My first ever proper gig!
Alas, it was also Queen’s last ever gig, but what a gig – over 120,000 people crammed into Knebworth Park on a gloriously hot and sunny day.
I ended up going purely by chance – I happened to see a poster in a local shop advertising a gig with Status Quo as one of the acts, so got a couple of tickets and went along with a friend (I knew very little about Queen at that time).
First up were Belouis Some (why?), who played their only song anyone knows (Imagination) and several others to which nobody really listened – the joys of being a support act.
Next up were Status Quo – low down on the bill as they were playing at least one other gig in Germany on the same day, but they were excellent and certainly got the crowd going. At one point one of their roadies was stood atop the giant screen above the stage, rocking away with a cutout guitar! (Alas Quo didn’t appreciate that and subsequently fired him, according to reports – oh well!).
Next were Big Country, a band I’d never heard of until that day, but who turned out to be surprisingly good (so much so that I hunted down and bought their albums as a result), complete with their guitar-solos-which-sound-scarily-like-bagpipes.
After they left the stage, the heat of the day was getting to us and we’d finished all the drinks we’d brought along, so I headed off to find some more at one of the many vans around the edge. Huge queues everywhere, and then the fun of trying to find my friend in the middle of so many people, thank goodness there was such a large gap until the main act came on!
Finally, about 7 hours after the first act, on came Queen, opening with “One Vision”. Alas, as I was not particularly in to Queen at this time, I didn’t know the song (turns out I only knew 1 of the first 8 they played!), but it didn’t really matter – the really great thing about Queen live was the way Freddie got everyone going, and the crowd loving every moment of it meant I also enjoyed it even though I didn’t know the early part of the set – recognised all the rest though, of course, complete with the obligatory hand-claps in Radio GaGa and We Will Rock You
All too quickly it was suddenly over and so the slow trudge out of the Park began (annoyingly, perhaps even dangerously, there were no lights at all to show the way, so 120,000 people trying to leave in the dark was one of the more scary moments).
As we’d come up by train, so we had to go back by train. They laid on numerous extra trains through the night to cope with the number of people. The queue at the station was enormous, so we wandered into the town itself and stumbled upon an open KFC (the neighbouring McDonalds had closed – be they kicked themselves the next day over the loss of income that night!) which kept us going. Finally got a train down to London, then slept for a couple of hours on Kings Cross station on a mail trolly thanks to a friendly station assistant, then off back home.
A fantastic first gig, it really got me into Queen, and I am very glad to have managed to catch them before they stopped touring. The bulk of Queen’s Live Magic album was recorded at this gig (everything except for ‘Under Pressure’ & ‘A Kind Of Magic’ from Budapest, ‘Is This The World We Created’ from their 1st night at Wembley and ‘Hammer To Fall’ from their 2nd night at Wembley). Sadly there will never be a DVD of the concert because even though they used several cameras to feed the massive displays for the crowd, nobody thought to record those feeds. What a lost opportunity! Of course, nobody realised at the time that this would be Queen’s last ever gig, and two other venues were already recorded on the Magic Tour (at Budapest and at Wembley as seen on the Live at Wembley 25th Anniversary DVD). Fortunately, however, a fan did manage to record the entire gig live – it’s not the best quality ever of course but it does serve as a great reminder for those who were there, or a taster of a glimpse for those who weren’t. I’ve linked to the YouTube video at the end of this post.
Freddie did comment upon rumours which were circulating at the time that Queen were splitting by announcing they would stay together “until we fucking die” as he put it – how prophetic those words turned out to be…
Set list – One Vision, Tie Your Mother Down, In the Lap Of The Gods… Revisited, Seven Seas Of Rhye, Tear It Up, A Kind Of Magic, Vocal improvisation, Under Pressure, Another One Bites The Dust, Who Wants To Live Forever, I Want To Break Free, Band Jam, Brighton Rock solo, Now I’m Here, Love Of My Life, Is this the World We Created…?, (You’re So Square) Baby, Hello Mary Lou, Tutti Frutti, Bohemian Rhapsody, Hammer To Fall, Crazy Little Thing Called Love, Radio Ga Ga, We Will Rock You, Friends Will Be Friends, We Are The Champions, God Save The Queen