In ‘Opening Numbers,’ Brian May and Roger Taylor reveal the thinking behind the spectacular openings to Queen shows, and the legends who inspired them in the band’s early days. You can check the episode out in full below.
As a live band famous for making an electrifying first impression, there’s a science to the Queen setlist, and in this exclusive video interview with Brian May and Roger Taylor, the two founders reveal their philosophy to starting with a bang.
“The audience want to be blown away at first,” explains Roger. “We used to say blind them, deafen them, and then calm down a bit after twenty minutes. You really want to go bang, bang, bang, bang at the beginning of a show.”
From “One Vision” to “Bohemian Rhapsody,” Queen have hit the stage over the past half-century armed with rock’s greatest rabble-rousing anthems. As Brian explains, some songs demand a place at the top of the setlist. “Sometimes, writing a song, you’re already aware it would be a good opener. You see it in that light. The production starts to take place in your head. We’ve had some really good openers and I think generally they’ve come out of the music.”
He adds: “Everything comes from the music, everything is making the music more expressive, making it connect better. So knowing that process and that sort of solid seat of it, it’s actually quite easy to fashion those moments. And it’s fun. It’s so fun to plan it out, plan the sound, plan where we’re going to be, planning the lights and everything and then see the effect on the audience and go, ‘Yes, that works’.”
Episode 5 goes on to reveal how Queen learnt the importance of building anticipation from their heroes such as The Who and Led Zeppelin – before looking back at classic Queen openers, from Freddie Mercury revving up the crowd with “We Will Rock You” to the kabuki curtain drop and the dash down the runway for “Tie Your Mother Down” in the Paul Rodgers period.
“We’ve had some good openings,” reflects Roger. “I used to like the kabuki. The big curtain just disappears in front of your eyes and suddenly reveals all. That was always a good gag. You try and make an impact with the first song.”