Queen Live !! November 11, 1977 – The band performed at the Cumberland County Civic Center in Portland, Maine, USA 🇺🇸 This is the first show of the ‘News of the World’ Tour and kicks off their North American leg (the band is slated to perform 26 shows in the US)
Queen have revamped their show quite a bit for this tour promoting their new album, News Of The World. This is the first tour for which they don’t bring a support act – their show is longer, running at roughly two hours a night. Visually, they now have a scaled down version of the Earls Court crown as their lighting rig, which was built in Boston.
The album was a return to basics for Queen, as most of the tracks saw very few overdubs. As a result, most of the songs translated well to the stage, and very quickly. We Will Rock You, We Are The Champions, Sheer Heart Attack, Spread Your Wings, Get Down Make Love, and My Melancholy Blues are all heard on this tour, and are most likely performed for the first time tonight. I’m In Love With My Car and Love Of My Life from A Night At The Opera are also heard live for the first time at this show. Roger sings the former as he did on the album.
In a radio interview earlier in the year, he had this to say about singing lead in concert from behind the drums: “In the context of Queen it’s not an easy thing to do. I sing a lot from the drums, but to sing lead on stage, the vocalist should be focal point in concert. For the drummer to sing, I think the whole thing loses a lot somehow.” Still, they gave I’m In Love With My Car a try, and it would be played nearly every night through 1981. It would never be performed completely. After the “Cars don’t talk back; they’re just four-wheeled friends now” line, the band would slightly extend the instrumental section of the song before coming to an abrupt end.
Sleeping On The Sidewalk, however, wouldn’t fare so well. They played Brian’s bluesy News Of The World number early on the tour, with Freddie on the lead vocal, but it was soon dropped after only three performances.
On this tour the show would begin with a tape of the stomp-stomp-clap of the studio version of We Will Rock You being played. A spotlight would appear on Freddie on one side of the stage where he would sing only the first verse and a chorus (with vocals from the record also being heard), after which another spotlight would be on Brian for the climatic guitar solo. They would then leave the stage amidst dry ice to perform a faster, more straight-ahead rock version of the song. This fast version of the song would prove to be a very effective concert opener, and would be played at most shows from now through the end of 1982.
Death On Two Legs has been cut down, and segues into Killer Queen as part of a much longer medley. Good Old Fashioned Lover Boy follows, as it did earlier in the year.
Get Down Make Love would always be performed with the second verse and chorus omitted. The middle section would never be performed the same way twice, featuring Brian May on the E-bow along with a harmonizer pedal, and vocal gymnastics from Freddie, creating new sounds and treading new ground every night. The Millionaire Waltz and You’re My Best Friend close the medley through May of next year.
Spread Your Wings would be performed on this tour with a much more aggressive beat by Roger (in double time) during the improv at the end of the song, like the BBC version recorded on October 28. This song, along with It’s Late, would rotate in the setlist in autumn 1977, but they would be heard every night in 1978 and in much of 1979.
Love Of My Life would be performed very differently on stage than on the record, with Brian on guitar instead of Freddie on piano, performed a key and a half lower. Over the years it would develop into a number where audiences of all sizes would sing along, as heard on the various live albums and videos. Although few US audiences sang along with the song, a fan who attended this show fondly recalls Freddie’s surprise when some audience members were singing along (thanks to Cameron Myers for confirming). By 1979, singalongs and vocal duels between Freddie and the audience became staples of Queen’s live set.
Like the A Day At The Races tour, the segment of The Prophet’s Song after White Man is a vocal solo by Freddie, but on this tour it leads into a guitar solo. Brian May’s solo spots during this period were his most experimental, as he created many unique sounds every night. Unlike every other tour, he was tuned to drop-D (for the segment of The Prophet’s Song to come), which was at least partially responsible for making room for that creativity.
On this tour Brian used his E-bow for the first segment of his solo spot. He recalled in 2004: “It was very useful for starting off my long solo at one point. I could make long Whale-like noises by gently moving the device up to a position over a low string. Along with use of the Tremolo to zoom the pitch way down, and the delays I was using at the time, it gave a lot of scope for building up weird textures. I really enjoyed it if the mood was developing well that night. Usually at some point after a couple of minutes I would lob the E-bow in Jobby’s direction, and lay into the guitar with a pick instead, going into more rhythmic areas.”
At the end of the opera section of Bohemian Rhapsody, Freddie now emerges from a trap door under the stage.
Tie Your Mother Down is now the final song of the set proper, where it would remain through 1982, with a few exceptions.
The punk element of the era made its way into Queen’s show, via the high-energy of Sheer Heart Attack. The song’s performance would evolve over time, and soon the band, particularly Freddie, would really ham it up. For now only a small portion of the song is performed, and with a giant snare fill from Roger it merges into Jailhouse Rock. Brian May recalled in 2003: “Strangely enough it was Roger who would wince when someone suggested Sheer Heart Attack as an extra encore â€“ it was totally draining for him to keep up that pattern, especially when we got into it and it got more and more extended in our enthusiasm.”
We Will Rock You would be played once again near the end of the show on this tour, but this time the band would encourage audience participation – clapping and singing along to a song that would soon become an anthem for the band and rock music as a whole. Only the first verse would be played on the News Of The World tour. The second and third verses would be added for the Jazz tour and beyond.
John Deacon has switched back to his Fender Precision bass, which he’d use through to the end of Queen’s touring days.
This is the first tour where Queen are well-off enough to afford their own private plane to travel between cities.