Especially Milan (Wardour-062)
Italy, although home to a rapid rock fanbase, was not a common stopping point for the big rock bands in the 70’s. This was due to lack of promoters, venues and security (recall the riot when Led Zeppelin played in Milan in 1971). But by the mid eighties the biggest rock acts began to make their debut in Milan with Queen among the very first. They scheduled two shows in the biggest venue in the city, the Palazzo dello Sport which would be destroyed in a violent snow storm several months later. (And since the band would bypass Italy on the Magic tour two years later, these remain the only time they ever played there.) But the effect of the Milan performances insured that Italy is a loyal nation for Queen even to this day. Especially Milanon Wardour collects together, on four discs, the most complete and best sounding documents assembled for these events.
Palazzo dello Sport, Milan, Italy – September 14th, 1984
Disc 1 (62:31): Machines intro, Tear It Up, Tie Your Mother Down, Under Pressure, Somebody To Love, Killer Queen, Seven Seas Of Rhye, Keep Yourself Alive, Liar, Mustapha / improvisation, It’s A Hard Life, Staying Power, Dragon Attack, Now I’m Here, Is This The World We Created?, Love Of My Life, Stone Cold Crazy / Great King Rat, keyboard solo, guitar solo / Brighton Rock
Disc 2 (45:08): Another One Bites The Dust, Hammer To Fall, Crazy Little Thing Called Love, Bohemian Rhapsody, Radio Ga Ga, I Want To Break Free, Jailhouse Rock, We Will Rock You, We Are The Champions, God Save The Queen
The first Milan show is the most popular recording of the two with several silver pressings dating back to the days of the protection gap. Among the earliest is The Jewels (Insect IST 31/32), a two disc title surfacing in Italy in 1992 which claims to be from the second show. Another release is We Will Love You (SKCD 2063/2064) with the first disc and “Crazy Little Thing Called Love” from the second show and the rest from this. This release was copied on Live In Milano 1984 Parts 1/2 (INP) but in inferior quality. Let Me Show In (Gypsy Eye GE 013/14) has the complete concert in great although incorrectly identifies it as being from the 15th. The latest release before Wardour is Works In Milan (Godfather G.R.167/168) which also labels this the 14th and includes bonus material from the Japan FM broadcast from May 11th, 1985. Wardour is a straight copy of The Jewels with some hiss reduction applied.
The Queen concerts were announced in late summer and anticipation was such that tempers flared before the show began with people trying to que into the venue and due to a long delay of the band coming on stage. And despite the promotion the Palazzo was, according to eyewitnesses, only about three quarters full. The tape begins as the house lights are brought down. The Milanese sings the stadium choir “Alè oo’.” This song became well known in Italy two years before when the Italian National football team won the World Cup. All tapes from Milan capture this and Bono, when U2 played Milan the following February, even joins in.
The taped intro “Machines” effectively replaced “Flash” from the previous tours and the band hit the stage with two rockers, “Tear It Up” and “Tie Your Mother Down.” Freddie greets the audience, saying, “Hello Milano. Is everything okay? Are you ready to rock and roll?” before, rather ironically, playing the dance hit “Under Pressure.” The first medley, which in past tours has been the spot where they play material from their newest album, on the Works tour takes the form of an oldies jukebox. The first verses of “Somebody To Love” is played and, before the bridge Freddie plays a short piano interlude leading into “Killer Queen.” And about two minutes each of “Seven Seas Of Rhye,” “Keep Yourself Alive,” and “Liar” form the rest.
“It is really nice for Queen to be here in Milano for the first time. Thank you for giving us such a nice welcome” Freddie says before the second medley of the set, the bizarre pairing of “Staying Power” and “Dragon Attack.” This arrangement was employed early on in the tour but was dropped for good reason. It is simply too awkward and they don’t mesh well at all and it would have been much better if they just played the Hot Space song because it is a much more inviting and compelling live piece. “Dragon Attack” segues with “Now I’m Here.” In the intense final seconds Freddie shouts “blow it out your ass” to no one in particular.
“Is This The World We Created?” is the first of two songs in the very short acoustic set. May encourages the Milanese to participate in the next song by saying, “Somebody told me that Italians are the best singers in the world. Especially in Milano. So we hope it is true. Are you gonna show us?” He didn’t have to worry since the audience sings along with the song just fine. The third medley is played afterwards with “Stone Cold Crazy” segueing into “Great King Rat,” a song making its first appearance in the set list in many years. Spike Edney leads them into “Machines,” a synthesizer solo which May picks up on the guitar to play his piece before ending with the finale of “Brighton Rock.” The second half of the show is very strong with a string of classics and their two latest singles, “Hammer To Fall” and “Radio Ga Ga” which closes the show. “I Want To Break Free” begins the long encore set and the audience reacts loudly to Freddie’s appearance with big fake breasts and wig from the video.
Palazzo dello Sport, Milan, Italy – September 15th, 1984
Disc 3 (61:26): Machines intro, Tear It Up, Tie Your Mother Down, Under Pressure, Somebody To Love, Killer Queen, Seven Seas Of Rhye, Keep Yourself Alive, Liar, vocal improvisation, It’s A Hard Life, Mustapha intro, Dragon Attack, Now I’m Here, Is This The World We Created?, Love Of My Life, Stone Cold Crazy / Great King Rat, keyboard solo, guitar solo / Brighton Rock (ending)
Disc 4 (44:28): Another One Bites The Dust, Hammer To Fall, Crazy Little Thing Called Love, Bohemian Rhapsody, Radio Ga Ga, I Want To Break Free, Jailhouse Rock, We Will Rock You, We Are The Champions, God Save The Queen
The second night exists on several tape sources and was pressed on an LP released many years ago called Elizabeth II with highlights from the show. In 2008 a new but incomplete, excellent quality audience recording surfaced. Wardour, according to the excellent Queen Live website, states: “For the second night, they have created a complete recording by using all available tape in the best possible quality. Like the first two discs, they applied a bit of hiss reduction. They used the LP source for ‘Bohemian Rhapsody,’ and removed all the vinyl ticks in the sound. All these careful edits make this undoubtedly the definitive copy of the show.”
The concert itself is tighter than the first show. The audience are more calm throughout, singing along to the songs and with less “Alè oo’.” The only minor change in the is “Staying Power” being dropped. In fact after “It’s A Hard Life” the crowd begs for “Mustapha.” Freddie quips “What key is it in? Just give me the key, I don’t remember it.” (It’s a strange statement since he sang it the night before.) After singing the first “Ibrahim, Allah will pray for you” he quips, “that’s all they’re gonna fucking get.” Freddie seems to have problems with his microphone at the beginning of “Love Of My Life.” He sings the first words and then disappears leaving the audience to sing the first verse. May stops playing and Freddie can be heard saying, “I’m gonna do it.” They then start the song again and complete it without incident.
The second long medley has a great keyboard/synthesizer solo by Edney based on “Machines” and it is a credit to the band they feel secure enough to give a hired musician the time solo time on stage. It is strange, recalling Queen’s adamant no synthesizer policy in the seventies, to actually hear a solo on stage. But it is in keeping with The Works’ theme of mechanized humanity within a Metropolis theme. “Another One Bites The Dust” is another example with its heavy use of keyboards and Taylor’s synthesized drums.
Freddie sings “Crazy Little Things Called Love” a capella before the band come in and the audience turn it into another large sing-along. “Radio Ga Ga” with loud hand claps closes the show and the encore set is the same as the previous evening. Especially Milan, whose title comes from May’s comment before “Love Of My Life” in the September 14th show, is packaged in a fatboy jewel case. Photos from the tour are used on the front and interior inserts. The front cover is taken from the same tour, but since Freddie was wearing the Flash shirt and white pants and jacket, isn’t from this show. The photo collage in the interior may be from the Milan shows. Nevertheless this is an excellent, definitive edition of Queen’s only two shows in Italy.If you liked this review, buy me a cup of joe. (Suggested: $3 a shot or $7.5 for a double)