Queen – Live at the Rainbow (1974/2014)

by | Sep 24, 2014 | DVD & Blu-ray Video Reviews

Queen – Live at the Rainbow (1974)

Performers: Freddie Mercury (lead vocals, piano), Brian May (guitar, vocals), John Deacon (bass guitar), and Roger Taylor (drums, vocals).
Archival footage from Rainbow Theatre (March & November 1974)
Studio: Universal Music Group EV306799 [9/9/14]
Director: Bruce Gowers
Video: 1.77:1 for 16:9 color
Extras: Four cuts from March 1974 concert
Audio: English Dolby Digital 2.0
Subtitles: None
Length: 90 minutes
Ratings:  Video: ****  Audio: ****

Look at the tracklist first. But don’t expect Queen hits like “Another One Bites the Dust,” “Hammer to Fall,” or even “Bohemian Rhapsody.” All these chartbusters came later. Instead, you will get early Queen favorites like “Killer Queen,” “Keep Yourself Alive,” and “Son and Daughter.” (Of course they’re great too, so don’t feel shortchanged.) This is a wondrously energetic live release from the dusty vaults, filmed with all the aesthetic style – and limitations – of that period. On the positive side, MTV-style videography, with quarter-second cuts and random panning, had yet to tear up the scene. That means the DVD is comprised of shots lasting five seconds or longer.

Plus, the camera people did excellent jobs focusing on key players at optimal angles, like Roger May during a redoubtable guitar solo in “Son and Daughter,” or drummer Roger Taylor whipping his instruments to a frenzy in “Keep Yourself Alive.” Video fades are deftly crafted, and crazy-ass zooming, which plagued sixties videos like Cream’s Farewell Concert (November 1968), quits the scene. However, the stage lighting also reflected the period, with dimly lit monochromaticism, excessive shadows, and back-lit silhouettes. It also seems as if extreme closeups, so prevalent today, hadn’t been invented yet. Instead, we get three-quarter or ensemble shots of Mercury and his restive crew. Fine with me. This legendary lead singer already had a flamboyant stage presence that rivaled Mick Jagger’s. (Plus, he played a mean boogie-woogie piano.) With nary a choreographer on staff, he seemed to know early on just when to strut and when to prance, and when to lean back and wail. He wasn’t just a great singer; Mercury was fun personified. We all miss him terribly.

Audio is good, not perfect, but never muddy or reverberant. The video transfer and restoration of the main body of the November ’74 concert is well-engineered and spot on, particularly when compared to the four bonus tracks from the March ’74 concert. While their sound is passable, their video quality is not. All four look like those copies of copies you collected in your VHS days. Hard to tell what happened with them, but I suspect the originals were lost. Still, they are diverting to watch. Once or twice.

If you are a hardcore Queen fan, this DVD (also available on Blu-ray) is required viewing. But if you’re a mere fan of popular music, buy it anyway. It’s a great ride through the glam/hard rock era and an excellent companion to Queen’s studio videos of later years.

TrackList:

Live at the Rainbow, November ’74 =
1. Procession
2. Now I’m Here
3. Ogre Battle
4. Father To Son
5. White Queen (As It Began)
6. Flick Of The Wrist
7. In The Lap Of The Gods
8. Killer Queen
9. The March Of The Black Queen
10. Bring Back That Leroy Brown
11. Son And Daughter
12. Guitar Solo
13. Son And Daughter (Reprise)
14. Keep Yourself Alive
15. Drum Solo
16. Keep Yourself Alive (Reprise)
17. Seven Seas Of Rhye
18. Stone Cold Crazy
19. Liar
20. In The Lap Of The Gods… Revisited
21. Big Spender
22. Modern Times Rock ’n’ Roll
23. Jailhouse Rock
24. God Save The Queen
Bonus Tracks =
Live at the Rainbow, March ’74
1. Son And Daughter
2. Guitar Solo
3. Son And Daughter (Reprise)
4. Modern Times Rock ’n’ Roll

—Peter Bates

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