Live At Wembley Stadium 25th Anniversary: Greg Brooks Feature
Queen Online's Nick Weymouth asked me the other day if I went to Wembley in '86 to see Queen, and if I did, could I remember much?
Well... I was indeed there, and despite my increasingly dreadful memory, I remember MUCH about the concert I saw and am happy to relive some of it.
Friday July 11th 1986 was three days before my 20th birthday, and this concert was to be the only show I saw on the Magic Tour. It would also prove to be the last time I ever saw Queen in concert, but let’s not dwell on that! Three weeks later I would be offered a ticket to the Knebworth show, only 20-odd miles from my home, but it was short notice, I couldn't get the time off work, money was short, and to be honest I didn't fancy being crammed alongside what was expected to be a vast audience in excess of 200,000 people - with Queen far far off in the distance; a tiny spot on the horizon, as I imagined it. Of course, with hindsight, I regret that decision hugely, but that’s life. Who knew it was to be the last Queen concert ever?! Anyway... I did attend one of the two Wembley concerts, and it was a staggering experience that rocked me to the core... again!
I hadn't seen Queen live since Wembley Arena in Sept 1984 and I really couldn't wait to see them again. It felt long long overdue. I cannot convey the excitement inside me and it is impossible to describe properly now how it felt to be 19 and about to witness the group you love most in this world, in concert. Not on tv or on video, but actually in person… REAL and live and right in front of my eyes and ears! The prospect of seeing this band in concert pretty much filled every waking minute of my life in the 2-3 month run-up period. I’d never felt anything like it before, nor since. Nothing remotely like it, in fact. It was an experience unlike anything else you can think of.
The wait was over. Finally Queen and me were in the same place at the same moment. Suddenly after all the months of waiting and counting the days, right there; in front of me on stage, is The Band. A mighty stage; huge, immense, colossal. That was the first thing that struck me. An unbelievably big stage, and lights, and crew, and surely a stage even too large for Freddie to fill. Time would tell!
Suddenly, there is smoke and sound and an overwhelming feeling that something massively significant is about to happen - like a UFO from another world is about to descend, or some other such extraordinary event. Something big is imminent and everyone present around me is transfixed by the scene. For once I am in the exact right place at precisely the right time. All eyes are on the stage. More noise, more smoke, enormous expectation and excitement, and then there is the gigantic moment when everything comes together and Freddie bounds onto stage. There he is; Freddie Mercury 40 ft away from me, in startling yellow and white. He looks great, he’s smiling, and like all of us there, he’s ready for a show! Brian (unseen) kicks off the killer opening One Vision gtr chords and I spot Roger readying himself at the kit.
The sheer intimidating power and assault on the senses is very nearly 'too much' for me, at this point in my life. I am struggling to take in a decent breath to sustain me. Queen are on stage; all four of them, looking brilliant, immediately a staggering and arresting sight, and we’re only 20 seconds in! One Vision is filling the place, and I realise again that it is actually quite a shock to the system to have all these things coming at you all at once. You just do the best you can to keep calm enough to remain conscious! Some people do actually faint at such moments.
I'm not exaggerating. For the first 10 minutes of every Queen concert I attended, there was a period of adjustment; the heart palpitations, blood pressure racing, your heart beating you very nearly to death... the rhythm of your body more erratic than a broken clock. Only when those things calm to something closer to normal, can you really begin to enjoy things.
Eventually, the senses settle, you become more normal, human again, and then you just GO WITH IT and try to take in as many moments as you can. Freddie, John, Roger, Brian, your fellow fans, the rapport between audience and artist, the noise and the lights and the atmosphere like nothing else you have experienced.
It's rather strange to go over these things again, but I suppose I could liken it to what I have seen on TV in recent years with The X-Factor tv saga. I don't really understand why, but many of the people I see on that program, young and old, when they take to the stage and finally encounter Simon Cowell and Cheryl Thingy-whats-her-name, are suddenly struck dumb, in awe, lost and speechless. Suddenly their Hero or Heroine, these perceived Giants of TV, Gods of the ‘celebrity’ world, are there in front of them and they simply are not equipped to deal with it. They are overwhelmed and so mumble inaudible nonsense for a minute until they recover enough to go on. Well... that feeling is the nearest parallel I have seen in recent years for what I experienced seeing Queen live at Wembley Stadium in July '86.
I remember so vividly the bright colours. The sky, the sunshine, the fans in their t-shirts and scarves and banners and denim jackets covered in badges, and of course the stage and the lights and the band... and Freddie's now iconic yellow and white military get-up.
I was near enough to the stage to see everything clearly and larger than life. I was probably 20 or 25 rows back, but that didn't matter. I was there! I was at a Queen concert, and nothing that would ever happen to me thereafter was ever going to change that fact. I was present at the last-but one London concert Queen performed with Freddie.
I recall 'Love Of My Life' and 'A Kind Of Magic' and the inflatable balloons, and singing along with Freddie, and watching Brian’s face at the response he got from fans. I remember John smiling at various things, and watching Roger singing backing vocals whilst thumping drums and keeping time. I recall the support acts as well, and pre-show conversations with fans, and wondering if Queen would do any old songs or covers. They did both.
Enough already! I could go on and on, and mention various other things forever imprinted on my brain, but you get the gist by now. You've seen the footage, you’ve probably been there and bought the t-shirt, literally. The DVDs and CDs are all well and good, but really... just like Roger's song says... you had to be there! I wish I could be again!
Queen at Wembley Stadium in 1986 was truly a magnificent occasion. It was memorable for so many reasons, and I’m so pleased that I attended. Some of my friends couldn’t get to a Magic gig, and took solace in the fact that they’d catch them ‘next time’. Well, of course, we know now that the next time never came. There was no Miracle tour in ’89, nor Innuendo concerts in ’91. The Magic shows were the biggest and the last. I feel sad that too many people missed Queen in 86, but many of us DID see them, and we’ll never forget it. Queen were the Best band in concert that I ever saw – by a billion light-years the best. There can be, and will ever be only one!
Live At Wembley Stadium - 25th Anniversary Edition is released on September 5th on 2DVD and 2DVD/2CD