A Stunning Live Concert Film of Queen Performing in Montreal, Digitally Restored to Perfection (1981)

The leg­end of Queen is immor­tal. It needs no fur­ther bur­nish­ing, not even, some might argue, by the most recent Oscar-win­ning biopic. The film may game­ly recre­ate the stage­craft of Britain’s most oper­at­ic export. But once you’ve seen the real thing, what need of a sub­sti­tute? For the mil­lions who loved them before Wayne’s World brought them back to glob­al con­scious­ness, and the mil­lions who came to love them after­ward, the only thing that could be bet­ter than watch­ing live Queen is watch­ing more live Queen.

If you’re one of those mil­lions, you’ll thrill at this con­cert film of Queen live in Mon­tre­al in 1981, “at their near peak,” writes Twist­ed Sifter. The footage you see here has been lov­ing­ly restored from an orig­i­nal release that chopped two dif­fer­ent nights’ per­for­mances togeth­er in a hash the band hat­ed.

The restora­tion, as Bri­an May him­self explained in 2007, is now “much much more true to what actu­al­ly hap­pened at any giv­en moment…. And I do find that once I’m five min­utes into the film, I’m caught up in it as a real live show.” It is, he says, “a great piece of work.”

Direct­ed by Saul Swim­mer, the doc­u­men­tar­i­an who made George Harrison’s Con­cert for Bangladesh, the film was plagued by mis­un­der­stand­ing and hos­til­i­ty, as May describes it. Fred­die Mer­cury hat­ed the expe­ri­ence and the direc­tor. “What you will see,” says the gui­tarist, “is a very edgy, angry band, carv­ing out a per­for­mance in a rather uncom­fort­able sit­u­a­tion.” But what per­for­mances they are. “High ener­gy, real, and raw.”

Yet no jus­tice was done to the elec­tric rage they brought to the stage those two nights. The film was shot on very high-qual­i­ty 35mm, then very bad­ly edit­ed with poor attempts at match­ing sound and video from dif­fer­ent per­for­mances. In 1984, an even worse VHS ver­sion titled We Will Rock You appeared, then it went to DVD in 2001. The band protest­ed but could only rem­e­dy the sit­u­a­tion when they bought the rights to the film.

In describ­ing the restora­tion process, May, the irre­press­ible sci­en­tist, gets most excit­ed:

The sur­viv­ing neg­a­tive went to be doc­tored in the USA – by a process using algo­rithms invent­ed by John D Lowry of NASA for res­cu­ing the film from the Apol­lo Moon mis­sions. (Astro­physics gets every­where!)  You know how quick com­put­ers are these days…?  Well, to give you an idea of the huge num­ber-crunch­ing involved, it took 700 Apple Mac G5’s one MONTH to process this film. 

From the orig­i­nal 24-track audio, all the songs, which had been edit­ed, were restored to their full length, and what footage wasn’t cut and dis­card­ed was rejoined “with mod­ern dig­i­tal artistry” into full per­for­mances.

Giv­en that the out­takes had dis­ap­peared, the result “is a doc­u­ment which con­cen­trates on Fred­die,” says May, but no one in the band “is upset” about that. I doubt any Queen fans will be over­ly upset either. See and hear the glo­ri­ous­ly restored film and live audio from Mon­tre­al in 1981 here: a fast ver­sion of “We Will Rock You,” “Some­body to Love,” “Killer Queen,” “Bohemi­an Rhap­sody,” “Anoth­er One Bites the Dust,” the slow ver­sion of “We Will Rock You,” and “We Are the Cham­pi­ons,” below.

via Twist­ed Sifter

Relat­ed Con­tent:

Watch Queen’s Stun­ning Live Aid Per­for­mance: 20 Min­utes Guar­an­teed to Give You Goose Bumps (July 15, 1985)

Watch Marc Mar­tel, Who Sup­plied Vocals for the Award-Win­ning Queen Film, Sing Just Like Fred­die Mer­cury: “Bohemi­an Rhap­sody,” “We Are The Cham­pi­ons” & More

Scenes from Bohemi­an Rhap­sody Com­pared to Real Life: A 21-Minute Com­pi­la­tion

Josh Jones is a writer and musi­cian based in Durham, NC. Fol­low him at @jdmagness

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  • Doctor Whom says:

    where is the full length HD film? All th you tube links are short­ies. NG play­er ad is for mal­ware, I think, not to see the full movie. NG of course means No Good. NFG adds F.…

  • murder ballad organ grinder says:

    Queen ben­e­fits from the way we lose sequence when we see things like this in ret­ro­spect. This is a record­ing made after Bowie had released the Berlin tril­o­gy, when Talk­ing Heads were past the first four records, when Grace Jones was com­ing into her own, when Prince released Con­tro­ver­sy, New Order released Move­ment. As a young man hun­ger­ing for some­thing new, Queen were con­ser­v­a­tive in their musi­cal ideas, just bad art rock. Not that i liked Gen­e­sis, but at least they were some­thing you’d nev­er seen before. By con­trast, Queen was always mar­ried to a sound some­where between Broad­way show tunes and a Vegas stage show.

    Yes, there was that voice. That’s what they also said about Bur­ton Cum­mings.

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