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If you are looking for a great concert video, then Queen Rock Montreal is it.

DVD Review: Queen Rock Montreal

Queen is an English rock band formed in 1970 by guitarist Brian May and vocalist/keyboard player Freddie Mercury. Joined by drummer Roger Taylor and bassist John Deacon in 1971, Queen rose to prominence during the 70's and are considered one of the most successful bands of all time.

After two albums, Queen and Queen II, they released a breakthrough album Sheer Heart Attack which contained the hit "Killer Queen" followed up by the album A Night at the Opera which contained the hits "Bohemian Rhapsody" and "You're my Best Friend;" the former being voted on several lists as being the best song ever recorded. It was also the first song to ever hit #1 twice with the same version; on original release in 1975 and again in 1991 after the death of lead singer Freddie Mercury when it was re-released as a tribute.

Following their record breaking South American tour, Queen was encouraged to go to Montreal to do a couple "One-Off" shows on November 24th and 25th, 1981. These were the only full Queen concerts ever shot on film. They were the first group ever to film an entire show in full cinema format 35mm. Originally titled We Will Rock You, Queen Rock Montreal is that film.

Queen Rock Montreal was recorded on November 24th and 25th 1981; exactly 10 years to the day of Mercury's death. It is directed by Saul Swimmer, who is best known as the director/producer of 1972's "Concert For Bangladesh" film and co-producer on the documentary "Let It Be" with the Beatles. By the time they began filming, Swimmer and his crew had so irritated Mercury and the rest of the band by getting in the way and interfering with the performance, that Mercury purposely wore short pants on the second night so that the crew couldn't easily rearrange the cuts.

One innovation in the film was the use of Swimmers new Mobilevision Technology. This was a precursor to today's IMAX technology, and in some ways surpassing it; IMAX can only project to a three-story tall screen, whereas Mobilevison could project five-stories. Other new techniques allowed the filming to be almost noise free and without blemishes. In watching the film, the colors to jump off the screen, and the sound is superb, as well.

When you listen to Queen, the music is theatrical, when you watch Queen perform, it is beyond theatrical; it is flamboyant, outrageous, and most of all, entertaining. They not only had a knack for writing hit songs, they had the ability to perform them well on stage.

It is Freddie Mercury that really provides the flamboyance. He reportedly had a recorded four octave vocal range, and his prancing around on stage in various stages of undress while encouraging the audience to participate in the show is a testament to the great showman that he was.

Brian May is the lead line in which this band performs. His guitar work is masterful, powerful, and always on. May, ranked #39 in Rolling Stones 100 best guitarists, is very much on during this concert. Using his "Red Special" guitar that he and his father Harold built beginning in 1963, using the wood from a 19 century fireplace mantle that a friend was going to throw away.

On another note, May is an astrophysicist by training and was working on his Ph. D. when Queen took off in 1973. He completed his degree in October 2007 with his thesis, A Survey of Radial Velocities in the Zodiacal Dust Cloud, and is currently awaiting confirmation of his degree.

The driving beat of Queen is provided by bassist John Deacon and drummer Roger Taylor. Throughout this concert they are spot on with their core sound, and some of the drumming and singing of harmonies by Taylor is simply amazing.

While this is the same video film that was presented in 1984's We Will Rock You, this is not the same mix. That video was sloppily thrown together; the sound didn't match the lip movement, the film was foggy, and there were other problems. It appears that Swimmer owned all rights to the film and Queen had no say on any of it.

Recently, Queen was able to acquire the film; I think it might have had something to do with Swimmers death in 2006 that allowed them to gain rights to the film. It has been digitally re-mastered from the original 35 mm film and is absolutely stunning to watch compared to Swimmer's original cut.

There is really only one bonus feature, and that is the commentary track with Brian May and Roger Taylor talking about the film, the concert, and their music. I found it totally entertaining to watch. There were little insights about the band, such as Freddie Mercury's chest wig. The two noted that when the concert was filmed, the songs "We Will Rock You" and "We Are The Champions" were very new songs; they weren't the classic arena chants that are heard at every sporting event on earth.

The final thing that makes this film so special is that it is one of the last times that it is just four guys on stage. Soon after, they hired a keyboard player so Mercury could spend more time interacting with the audience. They did not use tape loops or other special effects at this time; with the exception of the chorus for "Bohemian Rhapsody," which could not be easily emulated live. If you are looking for a great concert video, then Queen Rock Montreal is it.

Queen Rock Montreal Song Listing

  • Intro
  • We Will Rock You
  • Let Me Entertain You
  • Play The Game
  • Somebody To Love
  • Killer Queen
  • I'm In Love With My Car
  • Get Down Make Love
  • Save Me
  • Now I'm Here
  • Dragon Attack
  • Now I'm Here (Reprise)
  • Love Of My Life
  • Under Pressure
  • Keep Yourself Alive
  • Drum and Timpani Solo
  • Guitar Solo
  • Crazy Little Thing Called Love
  • Jailhouse Rock
  • Bohemian Rhapsody
  • Tie Your Mother Down
  • Another One Bites The Dust
  • Sheer Heart Attack
  • We Will Rock You (Reprise)
  • We Are The Champions
  • God Save The Queen

About T. Michael Testi

Photographer, writer, software engineer, educator, and maker of fine images.

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