Life Is Real (Gypsy Eye GE-154/155)
Brendan Byrne Arena, East Rutherford, NJ – August 9th, 1982
Disc 1 (48:33): Flash Theme (opening), Rock It (Prime Jive), We Will Rock You, Action This Day, Play The Game, Somebody To Love, Now I’m Here, Dragon Attack, Now I’m Here (reprise), Save Me, Calling All Girls, Get Down Make Love
Disc 2 (50:57): Brighton Rock (guitar solo), Body Language, Under Pressure, Life Is Real, Fat Bottomed Girls, Crazy Little Thing Called Love, Bohemian Rhapsody, Tie Your Mother Down, Another One Bites The Dust, We Will Rock You, We Are The Champions, God Save The Queen
Life Is Real documents the August 9th, 1982 show the Brendan Byrne Arena in New Jersey. Queen played two nights at the Garden in New York on July 27th and July 28th. This is one of the longest Hot Space concerts on the U.S. tour and, as it would turn out, the final Queen concert (with Freddie Mercury) in the New York metropolitan area (their appearance on Saturday Night Live that September excepted). The taped used for this release is fair to good but thin recording with an emphasis upon the high end. There is slight distortion in the upper frequencies during louder parts of the music and several slights cuts including a painful one three minutes and forty-five seconds into the guitar solo, one before “Body Language” and one at 2:59 in “Under Pressure.”
After the “Flash” taped introduction they start with Roger Taylor’s “Rock It (Prime Jive).” It is rather unusual since Queen liked to start the show off with a fast paced number, but this one starts slow and laid back. In the previous year “Rock It (Prime Jive)” would be segued with the fast arrangement of “We Will Rock You” but they are played separately. “Somebody To Love” makes a rare appearance in the set. They play “Now I’m Here” with “Dragon Attack,” a clunky arrangement they debut several years before and they seemed to enjoy. Afterwards Freddie says, “most of you know, who have been following our music the past ten years, this is the first time we’ve played here at Meadowlands. It’s not such a bad place after all, huh girls? This next song features Mr. Brian May on the piano.”
“Save Me” is a tender song with an explosive middle section and a creative video for MTM. One wonders why it never became a big hit for the band. Freddie exhorts the cool New Jersey crowd to sing afterwards, saying, “I’m gonna make you sing like Aretha Franklin.” With only a lukewarm reception he quips, “I knew you were from New Jersey. I’ve been listening to Gilda Radner. She was right.” The following song “Calling All Girls” is another of the Hot Space songs that sound better live than in the studio with a much heavier arrangement.
The middle section of “Get Down, Make Love” segues into Brian May’s solo directly. There is a cut about three and a half minutes into the track when May breaks a string on the guitar. According to eyewitnesses, he actually threw the guitar in frustration. He is given another guitar which, two minutes later, also get a broken string. May throws this one again in frustration and has to use the Gibson Flying V for the rest of the solo and for the next couple of songs. His main guitar is fixed in time for the hard rock finale of “Bohemian Rhapsody.”
Many years later May was asked about this on the soapbox section of his website, and he recalls: “You evidently saw a special night … the only night when I ever threw a guitar off stage in despair ! And, yes, I did hit the ground behind the stage – I’m pretty sure I thought I was throwing to someone, but evidently I misjudged it. And, yes, its neck snapped clean through. I kept it for a while, intending to get it fixed. But we decided it would probably never be good at staying in tune, because it wasn’t a very rigid instrument. And not being able to get it tune was what drove me to distraction that night, and this was what led to its demise ! As I remember, this was on top of having problems with the Red Special in the beginning – in the heat of the moment, this was the final straw! I imagine your bootleg of the show will reveal the problems I was having. These things usually make me feel ashamed, frustrated, angry, in the moment … I don’t like giving people less than the best.”
After “Under Pressure” May says, “People of New Jersey, we seem like good friends. I tell you, we’ve seen you a lot of times. We’ve been around quite a while and we’ve done some strange things here and there. And now and again we’ve done a song which actually means something, and I think this is one of them. This is a song Freddie wrote for the last album. This is called ‘Life Is Real.'” Written several years after Lennon’s assassination, it resembles both “Mother” from Plastic Ono Band and “Imagine” from the follow up. This song was rarely played and the only other live version is on the tape for the August 13th Chicago show. Afterwards Freddie jokes, “How are we doing with the guitars?” He tells the audience, “I think tonight’s the night we’re gonna break as many guitars as we’ve got. If anyone in the audience has a spare guitar, bring it over here!” Somebody close to the taper brags “I’ve got three!”
“For the next song we’d like to…what is that fucking noise? It’s been driving me crazy all fucking night.” He goes on to introduce Fred Mandel on keyboards before playing “Crazy Little Thing Called Love.” “Bohemian Rhapsody” closes the set and they play four encores, including an energetic “Another One Bites The Dust.” Some enthusiasm seems to be lost on “We Will Rock You” and “We Are The Champions” as the band were feeling the effects of playing in front of an arena that is far from a sell out. Hot Space was a misjudgement that, in the United States, they never recovered from and never returned. The misjudgement was not in writing more dance/funk numbers, but in underestimating how personally their fans would take it. Nevertheless Life Is Real is the only silver pressed edition of this interesting show which is good, but a version without the cuts and a fatter sound would be much more desired.