Watch The First Episode Of ‘Queen The Greatest Live’
The band’s hugely popular ‘The Greatest’ series returns with a year-long celebration of Queen’s live history.
Now in its triumphant second year, Queen’s mightily popular YouTube video series ‘Queen The Greatest’ returns today, 20 January. This first episode of ‘Queen The Greatest Live’ in 2023 kick-starts a twelve-month, 50-video schedule that will bring fans more rare archive live footage, contemporary performances and behind-the-scenes interviews from across Queen’s five decades. You can watch the first episode in full below.
Complemented by the meticulously assembled visuals of longtime multimedia collaborator Simon Lupton, ‘Queen The Greatest Live’ promises to continue to inform and delight the most hardcore fan, many of whom might be thrilled to spot that the return of the series now boasts a new opening theme tune – fashioned specially by Brian May from “We Are The Champions.”
From their earliest shows playing to several hundred at London’s famed Marquee Club in 1973 to more recent concerts performed to over 70,000 in Sydney Australia, the one constant in Queen’s performing history has been the band’s commitment to what they consider the most crucial aspect of a successful Queen performance: the rehearsals.
From Live Aid to Rock In Rio, Queen’s fabled concerts have always been the climax of months of painstaking preparation. As Brian and Roger explain here in Episode 1 of ‘Queen The Greatest Live’, the rehearsal and soundcheck process is a vital part of the nightly magic that happens on the stage, not only helping Queen sculpt their famously epic sound but also tighten tricky musical gearshifts and even dust off songs that have rarely appeared on the setlist. “And if it works out well in soundcheck,” notes Brian, “you put it in the next night.”
Interspersed with the new interviews, Episode 1 of ‘Queen The Greatest Live’ also offers behind-the-scenes footage from the band’s tours past and present. In modern times, we see Roger put his kit through its paces and frontman Adam Lambert testing the stadium acoustics. But this latest video dives deep into the vaults, too, bringing us News Of The World-era soundcheck footage, with Freddie Mercury singing “Tie Your Mother Down” to rows of empty seats while Brian wrangles his pedalboard.
Our journey starts with a new and exclusive interview with Brian May and Roger Taylor to discover the importance of the first, crucial aspect of any successful Queen tour. The rehearsals.
Brian May: “Rehearsing before tour is always a bit of a surprise because you don’t know how much you’re going to remember and you don’t know if it’s still going to feel the same. But it’s surprising how stuff does flow back into you, into your veins once you start kicking stuff around.”
Roger Taylor: “Normally we play a song through and see if it works, if we think it’s going to work live, and they don’t always work live. Some of them just, they’re not suited really for an exciting or involving, engaging performance, a live performance. So we probably, there’s quite a few songs we’ve never played live that have been on albums and probably for good reason.”
Brian May: “We’ll try a lot of stuff out and then very often we’ll go, ‘Oh, well, we did this last time. Well, maybe we’ll do that’, and you put a rough set together very quickly. It’s about a lot of things. It’s also about looking at the sound and making sure that everything’s in place out front for the for the people out front. It’s about looking at the monitor system, making sure that we can be heard between each other like I can hear Rog, he can hear me, etc., etc..”
Brian May: “It’s also about the lights, the whole production. So you have an awful lot to do in that rehearsal period. And it’s easy for things to, I guess, be unfinished. So you know you’re going to go out on tour on the first night and it won’t be finished. There will be work in progress, but that’s the nature of the game. You can’t be perfect. You can’t hit the ground perfect. You hit the ground, okay? And you evolve to the place where you hopefully want to be. So by the time you get to the end of the tour, you’re really good.”
To ensure this evolution continues throughout a Queen tour, a precious few hours on each show day becomes vitally important.
Brian May: “Sound checking is the real kind of baseline of touring, really. If you don’t soundcheck while you’re in the process of touring, you’re static and you’re kind of dead. That’s my feeling. I know it’s Roger’s feeling, too.”
Roger Taylor: “We just wouldn’t feel happy unless we felt we knew exactly where everything was – the set up the sound, even if we’re doing several nights in one place. You want to go in the next day and kind of make sure everything’s sounding right. It’s tuned right.
Everything’s in the right… And there might have been something you weren’t happy with the night before. You want to correct it, you know. And then we might just change a song, and so we’ll rehearse a new song to put in and just try things out, really. But I think Brian and I certainly not happy with just going on cold. We like to know that everything’s right and that hopefully nothing’s going to go wrong.”
Roger Taylor: “The soundcheck. Normally at 4 ‘o’ clock, I go first in the secure knowledge that Brian is going to take ages, so I can do mine fairly quickly. And then I’ll vacate the stage and the other guys will be in there, rhythm, bass, keys and they’ll be running through stuff, technically, harmonies, stuff like that. And then Brian will come on to get his sound and then we’ll get together as a unit and play ensemble. Yeah, that’s the way it normally works. Yeah.”
Brian May: “We call it a soundcheck, but part of it is to check the sound and it’s always necessary, but the rest of it is to just try stuff out, even if it’s only a few bars. Like ‘What happened last night? Oh, that happened. What if we do this?’ And and you gradually, gradually evolving the show, finding out little bits that didn’t work as well as they could. Maybe they could be improved. ‘Oh, let’s try. We didn’t try this song for ages. Maybe we try this?’ And if it works out well in soundcheck, you put it in the next night.”
Brian May: “But it can be all sorts of little, small, tiny, little things. Like ‘if I do this, you know, generally you do that which conflicts, you know, so maybe we.. Oh yeah, okay I’ll do this’. And you adjust those little things which, which improve. They call it Kaizen in Japan and you improve tiny little things all along the way and suddenly the whole shows an improvement. And that’s why the show is so good, I think. I mean, I hope it is good. People say it’s good.”
Watch every episode of ‘Queen The Greatest Live’ on Queen’s official YouTube channel.