gave the show of a lifetime. Often called Queen's best live show, the 20-minute performance changed music forever. In 1985, Bob Geldof and Midge Ure organized Live Aid in mere weeks, securing musical artists from around the world to raise funds for famine relief in Ethiopia. They described Live Aid as a "global jukebox" and held dual concerts at Wembley Stadium in London and JFK Stadium in Philadelphia, welcoming a total of more than 170,000 guests.

Queen were among more than 75 acts that performed on July 13, 1985. They rocked the stage at Wembley Stadium, mastering their set in a way that marveled fans and fellow performers alike. Queen's performance brought together some of the band's greatest hits and an energy only a frontman like Freddie Mercury could provide. The story of Queen at Live Aid is a tale of pure talent and musical brilliance.

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  • Freddie Mercury Had More Than 70,000 People Singing 'Radio Ga Ga'

    Many performers felt overwhelmed by the Live Aid stages, given the size of the audience. But Freddie Mercury was in his element, and it showed. Princess Diana and Prince Charles opened the Live Aid show at Wembley Stadium to a crowd of about 72,000 spectators.

    Simultaneously, there were more than 100,000 onlookers in JFK Stadium in Philadelphia, PA. The London fans added a 40-second interlude to Queen's set when they sang along to "Radio Ga Ga" and kept on going with a Mercury-led call and response.

  • Freddie Mercury Was An Electric Force On Stage

    Freddie Mercury demonstrated his ability to dominate a live stage by transitioning between vocals, piano, guitar, and crowd work without missing a beat. He opened "Bohemian Rhapsody" on the piano while simultaneously singing with raw emotion and talent.

    He swiftly shifted to showman and lead singer during "Radio Ga Ga," running back and forth across the stage, then picked up his guitar for "Crazy Little Thing Called Love." He returned to the piano for "We Are the Champions," closing the set as deftly as he opened it.

    Mercury and Brian May later went back to the stage and performed a song from The Works, "Is This the World We Created?" Mercury later said, "It looks as if we wrote 'Is This the World We Created?' for this event, but we didn't, although it seems to fit the bill."

  • Spectators Thought U2's Performance Was The Highlight Of The Show - Until Queen Came On Stage

    Queen were sandwiched between U2, David Bowie, The Who, and Elton John. U2, a relatively young band in the mix, skyrocketed to fame with the 1983 release of War. At Live Aid, they made music history with a 12-minute version of "Bad." During the performance, Bono got down into the crowd and danced with a fan.

    But Queen followed the up-and-comers with a set list and an electric performance that lasted 20 all-too-brief minutes. Years later, Brian May recalled the performance, saying, "That was entirely down to Freddie. The rest of us played okay, but Freddie was out there and took it to another level."

  • Freddie Mercury Made An Impression Off Stage, Too

    U2 lead singer Bono had a memorable encounter with Freddie Mercury backstage. According to Bono, "Freddie pulled me aside and said, 'Oh, Bono... Is it Bo-No or Bon-O?' I told him, 'It's Bon-O.' I was up against a wall, and he put his hand on the wall and was talking to me like he was chatting up a chick. I thought, 'Wow, this guy's really camp.'"