City: Sun City, Bophuthatswana
Venue: Super Bowl
Date: October 5, 1984


 

Queen played nine shows in a South African banustan at the height of apartheid. The band stated at the time that they were not a political band, maintaining their desire to tread as much worldwide ground as possible, and that these concerts were played to mixed audiences. Tickets were priced at 26 Rands (about $15 US at the time), which may not have been reasonable for most, considering the poverty of the black masses at the time. But plenty of tickets were given away for free, ensuring at least some of the audiences would be mixed.

Brian May said how he felt the shows did a lot of bridge building, and how they met musicians of both colours. Roger Taylor pointed out how I Want To Break Free had become something of an anthem for the African National Congress movement, and how Another One Bites The Dust was hugely popular with the black population of South Africa. Regardless of the band's overall intentions, the concerts landed Queen on the United Nations cultural blacklist as they broke an international boycott.

Shortly after the shows, Brian explained: "We're totally against apartheid and all it stands for, but I feel we did a lot of bridge building. We actually met musicians of both colours. They all welcomed us with open arms. The only criticism we got was from outside of South Africa." Here is an interview with him on the subject from a few years later. Roger later stated that the South African concerts were a mistake, but added: "The black and the white communities were delighted that we'd gone there. We'd had a huge hit in the black market in South Africa with I Want To Break Free and Brian went and presented the Soweto Music Award."

In 2003, Brian May and Roger Taylor became strong supporters of former president Nelson Mandela's 46664 campaign, playing a prominent role in the organization of concerts for the cause.

The other nights in South Africa, all at the same venue, were on October 6, 7, 12, 13, 14, 18, 19 and 20. Some accounts say a tenth show was performed on October 10, but this is unconfirmed.

A local crew member who worked most of the shows recalls that Mercury's vocal exchanges with the audience were long, and that they were eating out of the palm of his hand. He adds that the band rehearsed extremely hard upon arrival, as they were a bit rusty from having had a week off.

The pictures were taken by Danie van der Merwe. It's unknown which night they are from, but they were apparently taken during Hammer To Fall and Jailhouse Rock respectively.

An article written about the paradigm shifting concerts in South America in 1981 stated, "After eight years of winning, they needed a new challenge if their touring career was not to stagnate." The shows in South Africa were equally new territory for the band, but after all the political backlash they encountered upon returning home to England, not even the massive headlining Rock In Rio shows early next year would revitalize the band. Touring became a drag throughout 1985, and if it weren't for Live Aid, Queen certainly may have split up.




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