In this week’s episode of Queen’s ‘The Greatest Live’ series, the band recalls “An Unforgettable Moment” that occurred when the band played in the Hungarian capital, Budapest, in 1986. You can watch the episode in full below.
As one of rock’s first truly international bands, Queen have never let the language barrier stand in their way. Having already blazed a trail to South America at the dawn of the ’80s, the lineup broke new ground again on that decade’s “Magic Tour,” journeying to Hungary for a sell-out show at Budapest’s Népstadion.
Before a note was even played, the show on July 27, 1986 was loaded with significance, representing the first concert performed by a stadium-league Western European rock band behind the Iron Curtain. “We like going places where it’s a challenge,” noted Brian May – and that certainly applied to a country where Communist strongman György Lázár still held sway.
As seen in the following year’s film release, Queen: Live In Budapest (later repackaged as Hungarian Rhapsody), the Népstadion crowd were word-perfect as the band rolled out the hits (the government’s “lenient restriction on audience behaviour” allowed singing and clapping, if not smoking and drinking).
“An Unforgettable Moment” captures the electrifying moment when Freddie Mercury and Brian May paused their customary acoustic mini-set for a surprise rendition of the traditional Hungarian folk song, ‘Tavaszi Szél Vizet Áraszt’ (its title roughly translating as “Spring Wind Floods Water).”
Watch closely and you can see Freddie discreetly fan his fingers in order to read the lyrics written phonetically on the palm of his hand. He coped admirably, and the pair’s heartfelt performance – watched by 80,000 fans and heard by a further 45,000 outside the Népstadion – proved a great unifying moment between East and West.
“The reaction at that point,” recalled Brian, “was f_king deafening.” He continued: “That night was amazing, with the Hungarian folk song and the whole atmosphere. It may sound like an exaggeration, but it was like we took a step into infinity that night.”