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Reviews > Queen Music Reviews > 05-23-1993 - Freddie Tribute Concert Video - The Denver Post
Though portions of the April 20, 1992, Freddie Mercury Tribute Concert in London were broadcast in the U.S., the event never came across as a big deal at the time.
That's because Mercury, Queen's lead singer who died of AIDS in 1991, had been considered a has-been in the U.S. in the 1980s. Mercury's strengths when the group was big in the 1970s, that soaring operatic-style voice and his flamboyant stage presence, seemed so much show-biz pretentiousness to 1980s hard-rock head-bangers. The obituaries treated him as a second-rate star with a few past hits and a dated sound.
But now that the "Freddie Mercury Tribute Concert" video
(Hollywood Records Music Video, $19.99) has been released, everything has changed. "Wayne's World" made Queen's giddy kitsch-classic, "Bohemian Rhapsody," a hit all over again. And a single from the tribute concert, George Michael and Queen's "Somebody to Love," also is a hit right now. Queen is very hot.
In Britain, however, Queen and Mercury remained beloved in the 1980s. What the group was about - mixing musical references from Led Zeppelin to vaudeville with unabashed, unironic glee - was more easily accepted there than here, where rock bands tend to be forced by commercial considerations to repeat an identifiable sound forever.
As a result, some 70,000 fans turned out for this show at London's Wembley Stadium. And so did an impressive number of recording artists who found quality and pleasure in Queen's music - Michael, Robert Plant, Roger Daltry, David Bowie, Elton John, Lisa Stansfield, Guns N' Roses, Def Leppard, Metallica, Liza Minnelli, Extreme, Paul Jones and more. Queen's three surviving members offered instrumental support for many of the performers.
That all these guest artists could find something to honor in songs first sung by Mercury proves how eclectic a band Queen was. That so many of those songs are good - including many sweet ballads and mid-tempo rock tunes with fatalistic lyrics from the 1980s - is the real surprise of this show.
The always dapper if perennially reserved Bowie joins Annie Lennox for the show-stopping "Under Pressure." (Bowie and Queen recorded the song in 1981.) Wearing a black dress and mask-like black eye makeup, Lennox collapses onto Bowie like a funeral mourner at the end of this fine song.
After that, Bowie brings on stage Ian Hunter, for whom he wrote the classic "All the Young Dudes" in 1972, and Mick Ronson, the exciting guitarist for Bowie's early 1970s glam-rock period. Together the three perform "Dudes" as a tribute to Mercury and all of Britain's once-groundbreaking rock stars of the period. It's made all the more poignant by Ronson's death last month of liver cancer. Time moves on.
Queen was more than Mercury - it also featured a fine hard-rock guitarist in the curly-haired, photogenic Brian May. Here, he serves as the emcee with a calming humility. Though he's too shy to acknowledge that his ballad "Too Much Love Will Kill You" is a tribute to Mercury, it comes across as such. Maybe it's too earnest, but it still provides one of the show's finest moments.
The duality of Queen - the anthemic hard-rock bombast and the gentle wistfulness - come together at concert's end when Elton John and Axl Rose duet on "Bohemian Rhapsody." It is a silly song taken very seriously by two very different types of singers. This allows fans to witness an almost-surrealistic experience. It is fun.
Not to be outdone, Minnelli emerges at show's end to lead the assembled guests in "We Are the Champions." Queen, with Mercury in charge, refused to follow rock-music convention. That didn't always make for great music, but the video of this constantly appealing concert reveals that much of it was good.