Freddie Mercury & Rami Malek’s Live Aid Performance: A Side-By-Side Comparison

All Hol­ly­wood musi­cals need a big final set piece, one final rous­ing num­ber to bring all the nar­ra­tive threads back togeth­er, and pro­vide redemp­tion to our fall­en hero. Bohemi­an Rhap­sody, the 2018 biopic about Fred­die Mer­cury and the band Queen, uses Live Aid as its final num­ber. We’ve writ­ten else­where about how this was not real­ly the final hur­rah for the band, nor was this some kind of tri­umphant return after years in the Wilder­ness. (“Radio Gaga” and “I Want to Break Free” had been in the charts just over a year pre­vi­ous.) Nei­ther was it their biggest con­cert of the 1980s. That would be the Wem­b­ley con­cert of 1986, where they would fill the exact same sta­di­um used for Live Aid, but this time it was just for them.

But Hol­ly­wood cares not for that, so instead lets look at how faith­ful­ly Rami Malek and his fel­low actors (along with what might have been Bryan Singer as direc­tor or pos­si­bly Dex­ter Fletch­er, the man who replaced him after events we’d rather not go into, look it up) faith­ful­ly recre­ate those 20 glo­ri­ous min­utes. After all, it was one of the most watched events in the sum­mer of 1985. There is video evi­dence!

I’ll leave it up to you out there to debate over Malek’s per­for­mance, which is going to suf­fer no mat­ter what he does in a side-by-side with the real thing. Instead, notice how the film­mak­ers use cer­tain parts of the per­for­mance to com­plete the nar­ra­tives of the film. We get a cut­away to Bri­an May (Gwilym Lee) with a “by George he’s actu­al­ly got it” look on his face—relief that Mer­cury final­ly got it togeth­er for the per­for­mance. There’s no equiv­a­lent shot in real life. The kiss that Mer­cury blows to some­body off cam­era is received by his moth­er and sis­ter back at his child­hood home.

After Mercury’s call-and-response with the teem­ing audi­ence, the band dives into “Ham­mer to Fall” and the film cuts to a mon­tage to show Live Aid’s phones ring­ing off the hook, anx­ious view­ers want­i­ng to donate even more because of Queen’s per­for­mance. This is again Hol­ly­wood hokum, as dona­tions only real­ly stepped up after Bob Geld­of got in front of the cam­eras a lit­tle after Queen brought the house down and harangued view­ers.

Still, you have to hand it to the movie for hav­ing the stones to indulge in the full 20 minute set, despite sil­ly moves like cut­ting away to the movie’s “you’ll nev­er go any­where” record exec­u­tive for the line “no time for losers” dur­ing the final song. (D’oh!)

YouTube user Juan Dela Cruz, who assem­bled this side-by-side, has made two oth­er com­par­i­son videos using exist­ing footage and the film: Part One is here, and here’s Part Two.

Relat­ed Con­tent:

Watch Queen Rehearse & Metic­u­lous­ly Pre­pare for Their Leg­endary 1985 Live Aid Per­for­mance

Watch 16 Hours of His­toric Live Aid Per­for­mances: Queen, Led Zep­pelin, Neil Young & Much More

Bob Geld­of Talks About the Great­est Day of His Life, Step­ping on the Stage of Live Aid, in a Short Doc by Errol Mor­ris

Ted Mills is a free­lance writer on the arts who cur­rent­ly hosts the Notes from the Shed pod­cast and is the pro­duc­er of KCR­W’s Curi­ous Coast. You can also fol­low him on Twit­ter at @tedmills, and/or watch his films here.

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  • Steve Curtiss says:

    What I would like to know is exact­ly why you would even con­sid­er com­par­ing Fred­dy and Malek or Adam Lam­bert they all have qual­i­ties of their own how­ev­er Fred­dy Mer­cury always has and always will be Queen’s front man How­ev­er ” The Show Must Go On” and I believe that Adam is doing a damn fine job and for one he’s doing the best he can. And from all the crap that’s been said I believe that they are All are Queen in their own right and I apol­o­gise if I said Any­thing that sounds as I am putting them down in any shape or form because I Love You Queen

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