Wednesday 1st June: “I was there,” I pointed out to Debbie when the 1986 tour, specifically Wembley Stadium (you know, the old one with the towers) was covered on the second part of this weekend’s Queen: Day Of Our Lives documentary. Then I remembered that, back in those pre-internet (well, mass market internet) and hence, pre-blogging days, I had actually sat down after the gig and written a review of the whole thing, tucking it away in the pages of the program (yes, in those days, I not only went to stadium gigs, I also bought programs) for posterity.My nineteen-year-old self must have known that, years later, I would spend a good part of my spare time pretending to be a music journalist. A quick trip to the loft and I had the nearly two sides of A4, handwritten review and, just to prove that my writing hasn’t improved at all, I thought I’d share it with you, in all its naivety and unedited glory (although I may add the odd bit if retrospective commentary in red).
A Queen tour is always something special and, after missing the 1984 tour, when I got a chance of two tickets to see them at Wembley on the 11th July 1986, there was no holding me back. (Good job, really, as it turned out to be their last tour.)
Of course, this was to be no ordinary Queen gig. Three other groups were also billed as guests. The Australian group INXS were first on and thankfully didn’t stay for long. Although it might have been better if I’d heard one or two of their records, (records!!) their performance only served as a teaser for what I hoped would be happening next. A couple of songs did sound as if something could have been done with them, the group and the sound system didn’t sound too well matched. (I think this was one of INXS’s first appearances in the UK and I remember that, on the tube back to Victoria Station most of the people in our carriage were saying that they were rubbish, except for one bloke who came out with something along the lines of, “No, they were OK. I think they’re going to be big.” How prescient of him.)
Although a bit disconcerting at times, the fact that (as we were sitting near the back of the stadium) we saw what was happening on stage (via a large screen) two or three seconds before we heard it, (I had gone with then girlfriend and soon to be first wife, who didn’t want to go anywhere near the front) seemed to dwindle in importance when we started listening to the music more and watching the screen less. This was the case with the next group, The Alarm. Such classics as 68 Guns, Where Were You Hiding and Spirit of ‘76 blasted off the stage and through the four huge speaker banks, as this North Wales group gave a powerful and charismatic performance. A performance which, although it could only be a short one, nevertheless seemed too short. (Eh?)
It was between this group and the next that one of the two large crowd spectacles started. Undoubtedly stemming from over exposure to the World Cup, our half of the crowd started to emulate the Mexican human wave, only to be met with a total lack of response from the terraces at the back. After a bout of booing at the hapless lot, the far corner to the right of the stage set it off again, this time in a clockwise direction and this time with more success, as the whole thing lasted about a quarter of an hour and finished up quite competitively, with each side booing each other down.
Next up, the new Status Quo, with new bassist and drummer, the latter being a real powerhouse. As expected, the emphasis was on Parfitt and Rossi (Rossi’s wit being unimpaired by two years off the road) as the combo ploughed their way through (I’m fairly sure I didn’t mean it to sound like it was an effort) old Quo songs including Roll Over Lay Down, Whatever You Want, Dirty Water and, to the crowd’s delight, Rocking All Over The World. Quo were also the first band to do an encore, which consisted of Caroline and at least one other that I can’t remember. (No mobile phones in those days and I didn’t take pen and paper with me…)
Then, after half an hour’s wait, came Queen. The whole stadium rose as, without announcement, the speakers started blasting out One Vision. A thunder went up when the four stars of the show swept onto the stage. The flamboyant Freddie Mercury pranced and strutted along in time to the music and his own voice. Hit followed hit. One Vision, Kind Of Magic, Crazy Little Thing Called Love, Love Of My Heart (Life, surely?) and a tear-jerking Is This The World We Created? to name a few. With the hits came the rain. Thankfully we were under shelter (good thinking by future wifey…) but it didn’t bother many who weren’t and brought wisecracks from Freddie.
Instrumentals from Taylor and May were then followed by more hits. I Want To Break Free, Another One Bites The Dust, Under Pressure and the excellent Bohemian Rhapsody. With Quo and Queen the sound system had really taken flight and the audience had taken voice, as a lively performance of Tutti Frutti showed. Then, as the group left the stage (after two or three more hits, including an excellent Hammer To Fall) the crowd rose as one, demanding more. As the lights went down, the lighters appeared, small pinpoints of light in a sea of blackness. A roar went up as Queen came back on, another one as Radio Ga Ga started. With the chorus thousands of pairs of hands shot into the air to do the clap sequence from the video, a great sign of unity and a wonderful sight. Again they went off. Again the lighters, again they came on. (Must have been magical lighters, I suppose.) A grand finale in every sense of the phrase. We Will Rock You, then Friends Will Be Friends and finally and appropriately We Are The Champions, all of which were heard for dozens of yards outside the stadium.
Finally it was over, but the crowd as one was still reluctant to go. It had definitely been a night of Summer magic, rain and all.