Thursday, 21 March 2019

Queen singer’s tale is ready to rock you

Queen singer’s tale is ready to rock you

IT was the biggest concert in the history of popular music — and rock’s aristocracy was out in force.

Live Aid at Wembley on July 13, 1985, had already hosted performances by Sting, Phil Collins, U2 and Dire Straits when Queen frontman Freddie Mercury sat at the piano and picked out the opening notes of Bohemian Rhapsody.

What followed has been acclaimed as one of the most stunning performances in the history of rock as the band rolled out six of their greatest hits before an estimated worldwide TV audience of 1.9 billion — not forgetting the 72,000 fans in the stadium.

Closing their set with We Will Rock You and We Are the Champions, Queen simply stole the show.

It was the high point of the band’s career, but tragedy was soon to follow, with Mercury being diagnosed HIV positive two years later, by which time he had already made his final live appearance with the band at Knebworth in August 1986.

Three decades on, Live Aid is also the climax of the long-awaited biopic of the singer hitting cinema screens on Wednesday.

Initially cast in the lead role, Ali G star Sacha Baron Cohen jumped ship due to creative differences and the film’s accredited director Bryan Singer was replaced by Dexter Fletcher towards the end of principal photography — but none of that is likely to matter to Queen’s many fans.

Bohemian Rhapsody traces the meteoric rise of the band through their iconic songs and revolutionary sound, their near implosion as Freddie’s lifestyle spirals out of control, and their triumphant reunion on the eve of Live Aid.

Mercury is played by the Egyptian-American actor Rami Malek, best known for his starring role in the Mr Robot TV series, with Lucy Boynton as the singer’s companion Mary Austin.

Queen’s lead guitarist Brian May described himself as “thrilled” with the film, adding: “Much more than a documentary of someone’s life, it’s a piece of pure art, chiselled out of solid rock. It speaks of families and relationships and hopes and dreams, and heartache and disappointment, and ultimately of victory and fulfilment in a way that everyone can connect to. It hasn’t been an easy journey — but all the most worthwhile journeys are like that. Rami and Lucy and the boys give monumental performances — more than worthy of the originals.”

Producer Graham King added: “This film has been eight years in the making but I truly believe that it’s been worth it. The movie is a true celebration of Queen’s music and a tribute to one of the greatest frontmen of all time.”

Bohemian Rhapsody is now showing at Henley’s Regal Picturehouse cinema.

Matthew Wilson

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