Big Spenders On Campus: Queen Make Their US Live Debut

In the band’s fast-moving 1974, their UK chart success on single and album was followed by a first step onto a US stage.

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Queen - Photo: Queen Productions Ltd
Queen - Photo: Queen Productions Ltd

It was full speed ahead for Queen in the early spring of 1974. In the UK, they were enjoying their first hit, as “Seven Seas Of Rhye” reached its No. 10 peak. Meanwhile, the Top 5 success of the Queen II album was giving its predecessor (just called Queen, and released the previous summer) a belated chart debut.

It was not until literally years later, when Queen were basking in the afterglow of “Bohemian Rhapsody” and the Sheer Heart Attack album, that their first LP finally peaked, at No. 24, in February 1976. That was more than two and a half years after its release. But back in 1974, on April 16, the band followed a 22-date UK tour (the one that produced the Live At The Rainbow ’74 album, released only in 2014) with their first-ever show in the United States.

‘First US tour, first performance’

This initial US tour had Queen supporting UK favorites of the day, Mott The Hoople. The city in question was Denver, and the venue was not one that regularly crops up in the annals of rock history: the university venue Regis College Fieldhouse. “First US tour, first performance,” announced the poster. “Tickets $7.50 at campus bookstore.”

This was the first of no fewer than 19 American dates, of which the final six were in New York, at Uris Theatre, now known as the Broadway theatre the Gershwin. Now paying more attention to their image, the quartet employed Zandra Rhodes to design some of their stage costumes.

Freddie does Elvis…and Shirley Bassey

The set list that night in Denver started as the Queen II album did, with the instrumental “Procession.” It contained other new songs such as “Father To Son,” “White Queen (As It Began),” and “Ogre Battle.” The band also played that current UK hit, their first single “Keep Yourself Alive” and such covers as Elvis’ “Jailhouse Rock” and “Big Spender,” the latter much associated with Shirley Bassey.

They had intended to play even more than 19 shows, but their US itinerary had to be cut short on 11 May. On the day of the final Uris Theatre performance, Brian May collapsed with hepatitis, and then developed a duodenal ulcer. But on the same chart date as that final US gig, Queen II entered the US chart at No. 134. It rose to No. 49 in a 13-week run.

Listen to the best of Queen on Apple Music and Spotify.




  1. Kathy

    April 16, 2016 at 6:52 pm

    I saw them at the Agora in Columbus, Ohio. It was their first tour of the USA. On their way back from the west, they stopped again in Columbus, Ohio.

    I know it was a long time ago but that is what I remember.

  2. Tom Pappas

    April 30, 2017 at 6:43 pm

    One of my favorites I never saw live….

  3. Ben Ward

    April 30, 2017 at 10:13 pm

    Tom Pappas, you can still see them, or at least 50% of them! Personally, as much as I love them, Queen as a current band died with Freddie Mercury’s death all the way back in 1991.

  4. Paul

    May 1, 2017 at 2:26 pm

    Fans in Detroit were distraught that they weren’t going to play. Kansas filled in. Ironically when Queen was the headliner the next year Kansas was their opening act.

  5. Greg Osborne

    May 1, 2017 at 3:10 pm

    Happy to say that I was there that night!

  6. Greg Osborne

    May 2, 2017 at 4:01 am

    “Regis College Fieldhouse”. Most of the concert history lists that I’ve seen rarely get that right, but that’s exactly how it was worded on the ticket. In the late Seventies thieves broke into a storage unit of mine and took a bunch of boxes with personal items, photos, etc.. My ticket stub was in one of those boxes.

  7. Virginia Scarfo

    April 16, 2019 at 12:17 pm

    Just bought DVD Bohemian Rhapsody and watched it twice. One of the best bands ever! Great legendary songs – Freddie Mercury a born entertainer!

  8. Stephen Poulos

    April 16, 2019 at 4:57 pm

    Saw them in Cleveland that tour my first concert, what away too start my life at live concerts. Went with my best friends at the time will never forget. To this day everybody and anybody in Rock plays the home of rock n roll CLEVELAND!

  9. Tom G

    April 17, 2019 at 7:24 pm

    They were scheduled to play with Styx and Kansas at Kutztown State nka KU aweek after Brian got sick…sucks!!

  10. bingobob

    September 20, 2019 at 7:48 pm

    I saw Mott at the Uris that year and was impressed by the opening act Queen I never got the second chance to see Queen again but I still tell the story of the show when the discussion comes to groups we’ve seen.

  11. Mike McCormick

    April 26, 2020 at 10:28 pm

    I saw Queen on their Sheer Heart Attack tour of the UK in the Great Hall of Lancaster university 1974. I was aged 14.l had the Queen logo stenciled on my school haversack. I was the 512th member of their fan club. Queen were my band! Well, it felt like that at the time…

  12. Robert M Fitzpatrick

    May 2, 2022 at 4:09 am

    One of the dates on that tour was at the Harrisburg, PA Farm Show Arena. It was Mott, Aerosmith and Queen. I believe this is where Brian May learned the sublties of Kentucky Bourbon from one Steve Perry. There was an argument early (I used to get to shows crazy early, but that’s another story. Freddie, Mr. Tyler, both manager and a stage manager came out and had a frenzied argument around the grand piano. I distinctly remember that. It was so early in their careers that we thought the “2nd” band was called Aerosmith Queen. The font was the same.

  13. Phil Burk

    August 7, 2023 at 2:56 am

    They opened for Mott in Portland,Me. On the strength of a Rolling Stone review I’d bought their first album and aside from Keep Yourself Alive I didn’t think much of it. Queen on stage grabbed the audience and never let up. Big Spender was the encore with a costume change for Freddie into a bejeweled Nudie jumpsuit. This played very well and Mott never got the audience back. Mott had played Portland a year earlier with All…Memphis. Mick Ralphs(he’d formed Bad Company) was replaced by Mick Ronson. This appearance Adrian Belew was on lead guitar. I make no apologies, I’m a dude man.

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