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This review is from: Queen On Fire - Live At The Bowl (Audio CD)
Something of a curate's egg this one. Bridging the gap stylistically between their hard rock era epitomised by Live Killers and the pop-rock sheen of Live at Wembley (don't touch Live Magic by the way), this album is at the very least an interesting document of a band in transition. Kicking off with an electrifying version of The Hero, a now little known track from Flash Gordon, and racing breathlessly into the rockier version of We Will Rock You (the same version as that showcased on Live Killers), the band then hits the first snag of the evening, Action this Day, a track from their current album of the time, Hot Space. And here lies the problem.
I have a mixed view of Hot Space, on the one hand it is one of Queen's most intriguing albums, an album on which they were rather experimental, trying to find some sort of a funk-rock hybrid suiting the sensibilities of Freddie and John. Some of this album is fantastic and really seems to work, but at times it is rather dreadful (Body Language anyone?). During Queen on Fire they manfully try to convince the Milton Keynes crowd of the merits of these tunes, with patchy results. "Action" is, I would say, a miss, not really translating to their stage persona, "Staying Power" is almost there, "Back Chat" seems to work. You can hear Freddie working his backside off trying to involve the crowd, but they sound a bit sceptical, despite Brian trying to rock the somgs up with some raw, not exactly disco, guitar playing.
The rest of the album shows off the excellence of Queen Live: how they could convert complex studio multi-layered tracks into four-piece rock is little short of miraculous. It is also good to hear Save Me and Somebody to Love at last released in their live versions- they are both fantastic here and serve as a reminder of what great popular music can be, shaming the modern top 40.
The sound on this album is OK, not as pin sharp as more recent live recordings but remember this was the analogue age; it certainly bears favourable comparison to the recent Led Zeppelin live recordings.
Yes, this is a mixed bag of an album but is worth a punt. You never know, it may make you want to buy Hot Space, and what then?