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Inside Queen's Unforgettable Live Aid Performance

Updated October 17, 2018 417.3k 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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  • Some Members Of Queen Were Nervous Before They Went On, But Not Freddie Mercury

    Though Queen were under pressure to revitalize their image and live up to the bands before and after them, Freddie Mercury was more than prepared and confident in his ability to blow the audience away. Brian May recalled the night for The Guardian, describing his anxieties in comparison to Mercury's:

    I remember a huge rush of adrenaline as I went on stage and a massive roar from the crowd, and then all of us just pitching in. Looking back, I think we were all a bit overexcited, and I remember coming off and thinking it was very scrappy. But there was a lot of very good energy, too... Freddie was our secret weapon. He was able to reach out to everybody in that stadium effortlessly, and I think it was really his night.

    Mercury wore a simple pair of faded jeans, a white tank, his favorite pair of shoes, a belt, and an amulet. Before he went on, he threw back a drink and said, "Let's do it." Mercury's partner Jim Hutton said he wished Mercury luck, but knew he didn't need it.

  • The Success Of Live Aid Prompted A Global Queen Tour

    Live Aid raised more than $125 million for famine relief in Ethiopia. Queen received so much attention and such a resurgence in popularity that they parlayed it into a world tour. Their 1986 stadium tour had 26 dates, including two shows in London at Wembley Stadium, which featured enormous, elaborate sets weighing more than 9.5 tons.

    The tour was Freddie Mercury's last; in 1987, doctors diagnosed him with HIV/AIDS.

  • After Queen Finished, Elton John Reportedly Exclaimed That They Had Stolen The Show

    Once Queen left the stage, everyone knew they had put on a show no other musician was going to top. Elton John supposedly came to congratulate Freddie Mercury, saying, "You b*stards... you stole the show!" In his memoir Mercury and Me, Jim Hutton recalls:

    When [Freddie] came off he rushed to his trailer and I tottered behind like a puppy. His first words were: "Thank God that's over"... Freddie knocked back a large vodka to calm himself. Then his face lit up... We met Elton John.

  • Musicians Still Call Queen's Performance The Best That Ever Was

    Video: YouTube

    Foo Fighters lead singer Dave Grohl once described what Queen did at Live Aid:

    Queen smoked 'em. They just took everybody. They walked away being the greatest band you'd ever seen in your life, and it was unbelievable. And that's what made the band so great; that's why they should be recognized as - one of the greatest rock bands of all time because they could connect with an audience.

    The performance was such a demonstration of Queen's influence on music that after Freddie Mercury's death in 1991, musicians gathered at Wembley Stadium for a Live Aid-inspired event. Elton John performed "Bohemian Rhapsody" with Axl Rose.