As previous episodes of ‘The Greatest Live’ have revealed, no Queen concert is ever short of songs that encourage the fans to sing along, and even before the now legendary combination of “We Will Rock You” and “We Are The Champions” provided the ultimate sing along finale, Queen had plenty of crowd pleasers that unified the audience into one massive chorus – such as “In The Lap Of The Gods,” the subject of this week’s episode of ‘Queen: The Greatest Live.’
Even with the lineup singing four-way harmonies, there has always been room for a few thousand backing vocalists at a Queen show. As passionate advocates for crowd participation, the band have too many singalongs to list, from “Radio Ga Ga” and “Another One Bites The Dust” to the finale of “We Will Rock You” and “We Are The Champions.” But as we see in the latest episode of Queen The Greatest Live, even the band’s deeper cuts could turn a rowdy stadium in a word-perfect choir.
Opening (and closing) the second side of 1974’s Sheer Heart Attack album, the two versions of “In The Lap Of The Gods” were wrenched from the emotional depths by Freddie Mercury. “In the beginning, a lot of his writing was very fantastical, but underneath, I think he was pouring his heart out,” Brian May told Uncut. “Freddie was struggling with various things and we all know his sexuality was quite fluid. It was hard for him to express. I think you can hear him in this song, struggling with his relationships, putting them into words and music.”
While “Killer Queen” and “Now I’m Here” would be cherry-picked as singles from Sheer Heart Attack, the Queen hardcore always kept the yearning refrain from “In The Lap Of The Gods… Revisited” close to their hearts. And as the band’s Christmas Eve 1975 concert at Hammersmith Odeon hit the home straight, the crowd took no persuasion to join Freddie in a chorus that ached with wordless emotion (‘Whoa, whoa, la, la, la, oh!’).
Fast-forward a decade to 1986’s “Magic Tour” and the song had lost none of its power to unite, with 144,000 fans at Wembley Stadium swaying in unison as they roared the hook, and the singalong effortlessly crossing the language barrier as the band lit up Budapest’s Népstadion in Hungary. But as Brian told Uncut, it might never have flown without a choirmaster of Mercury’s calibre: “That song is Freddie being magnificent and being a god – which he was quite good at.”