Queen – Hyde Park 1976 (no label)

Hyde Park 1976 (no label)

(approx. 81 minutes):  Opening, Bohemian Rhapsody, Ogre Battle, Sweet Lady, White Queen, Flick Of The Wrist, You’re My Best Friend, Bohemian Rhapsody, Killer Queen, The March Of The Black Queen, Bohemian Rhapsody, Bring Back That Leroy Brown, Brighton Rock, Son And Daughter, ’39, You Take My Breath Away, The Prophet’s Song, Stone Cold Crazy, Keep Yourself Alive, Liar, In The Lap Of The Gods…Revisited

Queen were supposed to headline the Knebworth festival in August 1976.  But with the Rolling Stones wanting to cement their live reputation at the vaunted event, Queen were pushed back to September and a free show was scheduled at Hyde Park in London.  150,000 fans filled the park for an all day event which culminated in an hour long set by Queen, fresh from recording A Day At The Races.

An audience tape was used for the first audio document to be released of this show on the LP Free In The Park (ZAP 7960), and the video soundtrack was released on Hyde Park ‘76 (Gypsy Eye GE158).  It’s best to see it on video and Hyde Park 1976 provides the best version available.  There are serious limitations of the tape due to drop outs and various cuts, but generally it offers a good picture of the event. 

In general Queen deliver a nervous and very uneven performance.  Even though it’s important for their career, it’s really a mediocre concert. 

The tape opens with the new “White Man” riff segueing into the opera and hard rock sections of “Bohemian Rhapsody.”  The former is new but the latter opened their shows on the last tour and is employed for the final time.  On future tours “Bohemian Rhapsody” would be played as one piece.  

“Thank you very much, good evening everybody.  Welcome to our picnic by the serpentine” Freddie says in greeting.  “You all look very beautiful” before they start “Sweet Lady.”  Freddie states that “White Queen” is a “delicate little number.”  Brian May expresses amazement at the crowd and refers to “Flick Of The Wrist” as a song written by Freddie in one of his more passionate moments, “of which he has many.”  The Sheer Heart Attack song is played live for the last time. 

Afterwards Freddie says:  “I have been requested by the constabulary for you not to throw little things around…sit on your asses and listen.”  He introduces the medley which begins with “You’re My Best Friend” which has terrible speed issues.  This segues into the opening verses and guitar solo of “Bohemian Rhapsody” which in turn runs into “Killer Queen” and “March Of The Black Queen” played live for the final time. 

The medley ends with the final part of “Bohemian Rhapsody” seguing into the quick instrumental version of “Bring Back That Leroy Brown.”  The medley is similar to the one used throughout the A Night At The Opera tours and is used for the final time in this show.  When Queen toured again early the following year the medley would be constructed around tunes from the new album.

May’s showcase follows the medley, beginning with “Brighton Rock” and his nine minute long guitar solo.  At the end of the solo, instead of returning to “Brighton Rock” May leads them into the final verse of “Son And Daughter.” 

Freddie gives a big introduction to May who says, “from one piece of nonsense to another, I’ve said it before.  This is something we wanted to do with the London Philharmonic but they didn’t show up, so we will do the ethnic version of a song called “39.'”  This song was introduced into the set in the Edinburgh warm-up gigs two weeks before Hyde Park and is the first glimpse of their acoustic set.

“You Take My Breath Away,” which hasn’t even been recorded, is performed and is followed by a version of “The Prophet’s Song” rendered flat by the failed PA system.  Freddie has to perform his vocal gymnastics without the effects which sounds silly. 

He does throw in a reference to “Death On Two Legs” in the middle.  This would be the last time the first half of the song would be played live.  Only the latter half would be retained in medley with “White Man.”

After “Stone Cold Crazy,” the band play “Keep Yourself Alive” and “Liar,” dropping “Doing All Right” and “Lazing On A Sunday Afternoon.”  Before the last song, Brian says, “This is In The Lap Of The Gods, or something like that.”  Afterwards there is no encore of “Big Spender” and “Jailhouse Rock” because they had gone past curfew. 

The police threatened to arrest the band if they went back on stage.  The final minutes of the video show some shots of the crowd, an empty stage, and ends with Bob Harris saying that the show is over and it’s been an amazing day. 

In retrospect, this is a show that May later reflected, “I think that Hyde Park was one of the most significant gigs in our career. There was a great affection because we’d kind of made it in a lot of countries by that time, but England was still, you know, we weren’t really sure if we were really acceptable here. So it was a wonderful feeling to come back and see that crowd and get that response.”

In general, whenever important shows have a video source, it’s great to have it available for the collection.  This no label release of the Hyde Park show is the only DVD title containing the complete show in acceptable quality and is worth having. 

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