118 mins / www.eaglerockent.com
For all their flamboyance, spectacle and theatrical ambition, it’s sometimes difficult to remember that Queen were, above all is, a dynamic rock ‘n’ roll band with an unforgettable presence, a group of musicians who could craft the kind of tunes that became indelible anthems. Coming just over a year after their show-stopping performance at Live Aid in July 1985, this remarkable concert in Budapest — the first stadium show ever staged behind the Iron Curtain by a western rock band — is not only extraordinary in its sheer magnitude, but, more important, for the connection established between the performers and their audience. Dressed in what appears to be a white admiral’s military jacket, which he later discards, Freddie Mercury struts across every inch of the stage, posing and posturing for maximum effect. Here he was in his prime, a mesmerising presence; not only was he one of the greatest front men of all time, but his natural affinity for knowing what it to took to entertain and enthral a crowd remain remarkable to witness over 25 years later.
This combined DVD/double CD set captures Mercury and Queen in peak form, captivating a crowd of 80,000 as they precisely recreate 27 songs (23 on the DVD) from throughout their career, beginning with early standouts like “Seven Seas of Rye” and “In the Laps of Gods… Revisited” through epoch hits such as “Bohemian Rhapsody,” We Are the Champions” and “We Will Rock You” and on to the then-new gems “Under Pressure” and “A Kind of Magic.” The concert’s momentum is disrupted somewhat by the director’s choice to intersperse it with scenes of the band’s arrival in the Hungarian capitol and incidental shots of the musicians playing tourist, but any complaint about the sequencing is merely trifle. Hearing and seeing the group blend their extraordinary vocal harmonies and fuse their self-contained dynamic becomes the main draw here, proving, as always, the crucial elements in Queen’s signature sound. Brian May’s fiery fret work matches Mercury’s vocals for sheer resolve and the sturdy underbelly provided by bassist John Deacon and drummer Roger Taylor drive the band’s forward momentum and underscore their authority. A take on a familiar Hungarian folk song “Tavaszi Svel Vizet Araszt” has the group winning hearts, but clearly they had long since taken hold of their souls and senses. That’s what makes Hungarian Rhapsody – Live in Budapest a concert for the ages, and more reason to still proclaim — “long live the Queen!”
DOWNLOAD: “Under Pressure,“ “Bohemian Rhapsody,” ”We Are the Champions” LEE ZIMMERMAN