City: Montreal, QC, Canada
Venue: Montreal Forum
Date: November 24, 1981

Setlist:
We Will Rock You (fast), Let Me Entertain You, Play The Game, Somebody To Love, Killer Queen, I'm In Love With My Car, Get Down Make Love, Save Me, Now I'm Here, Dragon Attack, Now I'm Here (reprise), Love Of My Life, Under Pressure, Keep Yourself Alive, drum/guitar solos, Flash, The Hero, Crazy Little Thing Called Love, Bohemian Rhapsody, Tie Your Mother Down, Another One Bites The Dust, Sheer Heart Attack, Jailhouse Rock, We Will Rock You, We Are The Champions, God Save The Queen


   

This night and the following night in Montreal were filmed with the goal of properly documenting their live show. The first night is ten years to the day before Freddie Mercury would pass away from AIDS.

A Rolling Stone magazine article circa 1980/81 said Montreal was chosen as the location for filming because the audience were louder than the monitors at the 1980 show. Madison Square Garden in New York was considered at one point, but the Montreal Forum was also deemed favourable because it was a cheaper option.

Shot on 35 mm film, it was originally intended to be a tour in itself, by a company called Mobilevision that was essentially a traveling Imax. For this reason, the audio was originally given a very dry and sterile mix, to give a sense that the band was in the room with the viewer rather than performing a concert - much to the dismay of the band (also worth noting is that the audience mics were brought down in the mix to a near whisper, which unfortunately contributed to a false idea in some viewers' minds that the audience was bored and unreceptive). Furthermore, the director of the film, Saul Swimmer, managed to assume the rights to all the footage and audio, leading to many official releases that came to fruition - completely without any input from the band.

Brian May has very openly stated many times his dissatisfaction with the sound quality on these releases. The first such release was a VHS in 1982, a 90 minute compilation of most of the songs performed on both nights. Numerous copies followed, a few of which were edited down to one hour (see Discogs for a complete listing). These dozens of releases yielded plenty of LP and CD bootlegs, particularly after Mercury's death in 1991, as expected.

DVDs were also released in 1997 and 2001, with the former including Jailhouse Rock for the first time.

The band bought back the rights to this material in early 2007, and the resulting CD/DVD release was called "Queen Rock Montreal" (a second version was entitled "Queen Rock Montreal & Live Aid," which included a second disc containing their famed 1985 charity show set and some other extras). A couple weeks before the release, the Montreal film was shown for one night only in theatres worldwide.

This is surely the best-sounding recording of Queen live currently in existence, and the audience is finally heard loud and clear here. The picture quality of the DVD, however, is another matter. After viewing a thorough comparison of this most recent release to the 2001 "We Will Rock You" DVD, one can draw their own conclusions.

Here's a transcription of Brian May's speech at the launch of Queen Rock Montreal (recommended reading): http://www.brianmay.com

The Allmusic review of the 2-disc set perfectly puts things into perspective: "They were close to the peak of their powers as world-conquering stadium rockers, touring the same set across the globe, perfecting it so it could play in any territory, as if it was rock & roll Esperanto. That may mean that this isn't as raw or visceral as various live recordings from the '70s, but it is deliberately theatrical and often majestic. When Queen is thought of as a ridiculous, over-sized arena monster, this is the kind of sound people have in mind, and it's still grandly entertaining decades later."

The band played the same setlist both nights, as confirmed by someone who attended both shows. The following songs from the first night made it to the official releases: We Will Rock You (fast), Let Me Entertain You, I'm In Love With My Car, Get Down Make Love, guitar solo (part), Crazy Little Thing Called Love (part), Bohemian Rhapsody, and Jailhouse Rock.

Some of the releases ran at the incorrect speed, and have slight variations in content - particularly which vocal tracks are used. A few overdubs were done on Freddie's vocals for the We Will Rock You video releases - on Let Me Entertain You, Now I'm Here, the rock section of Bohemian Rhapsody, Tie Your Mother Down, Jailhouse Rock, and Sheer Heart Attack, at least. In fact, in certain places, such as near the end of Sheer Heart Attack on the 90 minute VHS version, Freddie's original vocal can be faintly heard underneath the overdub. Some, but not all of these overdubs remained on Queen Rock Montreal. The vocal heard underneath the aforementioned overdub is heard in its original glory on Queen Rock Montreal. One can only wonder why the overdubs were necessary, since Freddie was at the top of his game during this period.

One of the vocal overdubs on Now I'm Here is especially noteworthy. Freddie is heard singing "down in the valley just you and me" (possibly a reference to the Sheer Heart Attack track that precedes it, "Lily Of The Valley"), unlike any live version from any era. Similarly, on the Live Killers version of Brighton Rock, in the second verse Freddie (accurately) sings "it would be of no avail to talk of magic in the air," something which he never did live, always opting for "it's good to know there's still a little magic in the air," repeating the first verse.

Love Of My Life has a singing audience overdubbed onto Queen Rock Montreal, but North American audiences did not sing along to the song in Queen's heyday, even after hearing the version on the Live Killers album.



The version of Somebody To Love on the official releases is from the second night. The first night's version is just as good, with Freddie in phenomenal voice. Afterward, Brian teases Freddie with a quick riff from Under Pressure, which excites the audience a great deal. Freddie responds with a "fuck off." He continues, "David Bowie is not here tonight," which the audience boos, and he adds, "He's fucking somebody in London."

Under Pressure is performed tonight for the first time. These two shows are the only known instances where Freddie would sing the second verse in falsetto like on the record, released as a single about a month prior to this show. The version from the 25th would make it to the official releases (probably because the band was a bit tighter musically), but tonight Freddie sings a bit more of the falsetto part. Also worth noting is that on both nights the band play an extra four bars instrumentally after the second chorus, before "turned away from it all" (the first two bars are cut from the official release, and the cut is clearly heard in the audience mic channel of the 5.1 mix on the 2001 DVD release). By next year they would eliminate the break, performing it like the studio version.

Brian May's solo spot on the official releases is a concise compilation of both nights. It runs about five minutes long, while his actual solo on the first night was seven minutes. On the first night Brian played a bit of the future b-side "I Go Crazy" near the end of his spot (which was cut from the official releases), as he did in Puebla. At precisely 2:53 on Queen Rock Montreal it switches to the second night. After another cut at 3:57 it returns to the first night.

Flash and The Hero were always missing from the older releases, and Mobilevision discarded the footage of these songs (and everything else that didn't make it past the cutting room floor). Fortunately Queen still had the audio of these songs in their vaults, and the versions from the second night are included on the Queen Rock Montreal CD release. On the first night May flubs his guitar entry in Flash, and Mercury misses the first lyric of The Hero.

For some reason Roger doesn't come in until part way through the second verse of Crazy Little Thing Called Love, so the second night is mostly used on the official releases. Through :20 on Queen Rock Montreal it's the first night, as is 1:27 through 1:34 (to obscure a bit of squealing guitar feedback).

A small guitar part near the end of Bohemian Rhapsody has either been ovedubbed or taken from the second night, just before "nothing really matters."

Tonight's version of Another One Bites The Dust is not the one on the video. It is a great version, with the middle section revealing the band in a transitional phase, showing their funky side in its infancy.

Jailhouse Rock is out of place on the official releases, coming after Crazy Little Thing Called Love. Saul Swimmer wanted the band to wear the same clothes and do the same moves on the second night as they had done on the first, but since their show wasn't choreographed the latter request was naturally impossible to fulfill. Tensions were high on and off stage due to such creative differences, and to annoy the director Freddie wore shorts for the encores on the second night (he wore pants on the first night) nor did they even perform the Elvis cover, which meant much of the footage couldn't alternate between both shows. This explains why Jailhouse Rock was placed a few songs earlier on the video releases (for continuity reasons), but it doesn't explain why it couldn't have been moved to its proper place on the Queen Rock Montreal CD.

The fact that Brian's guitar is barely in the mix off the top of Jailhouse Rock on the audience tape suggests it wasn't on the setlist - their front of house guy was ready for Roger to start We Will Rock You. Near the end of the piece Brian says to Freddie, "One more", meaning he wants to do another cycle of the 12-bar blues. Freddie quickly replies with "We're gonna end it," which is a testament to what the mood was like on stage.

"Let's go home and get fucked," declares Freddie as God Save The Queen plays.

Here's a review of the show from the next day's Gazette. Despite the lukewarm review, a fan who was at the show assures us that the crowd was going nuts throughout, as The Game was still a huge record.

These pro photos could be from either night.



                                         

These bootlegs are rips of various official VHS and DVD releases, many of which are intentionally passed off by the bootleg companies as other shows.

Disc 2 of "Don't Cry For Me" is padded out with a few tracks from a Milan '84 audience recording and the Wembley '86 official release.


Recording length: 92 minutes (2 CD, incomplete)
Quality: B+
Source: Audience
Lineage: AUD > ? > CDR (x)
Track listing:
We Will Rock You (fast), Let Me Entertain You, Play The Game, Somebody To Love, Killer Queen, I'm In Love With My Car, Get Down Make Love, Save Me, Now I'm Here, Under Pressure, Flash, The Hero, Keep Yourself Alive, drum/guitar solos, Crazy Little Thing Called Love, Bohemian Rhapsody, Tie Your Mother Down, Another One Bites The Dust, Sheer Heart Attack, Jailhouse Rock, We Will Rock You, We Are The Champions, God Save The Queen


Since the majority of the material on the official releases is from the second night, this audience recording of the first night is a worthwhile listen. Contrary to what is heard on the old Mobilevision releases, the audience is very enthusiastic.

Dragon Attack, the Now I'm Here reprise, and Love Of My Life are missing.

There is a cross-fade after Under Pressure, as Flash and The Hero were moved around from their usual spot in the setlist and placed after Under Pressure just so that 90 minute tapes could be made with no cuts during songs. There is clearly a cut between the guitar solo and Crazy Little Thing Called Love.


Recording length: 89 minutes (2 CD, incomplete)
Quality: A
Source: FM
Lineage: "Montreal 1981 Radio Broadcast" (Wardour) silvers

 
Track listing:
DJ intro, We Will Rock You (fast), Let Me Entertain You, Play The Game, Somebody To Love, Killer Queen, I'm In Love With My Car, Get Down Make Love, Save Me, Now I'm Here, Dragon Attack, Now I'm Here (reprise), Love Of My Life, Under Pressure, Keep Yourself Alive, drum/guitar solos, Crazy Little Thing Called Love, Bohemian Rhapsody, Tie Your Mother Down, Another One Bites The Dust, Sheer Heart Attack, We Will Rock You, We Are The Champions, God Save The Queen


This 2020 bootleg is allegedly from an FM broadcast in the late 1980s. The recording apparently comes from Westwood One pre-FM reel to reel tapes sold on eBay in 2019, but it's entirely possible that it's just another dub of one of the early VHS releases, as J.J. Jackson doesn't even mention Queen in his brief intro.

For some reason Wardour used Love Of My Life with the audience overdub from Queen Rock Montreal instead of the original version.




Previous Concert

Next Concert

Back to 1981 Concerts

Home