these photo's were taken in Leiden, The Netherlands, 1986


Roger Taylor, John Deacon

A review:
The strangest concert, and the one with its own kind of magic, had to be the one in Budapest. On the face of it, it was no different from any of the others all over Europe; the huge stage was in position in the city's largest stadium, its vast array of lights making it seem like a fairy grotto, the smoke pouring from the wings turning it into a witches' cauldron, awaiting the arrival of the magicians.
The courtiers to Queen had arrived some days earlier driving across Europe in 15 huge lorries transporting the huge 180 foot long stage. It had taken the road crew of 60 something like two days to construct, untangling eight miles of cable, setting up five generators and erecting two giant 60 foot towers, festooned with searchlights.
Tickets had sold out weeks before and there were forlorn groups of unlucky people hanging around outside. The crowd filled every seat and every square inch of grass in the stadium. They listened to the supporting groups one of whom performed a bizarre 'Honky Tonk Womari with a backing chorus of 20 women in peasant costume, twirling handkerchiefs, giving you some idea of what the Hungarians normally get. Don't even try to imagine what it sounded like. They waited patiently and excitedly.
Darkness fell, the noise of the crowd rose, the stage lights flashed even more brightly and the smoke billowed even more violently - and out of the mist, Queen came on stage. Freddie Mercury began to flash like the lights and chase the smoke around the stage. Roger Taylor crouched behind his drums pounding out the rhythm, seemingly intent on smashing them to oblivion; John Deacon's face was tight with concentration as he played his bass, and Brian May fought a musical duel with Freddie Mercury. "One Vision" was an apt title for the opening number.
It was a familiar and exhilarating sight to every Queen fan. But it was different for the audience in Budapest. It wasn't only the first time they had ever seen Queen, it was also the first time an open air rock concert had ever taken place in the country, or behind the Iron Curtain, for that matter. While Queen fans all over Europe knew how to react, what to expect, were familiar with the theatricals and the stage show, the Hungarians were totally unprepared. From the moment the band arrived in Budapest, travelling from Vienna down the Danube in the hydrofoil last used by Mr Gorbachev, they were like people from another world. On stage, they looked like creatures from a different planet. The British Embassy was stunned as well, throwing a party for them, where sophisticated diplomats jostled each other to get autographs.
When Queen appeared on stage at the Peoples Stadium, you could almost hear the sound of 80,000 brains boggling. While their eyes became accustomed to the kaleidoscope of lights, their ears tuned into the music and their brains came to terms with the unusual sight of Freddie Mercury, there was a moment of stunned and bewildered silence as the fans - some of whom had even come from as far away as Russia - tried to decide on the correct way to react to what they saw in front of them. For days earlier the local newspapers had been printing guides to rock concert etiquette, and cautioning calm. Even Queen themselves, used to playing before audiences who know their music and are accustomed to their stage behaviour had been more than usually apprehensive, not knowing what would happen. The authorities had pompously, and nervously announced before the concert that they were going to be "lenient towards the behaviour of young people ' at the concert, but the presence of a few armed soldiers indicated that they, too, didn't know how people would react (Brian May was to say afterwards that "it was the band's most challenging and exhilarating gig").
The Hungarians had assembled 17 cameras to film this strange phenomenon that had arrived from the west, even if it never happened again, there would be proof behind the Iron Curtain that Freddie Mercury actually existed and the concert had really taken place,just in case children were to doubt it all in years to come.
You have to agree that the strange sight of Freddie Mercury in perpetual motion, the gigantic noise of Queen in full flight, and the sheer spectacle of the stage show is a hell of an introduction to rock concerts (and western decadence, liable to inflame the passions); but it was only a moment of indecision and bewilderment. Before long, the audience were behaving like audiences all over Europe. The familiar two way drip feed of adrenalin had been set up, the band fuelling the crowd with energy, and this energy from the crowd travelling back goading the band into even greater activity. The power of rock and roll and the universal love of theatricals exerted themselves, and soon everybody was singing along with the band, not frowning but waving. The words "Radio-Ga-Ga" seem to translate quite easily into every known language, and 80,000 pairs of hands miraculously knew how to perform the traditional synchronised handclap that goes with the song.
Freddie made his final entrance, stripped to the waist, wearing the jewelled crown of a monarch, his baton doubling as a regal sceptre. He was swathed in a Union Jack, with the Hungarian national flag embroidered on the back. The people of Budapest hadn't seen anything like it since Peter the Great, but the crescendo of noise from the band and crowd alike was as exhilarating and as familiar as it had been all over the rest of Europe.
After 15 years, finding enough people who have never seen Queen live to fill a stadium in 1986 was quite an achievement. With over 80 million records sold all over the world, they're not exactly unknowns. There aren't many bands who could fill Wembley stadium for one night, let alone two. There aren't many bands who could draw 120,000 fans to Knebworth in one of the biggest concerts in pop history, the largest single paying audience for a UK rock concert in over ten years. And the historic event was also marked by probably the biggest trafficjam in British history. As the fans converged on the historic 15th century house and huge grounds of Knebworth, the authorities, in their wisdom, chose Saturday, August 9, to close most of the A1 close to the site. People still managed to reach Knebworth for a day of rock (Status Quo flew in from a concert the day before in Scandinavia, as soon as their set was over they ran for helicopters which would take them to another late night gig in Switzerland a few hours later). The road crew had driven non-stop from the previous concert Marbella, to erect the stage. Everybody made it, just (during the concert, a woman went into labour as a new Queen fan arrived, later than most).


John Deacon, Freddie Mercury


Darkness had fallen. The security men were performing the traditional pagan rite of hurling buckets of water over the long suffering fans who had positioned themselves at the front of the stage many hours earlier. A few impatient fans were already holding lighters and matches aloft in the ceremony that is supposed to end concerts, rather than occur mid way through. Backstage, Freddie Mercury was finishing his traditional 30 minutes of physical exercises and was running his voice up and down through the scales. Queen had been on the road since the beginning of June, and had played to astonishing numbers of people somewhere, amid the crowd at Knebworth was the millionth member of the European audience (perhaps it was the baby...).
Then it was show time. The band were led through from the backstage area, itself full of friends and fellow stars who had turned up, for this wasn'tjust a concert it was an Event with a capital E. Roger John, Brian and Freddie ran through the smoke towards the noise of the crowd. The opening chords of "One Vision" came from Brian's 'fireplace guitar and Freddie began to run closer still, drawn inexorably to the deafening roar until he was at the very edge of the stage looking down at the crowd that stretched back before him, illuminated by giant searchlights. With a cry, a snarl even, of "This is what you wanted - this is what you're gonna get", he leads the others into "Tie your Mother down" and is off on his travels, roaming the stage, climbing the giant catwalks so he can peer down from an even greater height at the crowd, who are happy to look up at him. Then he's down again, back among the other three, back to back, shoulder to shoulder with Brian May as he postures and poses. All of Knebworth's a stage, and he's the player-king, the player-Queen.
The band go through their 15 years of hits. The quartet had decided at the outset when the whole tour was being planned and discussed, to include most of their greatest hits - "Bohemian Rhapsody", "Another One Bites the Dust", "Love of My Life", the whole lot. It's one of the features that gives the concert a special atmosphere - the audience seem to know the words to every song. They know the words so well that there is no problem as Freddie leads them through the scales, even though no one seems to be able to get as high up them as Freddie himself [Kiri Ke Tenawa is not among the audience :-) ].
The stage goes quiet and is strangely empty. John and Roger have gone off and there are two stools in the middle, for Brian and Freddie to sit on as they go through "Is This the World we Created", the song that summed up everyone's feelings at Live Aid a year earlier when many heard it for the first time. There's a riveting medley of old songs - "Baby I don't care, Hello Mary Lou and Tutti Frutti", songs that were around when the band was young, around even before the four young students first got together to play. Then it's Brian May's turn, with three members of the stage crew rushing frantically after him untangling the lead from his guitar he careers round the stage playing an intricate solo, the music in time with his running.
On the music goes; John goes off to change into shorts as Queen keep up the pace, keep up the hits. One encore is not enough; the crowd know it, Queen know it as they wait in the wings, towels around their sweating shoulders. It's two encores at least. Freddie is back in his ermine robe, all 40 pounds of sequins hanging round his shoulders, as the familiar strains of God Save the Queen ring from the crowd. A master of understatement, Freddie sings "We Are The Champions" and fully deserves to wear the crown that is perched on his head. The crowd yell hopefully for another encore, but the concert is over. But things haven't finished. As the crowd leave Knebworth, there is an exhilarating party backstage, as flamboyant as the concert. Late in the night, or late in the morning the party ends. And the tour is over.
Of course it wasn't always like this, John Deacon remembered the worst moment, and "it wasn't playing to a half empty hall somewhere or other. That was part of getting started and we expected it. It was when we were booked to play two sets and during the interval the organiser came backstage and said 'the audience don't want you back, they'd rather have the disco instead'! "But that was 15 years ago, when the four students had first got together, Queen emerging from the ruins of an earlier group, Smile. A lot of miles have been covered since then, from the tiny hall in the College of Estate Management, London - where 80 out of an invited audience of 120 turned up for the first concert - to some of the biggest rock venues in the world.
It sounds like a landmark,15 years, as if the tour of Europe this year had some special, symbolic significance about it. To many people, inside and outside the industry, it was seen as an indication or as proof that the four stars were finally splitting up to go their separate ways. Just about the only people who took no notice of this rumour were the four stars themselves - ''Sure, after all these years we have our fights", says Brian May, "but we're in a state of unstable equilibrium. We can't live with each other and we can't live without each other".
Queen saw a different logic behind the "Kind of Magic" tour. For a start, this was the year when a new album called, surprise, surprise, "A Kind of Magic" would come out. Second, the success and the euphoria generated by the Live Aid concert a year earlier had revigorated Queen with a desire to experience the energy drip- feed again. Just as fans who buy records never get to see a group if it doesn't tour so a group doesn't get to see the fans who buy the records if it doesn't tour. Especially when you've developed, over those 15 years, a stage show that is the most stunning and spectacular in the world of rock, an extravaganza of pomp and circumstance that can't be conveyed on records. They're a band that likes and revels in the drama of a live performance, a drama that Freddie describes as "doing battle with the audience. . . I come off stage feeling as though I've been to war - and won!"
But tours, the endless travelling are tiring. "We were going to take it easy in 1986", said John Deacon, "but Live Aid was so fantastic and we got such an amazing response that it charged us up all over again".
Don't underestimate the organisation needed to plan a tour of the size and magnitude of the "Magic" tour. The detailed planning, once the project was on, took a full six months to draw up. The huge stage has to be designed and built, the lighting and sound experts have to sit down and work out something new for Queen, something even more extravagant than the last stage shows. The right venues, in the right place and at the right time have to be found, usually the bigger the better. The sites of the stadiums have to be worked out geographically as well. allowing easy access for the fleet of lorries and coachloads of road crew (Budapest, for example, took place after the Vienna gig, a few hundred miles away across the border).
Queen themselves may travel by executive jet, with the pilot pointing the plane in the direction he's told. but it's different for the gear and the stage. The stage has to be designed so that it will not only look spectacular but actually fit the whole variety of venues on the tour as well as being relatively easy to load and unload from the fleet of trucks. Supporting groups have to be booked, from Status Quo for Knebworth to Z Z Labor for Budapest. There is an 80 page book issued to everybody, detailing all aspects of the tour with military precision, the hotels everyone stays at in each town, the times of planes for each country, the names of the car hire companies, the times for travelling, and for sound checks, contact names, everything. It even lists people's birthdays if they occur on tour, Brian May's took place in Cologne.
On June 4, thirteen trucks left London, and a couple of days later the four stars began their movement across Europe on a trip that would include 26 concerts in 20 cities covering 11 European countries.
The first gig was in Stockholm on June 7, and there was a lot of tension in the air before the show began. The nerves were inevitable, normal even, for the initial stop on a three month tour. The European tour of 1986 began with "One Vision", and the fans inside the sold out Rasunda Football Stadium had what they'd come to hear, the music and the hits that had kept Queen at the top for 15 years.
The band finished the show, with "We are the Champions". The first party of the tour the first of many, was held in a converted opera house, and the relief that everything had gone without a hitch, nothing had broken down - not the lights, not the sound, not Freddie's voice - was palpable and evident. The next morning. the Swedish press were ecstatic in their reviews. While the road crews dismantled the stage and began the journey to Leiden, in Holland. (see the photo's!)
The level of the response there can be judged from the unimportant but intriguing fact that a noise check on the audience, in a rather small stadium was taken, and it turned out to be only one decibel less than the noise made by Queen's huge battery of loudspeakers!!! Sometimes. the battle between Freddie Mercury and the crowd is very close indeed...


Brian May


Being midweek, the Leiden gigs were indoors and Queen then headed for their first ever open air concert in France, at the Hippodrome. Fans travelled over from England to hear the Bohemian Rhapsody in the city of bohemian culture. Many of the travellers included the band's friends, and at one point the area backstage looked like the setting for a Summit conference with a fleet of 19 limousines lined up to take everyone to the party afterwards!
Then, it was Brussels, back to Holland and on to the first of the Big Concerts - the 80,000 capacity stadium in Mannheim, West Germany. Freddie Mercury had decided, after Stockholm that he wanted a dramatic special effect for Mannheim. He decided on an entrance from a giant crane bucket. The equipment was transported out from England, Freddie got into the bucket which then rose into the air. A muffled and rather panicky voice was heard to yell "Get me out of here", and the Germans, and everybody else in Europe never got to see this dramatic special effect....:-(
The concert was broadcast live on German Radio and many a listener must have been mildly startled to hear the sound of the capacity audience in a guttural rendition of the British national anthem. There's nothing quite like the excitement of a huge concert, either for the audience, or for the band: "Playing in front of a huge crowd is not alienating'', explains Brian May, "it's got a certain kind of magic and the adrenalin really starts to flow".
Germany was a great success. with ecstatic crowds mobbing Queen in Berlin (and excited mosquitoes biting them on stage!), and thousands turning out in Munich even though the nation is in mourning after the defeat, earlier in the evening of the World Cup team at the hands of the Argentines). The route back to the English speaking world is via the bicycle stadium in Zurich (where the French arrived to present Queen with a gold album, for the success of "A Kind of Magic").
And then the first of the two Stately parts of the tour Slane Castle in Ireland. 95,000 people poured into the grounds when the gates were opened at 9 in the morning, a full nine hours before Queen were due to appear four hours even before the first supporting group was due on stage. Because of the lack of lighting on the Slane site, the show had to finish early, but things got chaotic, to say the least. People even came up river in canoes, trying to get in the Slane back way. At times the scene from the castle parapets resembled a medieval painting, with exhausted and dishevelled people sprawled on the ground, exhausted, drunk, dead to the world. By the time the familiar smoke billowed out from the stage, some people could only say they were there when Freddie began to sing, but they couldn't claim to have actually heard him. He even had to stop the show after ten minutes, things in the crowd had got so chaotic. The show was being recorded on a mobile 24 track studio, but someone staggering past the equipment pulled out a cable.
The next concert, at St. James's Park, Newcastle had a special significance because Queen donated the night's take to the local Save the Children fund. There were quite a few kids from the project in the VIP seats at the ground, and after visiting some of the SCF activities in the area, Brian dedicated "Is This the World we Created", with sad aptness, to the Fund. It was also special because it was the largest concert that Newcastle had ever seen.
But all roads on a European tour lead to Wembley. Large as it is, Wembley Stadium, is not the biggest stadium in the world, but in many ways it's the most important, the Wimbledon of rock. There aren't that many groups who can fill it once, so the knowledge that it was full for two consecutive nights was a proof and a demonstration to the four members of Queen of their power If it's of any interest, the architect's plans for Wembley Stadium are wrong. They are, in fact, four feet out. This may not matter much to a fan, but it nearly spelt disaster for Queen. Working to the plans, a special stage had been built, designed to fill one complete end of Wembley, and working against the clock the crew found it was precisely four feet too long. This wasn't the only problem at Wembley. The local authority are famous for their stringent regulations, and they refused permission for the gas torches that when lit flared out from the side of the stage (to make sure that Queen didn't use them on the second, and final concert, they even posted a guard on the gas cylinders all night!)
But God must be a Queen fan :-). On the Saturday it poured all day, drenching the 72,000 crowd and Status Quo as well. But it miraculously stopped for a while when Queen came on [not permanently, though - He doesn't like all their numbers :-) ]. Freddie got wet as well as the band moved out from the covered part of the stage. to the front, as the lights were turned on the crowd. Four huge inflatable dummies of the group were released into the aic. Two were hauled down by fans but two floated up to land in someone's garden miles away.
If the atmosphere at the concert was special because it was Wembley, the party afterwards was special because it was after Wembley. The group took over the Gardens night club, high over London with a huge roof garden filled with exotic food and strange sights. Members of the bandjoined other rock stars in impromptu jam sessions, and John Deacon didn't leave for home until 9 in the morning. [wow! :-) ]
After Wembley, it was another football stadium, Maine Road, in Manchester By now the tour was becoming a blur for the group and when they played 'Now I'm Here; they were beginning to wonder where Here was. Back to Europe, to Germany, to Vienna, on to Budapest, to France again and then Spain. The pressure was really showing by Madrid. Put four people in close physical and emotional proximity for so long and there's bound to be pressure. There was a glorious backstage fight in Madrid when nearly everything in the dressing room was destroyed. So too was a myth - everyone believes that rock stars destroy television sets in their rooms when they are angry. Well, the television set was the only thing that wasn't wrecked in Madrid! Madrid, on to Marbella- and back to England. And Knebworth. The end of the tour.
A Kind of Magic had spread over Europe and it was all over.....

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