“The last people anyone expected to come out of that gig as being the memorable ones was Queen,” said Bob Geldof in an interview, looking back at the band’s stunning 24 minute set at Live Aid on July 15, 1985. In front of 72,000 people in Wembley Stadium and millions watching worldwide, Queen resuscitated their career with a selection of hits and new material.
Going into Live Aid, a lot of the artists didn’t know what to expect of the entire event. Many, including Bob Geldof himself, wondered if the event would flop. But Queen more than any of them seemed to intuit right from the start the importance of the day, though they were very nervous backstage. But once onstage they completely own it, even more so Freddie Mercury who rises to the occasion as a front man and as a singer, giving one of his best performances.
In that short set, Queen gives a full concert worth of energy and the audience responds. Not all were Queen fans, but by the end everybody had become one, singing along to “We Are the Champions” and “We Will Rock You.” Across the Atlantic, the 90,000 strong Philadelphia audience followed suit, watching the jumbotron simulcast.
“Do you now how hard it is to get someone’s attention who’s on the other side of the room?” asks Dave Grohl of Foo Fighters in this other short doc on the set. “Imagine a stadium and making them sing along with you.”
This hot summer concert would turn out to be the zenith of Queen’s career. There would be more albums and singles, but Freddie Mercury would slowly succumb to AIDS, and disappear from public view, until passing in 1991. The Live Aid set stands as one of the band’s final, iconic, and major achievements. Watch it, in all of its glory, above. You can find this, and other Live Aid performances, on this 4 disc DVD.
Ted Mills is a freelance writer on the arts who currently hosts the FunkZone Podcast. You can also follow him on Twitter at @tedmills, read his other arts writing at tedmills.com and/or watch his films here.