Live Review: The Freddie Mercury Tribute Concert, Wembley Stadium, London, 20th April 1992

A chance for a load of stars to get all gushy over one of their kind who died of AIDs. Not the kind of gig you want to attend in person, but one you can half enjoy on live television, as you can always escape the really cringey bits by changing channels.

The main interest for me was Guns N’ Roses and a brief, beamed-in “appearance” by U2.

Guns and Roses did “Paradise City” and “Knocking on Heaven’s Door” and were good to watch. Slash is a big, goofy rock n’ roll caricature, and Axl comes over as a cross between Gordon Strachan and Geronimo! There’s something cartoonishly cute about them. 

U2 made a brief appearance via satellite from America, and what they were doing looked interesting, like “the Fly” harrowing hell.

Besides these two bands, most of the rest was pretty crappy. The worst thing was all these cliché-ridden ballads with minor chords that Freddie had churned out in his dying months. I found the footage of the old ailing trouper yodelling in his tights as Death slowly whittled him away painful to watch, not to mention the over-earnest versions of these painful ballads. This led me to change channels from time to time to check how James Bond was doing on the other side. 

Paul Young in particular was crap, and Seal’s over-reverential treatment of a turgid song ("Who Wants to Live Forever") was laughable. When Brian May sang, his vocals were reedy ‘n’ weedy AOR. Robert Plant's version of "Innuendo" was disgusting, and Def Leppard were boring as fuck. 

With the moral licence granted by death and mourning, great mountains of musical shit piled up, occasionally brightened by a fleck of a good old Queen song sung well. Dead Fred’s vocal shoes were filled best by Lisa Stansfield ("I Want to Break Free"), David Bowie and Annie Lennox ("Under Pressure), Roger Daltrey ("I Want it All"), and, of course, Axl ("Bohemian Rhapsody" and "We Will Rock You"). 

At some point Liz Taylor came on to tell us that a Wembley Stadium-full of people became HIV positive every two weeks. That kind of sounded like a threat to the audience. I think she wanted their money. What's wrong with her own?

Colin Liddell
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