Live At The Rainbow '74 (DVD)


EMI, 2014

REVIEW BY: Benjamin Ray


Sheer Heart Attack is frequently thought of as the moment when Queen-as-we-know-them arrived, where those frequent moments of brilliance, fey excess, and vocal harmonies from the first two albums coalesced into a group of killer songs. The release of that album happened amid a productive 1974 that saw the completion of the tour for Queen II and the beginning of the tour that fall for the new album, along with the hits "Killer Queen" and "Now I'm Here."

The fall tour showed a band with confidence, belief in its material and the knowledge that they were on the cusp of exploding into global superstardom, and Live At The Rainbow deftly captures this moment in time. The show ran over two nights and, presumably, the best of both nights was edited together into this one disc, with the end result a surprisingly intimate and energetic show for a band famous for glam rock and stadium anthems.

Freddie Mercury, of course, owns the audience seemingly from the outset even at this early stage, but never does he get in the way of the song or the other band members. Equal camera time is given to Brian May and drummer Roger Taylor as well, with both men getting their own solos about partway through the show. Still, Mercury is the main visual draw; all Jagger-inspired strut, with black nail polish, platform heels, a couple of ridiculous outfits, an overbite and a fantastic voice. It's also a treat to see him smiling throughout the show, interacting with the audience and giving his all to the cover of "Jailhouse Rock."my_heart_sings_the_harmony_web_ad_alt_250

Those looking for a pile of Queen hits won't find them here, as there really weren't any hits from the first two albums save for "Seven Seas Of Rhye," and so instead the 24 songs draw equally from the three albums as well as the non-album track "Liar," the cover of "Jailhouse Rock" and a brief take on the old tune "Big Spender." The live setting adds some grit to the songs from Queen and Queen II, redeeming them somewhat, although the majority of them still fall into the overblown, fairly ridiculous ‘70s glam rock camp (like "Ogre Battle," "White Queen," "Flick Of The Wrist" and "In The Lap Of The Gods").

For fans, though, this show will be a treat. The band's interplay on "Keep Yourself Alive," May's chugging, wailing guitar solo that splits up "Son And Daughter" and the forgotten "March Of The Black Queen" are easy highlights, as is a raw, attitude-filled "Now I'm Here" and the headbanging rock classic "Stone Cold Crazy," one of the band's best songs of all time. Mercury plays piano sporadically, mostly on his songs like "Rhye" and "In The Lap Of The Gods...Revisited," the latter being chosen to close the first part of the show, for some reason.

The best thing about Queen in these early days was their ability for pure glam rock, and while they always hung on to that side of their personality until about 1980, it slowly was subsumed under production tricks and increasingly campy Broadway-esque antics. Watching the band rip into "Modern Times Rock 'N' Roll" is far more fun than any two minutes of A Day At The Races, and while you can see the seeds of "Bohemian Rhapsody" being sown at this concert, you also see Taylor beat the heck out of his drums in the mdidle of "Keep Yourself Alive." It's a great reminder of where this band started.

This DVD appeals to fans of Queen's entire output, specifically those early years, but for all others, it's more of a curiosity with a handful of good songs than a necessary purchase. Regardless of which camp you choose, it's tough to deny the band's ability, enthusiasm, and love for their craft and their audience. More of a club show than a stadium tour, and better because of it, Live At The Rainbow is a flawed treasure for classic rock and classic Queen fans.

Rating: B-

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