Photograph by Neal Preston

by Emery Columna –

My first exposure to Opera was Freddie Mercury. Sure there was Opera and I heard it maybe a couple times on PBS, but I never listened to it until Freddie Mercury hit FM radio. This was Rock Opera.

What I mean is, everything I associated with Opera did not interest me, but put a singer with a 4 octave voice at the front of a heavy duty Rock band and I am right there with it… as so many others were as well.

No one in Rock has Freddie’s voice… then or now. His is one of the top 10 voices in all of Rock history. Right up there with Plant, Dio, Daltrey, Perry, et al. Freddie’s on the A-List.

By Christmas of 1975, Queen already had 3 albums under their belt and a fresh fourth one on tap with A Night at The Opera, which would yield one of the most recognizable and wildly popular songs in the history of modern music: Bohemian Rhapsody. 1975 really was the beginning for Queen.

This concert bristled with energy and potential, not fully polished, but a foretaste of what was to come for Queen in the following decade. This Christmas Eve concert showcased songs from Queen’s recorded output to date, but for this night everyone in the Hammersmith Odeon knew that Bohemian Rhapsody was something special from the very first note as evidenced by the crowd response and recognition of the tune.

You will see and hear Freddie’s nascent ability to captivate an audience early on in Queen’s career. The crowd response and involvement is readily apparent. Freddie could really work a room like no other lead singer could. His stage presence and ability to project his persona into and through a crowd all the way to the back wall was astounding and would serve him well for the rest of his life. Queen was one of those bands that could invade a space and take it over. Queen-A-Night-At-The-Odeon-CD-Cover-Art

It is inescapable. Queen’s power stroke spanned a decade, starting with this Christmas Eve concert to an adoring and eagerly entertained crowd of 3,500 at The Hammersmith Odeon in 1975 and stretching across the years to Queen’s performance at Live Aid at the peak of their power in 1985 before 72,000 strong at Wembley.

I don’t think Queen cared either way. No matter the venue, Queen’s major mission in life was to entertain you. Queen’s performance at The Hammersmith Odeon was the start of an amazing run for the ages.

Several songs in the stellar set are noteworthy. There is the nifty medley that begins and ends with Bohemian Rhapsody which contains Killer Queen and The March of The Black Queen that is really kool. There are also gems like Liar and In The Lap of The Gods that augment the killer set nicely.

There are two encores. The first contained a stunning rendition of Jail House Rock. The second closed out the night with the Seven Seas of Rhye.

Kudos to John Deacon and Roger Taylor who anchored the band as a thumping rhythm section should properly do. You couldn’t get any more solid than that!

Then there is Brian May… Brian has the sweetest high end in all of Rock. He owns that unmistakable tone. No one sounds like Brian May. No one ever will. Brian’s guitar shines throughout, but especially on Liar. Killer, just killer dude!

The cries for “more” are rarely heard these days from audiences, but 40 years ago you could hear an adoring and thoroughly entertained crowd plead for “more”. Even early on in their career, Queen had already mastered the art of entertainment: Leave them wanting more.

If you are a diehard Queen fan, you are gonna dig this! If you are new to Queen, let this be your first Opera lesson.

MAAF Box Rating: MAAF-BOX-listening-pleasure MAAF-BOX-listening-pleasure MAAF-BOX-listening-pleasure MAAF-BOX-listening-pleasure MAAF-BOX-listening-pleasure

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