Today marks the 37th anniversary of the Live Aid concerts.
Live Aid was a benefit concert held on Saturday 13 July 1985, as well as a music-based fundraising initiative. The original event was organised by Bob Geldof and Midge Ure to raise further funds for relief of the 1983–1985 famine in Ethiopia, a movement that started with the release of the successful charity single “Do They Know It’s Christmas?” in December 1984. Billed as the “global jukebox”, Live Aid was held simultaneously at Wembley Stadium in London, UK, attended by about 72,000 people and John F. Kennedy Stadium in Philadelphia, US, attended by 89,484 people.
The one act that stood out during the concert was Queen, their performance in Live Aid is akin to Elvis’s comeback special. As with Elvis in the Comeback special, Queen’s career was basically rebooted at the Live Aid concert.
Queen didn’t open or close the Live Aid show. They performed just before 7pm, uncharacteristically in daylight, bookended by gigantic acts like U2, Elton John and David Bowie.
Past their peak and still suffering from the catastrophe of a misadvised run of shows in apartheid South Africa the previous year, Queen was not expected to be in the limelight. Especially Freddie Mercury had been the focus of disparaging coverage and rumors in the press, about his sexuality.
Despite all the pessimism , Queen did shine and it is still seen as one of the best music performance ever, although the set only lasted only 21 minutes, it remained in musical history to this date and will remain there for a long time.
Queen were immediately preceded at Wembley by the comedians Griff Rhys Jones and Mel Smith – who were dressed as policemen and joked about receiving a complaint about the noise “from a woman in Belgium.” They introduced “the next combo” as “Her Majesty… Queen.”
A truly charismatic Mercury, who looked full of confidence, jogged out on to a vast stage whose top was adorned with a banner saying “Feed The World.” Mercury, sporting his trademark mustache and wearing white jeans, a white tank top, and with a studded band around his right bicep, began by sitting at the piano and playing a short, inspired version of “Bohemian Rhapsody.”
During “Radio Ga Ga” he got up and strutted around the stage, using the microphone and stand as a prop, and getting the fired-up crowd to join in with the chorus. The next few moments were remarkable, as Mercury led the 72,000 spectators in some spine-tingling vocal improvisation, as they sang along to “ay-oh.” His final, wonderful vocal was dubbed “the note heard around the world.”
This is the full session of Queen at Live Aid, sit back and enjoy.