Queen Live !!November 14, 1975 – “Queen Invite You To ….. A Night At The Opera”. This was the bands first night of this tour which opened at the Empire Theater in Liverpool, England 🏴 This was also the first of two evenings at the Empire.
Before this show (the first of Queen’s fourth UK tour), the famous video for Bohemian Rhapsody is shot in just four hours at Elstree Studios just outside of London, costing a mere £4500. It is generally regarded as the first successful promo video, essentially pioneering the music video era, as it was the first music promotional video to be used solely in place of the band themselves. That said, it was filmed only because the band would not be able to perform on Top Of The Pops themselves since they would be on tour (Sunday was always the famed TV show’s scheduled broadcast day, which would have been November 16; filming something a week in advance was not the norm in the 70s). So the video’s success was actually quite a fortunate accident for the band, as it would be on rotation for nine weeks while the song was at number 1.
This show was added due to high ticket demand, as only the November 15th show was originally scheduled. Both shows SOLD OUT! Since the video shoot was in the afternoon, the band had to rush from London to Liverpool for the gig!
“Bohemian Rhapsody” was first let loose live at this concert and would be performed at every concert hereafter, in one form or another all the way to their final concert 9 August 1986 with Queen’s original line up. In the Queen + tours since 2012, this song is included towards the end of their set.
Freddie was friends with DJ Kenny Everett, who was a monumental force for Queen around this time. He did two major things for the band: a) he spun Bohemian Rhapsody over a dozen times in a single weekend, prompting fans to want to buy a single that didn’t yet exist, and b) at the last minute he created the introduction tape for the band to use on this tour. The tape begins with the sounds of an orchestra tuning their instruments, and what sounds like the conductor [actually Kenny himself] tapping his baton on his music stand and announcing, “Ladies and gentleman, A Night At The Opera.” Then the fade-in from the beginning of Ogre Battle is heard. Just before the listener expects the screams from Roger as on the record version, suddenly it kicks into the opera section from Bohemian Rhapsody (the only part actually performed live at each show is “I see a little silhouetto of a man”). The anticipation grows, as anyone who has heard the song knows that the band will appear shortly to perform the rock section of the song. Queen then burst onto stage, performing that section of the song as such, and then they jump immediately into Ogre Battle instead of concluding the song, which would happen in a medley later in the show.
Through 1976, it would be part of the aforementioned medley. The portions of Killer Queen and The March Of The Black Queen remain in the medley, followed by the finale of Bohemian Rhapsody and the shortened version of Bring Back That Leroy Brown.
On these first few nights of the tour, the instrumental version of Bring Back That Leroy Brown would be performed slightly differently. Brian’s banjo break towards the end had previously only been for one brief bar, but he now gets three. It would soon be cut down to two, and this is how the song would be performed through Earls Court ’77.
This show also brings the first performances of Sweet Lady and The Prophet’s Song. Being in 3/4 time, Roger Taylor once said Sweet Lady was the hardest song for him to play live on the drums. Tonight the band almost train wreck its inaugural performance after the second chorus, but they recover. Mercury sings the rocker with excellence on this night.
The Prophet’s Song would be performed minus one verse through 1976, and in 1977/78 only the a cappella vocal section and the end of the song would be played (amidst varying amounts of improvisation). Along with Bohemian Rhapsody, only these three songs from the new album would be performed in 1975. This is likely because the album took much longer than expected to be completed, leaving little time for rehearsal (three days, according to this article in the November 29 issue of Sounds). As stated in this article from the next week’s Melody Maker, the album’s final mix was being worked on a mere three days before the UK tour began [further work was done in their absence as late as November 17, as evidenced by a tape box from Ridge Farm Studios].
Every night Freddie would have the freedom to do whatever he’d wish during the middle section of The Prophet’s Song with his two analog delays (similar to what Brian uses for his solo spot). He would occasionally sing something like Frère Jacques to lighten up the tension (like in Osaka 1976). At the end of the song, a tape of the loop from the LP version is played, and when the big crash is expected, it doesn’t come. Instead, the speed of the tape slowly increases until it has ascended many keys, and Roger counts in Stone Cold Crazy.
Roger Taylor’s bass drum head has inverted its colours. It is still the Queen crest designed by Freddie, but it is now a white crest on a black background.
Brian now has a Red Special copy to use on stage as a spare, built by legendary luthier John Birch. It had a natural finish (as opposed to the real Red Special’s cherry finish), so it came to be known as the “Yellow Special.” Its life as a functioning instrument would end in 1982.