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1992.04.20 - Freddie Mercury Tribute, Wembley Stadium, London, England

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Post by Soulmonster on Tue Sep 04, 2012 7:40 pm

Date:
April 20, 1992.

Venue:
Freddie Mercury Tribute, Wembley Stadium.

Location:
London, England.

Setlist:
XX: Paradise City
XX: Knockin' On Heaven's Door

Line-up:
Axl Rose (vocals), Gilby Clarke (rhythm guitarist), Slash (lead guitarist), Duff McKagan (bass), Dizzy Reed (keyboards) and Matt Sorum (drums).

Quotes from band members:
It was an honor just being asked to do it . . . sort of like being put on the map by people we had admired for years. But the experience was even much deeper than that.

Being the type of band that we are, the last thing we wanted to know about a few years ago was AIDS. Like most people, we thought it was only a problem for needle pushers and homosexuals, which meant we didn't have to worry about it. I was still as promiscuous as hell.

But then it started getting closer to home and everybody had to start being aware of the dangers . . . homosexuals, heterosexuals; people were even starting to get it from their dentists or whatever. That slowed my trip down a lot, but it didn't really hit home until Freddie died of AIDS because he was this huge icon in our minds.

To walk out on that stage in front of 75,000 or 80,000 people was a very emotional experience. It was like all of us in rock 'n' roll, the artists and the audience, were saying we did care and we are responsible for each other. It was a great sense of community that day and it touched something in me
[Los Angeles Times, August 1992]


1992.04.20 - Freddie Mercury Tribute, Wembley Stadium, London, England Rightarrow Next concert: 1992.05.16.
1992.04.20 - Freddie Mercury Tribute, Wembley Stadium, London, England Leftarrow Previous concert: 1992.04.09.
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Post by Blackstar on Thu Nov 22, 2018 1:39 am

From Kerrang, May 2, 1992:

1992.04.20 - Freddie Mercury Tribute, Wembley Stadium, London, England WcTuO5wY_o
1992.04.20 - Freddie Mercury Tribute, Wembley Stadium, London, England 1WjleIVZ_o
1992.04.20 - Freddie Mercury Tribute, Wembley Stadium, London, England PetmxK9Z_o
1992.04.20 - Freddie Mercury Tribute, Wembley Stadium, London, England UOVn1wHD_o
GUNS Ν’ ROSES
 
In the wake of One In A Million’ and the resulting gay activist protests, perhaps it was time for Axl Rose to put the record straight. When interviewed in Rolling Stone recently, Rose said that his hatred of ‘an element of gays’ had been traced through therapy to sexual abuse during his childhood, but should a member of Guns N’ F**kin' Roses really be blaming ‘faggots” for spreading ‘some f**king disease”, presumably the disease that killed Freddie Mercury?
 
That said, it’s difficult to imagine the three surviving members of Queen inviting GN’R to play in honour of Freddie’s memory had they considered       Rose a homophobe, so there must be something that Axl isn’t telling through the media. Yet on a day when the likes of George Michael and Elizabeth Taylor forcefully addressed the social issue of the ’90s, Axl Rose remained conspicuous by his silence.
 
Guns N’ Roses played just two songs, ‘Paradise City’ and ‘Knockin’ On Heaven’s Door’, the latter prefaced by a few bars of Alice Cooper’s Only Women Bleed’. Even without Izzy, they’re still one of the great rock ‘n’ roll bands in the world. New rhythm guitarist Gilby Clarke knocked out Izzy’s riffs coolly enough, while Slash lolled about in a Rolling Stones T-shirt.
 
There are now two female backup singers and another keyboard player besides Dizzy Reed, who has brickie’s fingers as thick as sausages. How many people are in Guns N’ Roses these days? And what was Axl wearing? A leather jacket daubed with ‘UK’ and the Union Flag? A Jesus T-shirt? A black leather kilt?! Bring back the seatless grey leather pants!
 
Axl is a Queen fan; back in 1987 he was raving about ‘Queen II’, when it certainly wasn’t hip.
And for all his bullshit, he’s a star.
 
Axl Rose is to Guns N’ Roses what Freddie Mercury was to Queen.       PE
 
PICTURE CAPTIONS:
 
SLASH: It’s only rock ‘n’ loll...
 
AXL ROSE: bring back the seatless grey leather pants! (He can't, Joe Elliott's got 'em! - Ed.)
 
GILBEY CLARKE: it's only rock 'n' loll (part two)
 
DUFF McKAGAN: but how many other people are in GN’R these days?
QUEEN AND FRIENDS
 
A dozen or more flashbombs sent plumes of white smoke up toward Wembley’s floodlights as Queen began their farewell to Freddie with ‘Tie Your Mother Down’. Brian May sang the first verse and chorus before Joe Elliott joined May, Taylor and Deacon, followed by Slash. May, that most gracious of rock stars, stood back for Slash to play the lead break.
 
Black Sabbath riffmeister Tony lommi - all in black, naturally - and the Who’s Roger Daltrey replaced Slash and Joe for ‘I Want It All’. The song was preluded by a little of the Who’s ‘Pinball Wizard’ (sung in the film of the rock opera, ‘Tommy’, by another of the night’s guest stars, Elton John). May and lommi played a passage from Sabbath’s ‘Heaven And Hell’, and Daltrey was inimitable as ever, shirt opened to the navel, spinning the microphone cable like a lassoo.
 
The pace then slowed with a sedate ‘Las Palabras De Amor’, sung by Italian superstar Zucchero, but soon picked up again with ‘Hammer To Fall’ featuring lommi and Gary Cherone.
lommi stuck around for ‘Stone Cold Crazy’. Queen’s heaviest track (alongside ‘Sheer Heart Attack’), and described by Roger Taylor as ‘a fast one’. And who better to sing a fast one than a scowling James Hetfield, the man with a face like a walrus and a walk like a spider-crab? At one point, with May frowning on the big screen, it sounded like the band lost the frantic tempo of the song but the crowd were too happy to care.
 
Exit Hetfield and lommi and enter Robert Plant for ‘Innuendo’ (so perfectly suited to the singer and evocative of classic Led Zeppelin that he could add a verse of ‘Kashmir’ almost unnoticed). With May switching to acoustic, Plant then sang some of Zeppelin’s ‘Thank You’ before segueing into ‘Crazy Little Thing Called Love’, the latter more in tune with the kind of good-time rock ’n’ roll Plant indulged in with his occasional band the Honeydrippers. As the singer left the stage, May paid tribute by dubbing him ‘the incomparable Robert Plant’...
 
Moving to the electric piano, May saluted Queen’s perennial sideman Spike Edney and introduced a solo composition, ‘Too Much Love Will Kill You’, that had never seen the light of day. As the video screens showed, it took all of the dewy- eyed May’s self-control to deliver the emotion-charged and poignant lyric.
 
Deacon and Taylor then returned to the stage with Paul Young for ‘Radio Gaga’, the stadium once again transformed into a forest of clapping hands.
 
Seal’s vocal on ‘Who Wants To Live Forever’ apparently sounded weak on the box but seemed strong inside the stadium. Lisa Stansfield brought back memories of Freddie’s finest video performance by singing Ί Want To Break Free’ in Hilda Ogden-approved curlers, and pushing a Hoover.
 
Annie Lennox and David Bowie duetted on ‘Under Pressure’, then Ian Hunter (ex-Mott The Hoople) sang ‘All The Young Dudes’, the song Bowie wrote for Mott, with Mick Ronson (ex- of Bowie’s Spiders Of Mars and Mott) on guitar, Bowie on saxophone and Joe Elliott and Phil Collen on backing vocals.
 
Hunter seemed not to hear Bowie’s suggestion that he hung around for the next song, ‘Heroes’, which was nonetheless beautifully played by Ronson, before Bowie joked, somewhat inappropriately, about the bands of the ’70s ‘sleeping with a lot of the same people’. This was an AIDS awareness show after all, which Bowie later recognised by praying for a dying friend.
George Michael was the finest of the many guest singers, beginning with ‘A Night At The Opera’s ”39’, then duetting with Lisa Stansfield (sans curlers) on ‘These Are The Days Of Our Lives’ - probably the most poignant performance of the night. George’s last number was ‘Somebody To Love’, also featuring a gospel choir augmenting Queen’s own backing singers, Maggie and Miriam.
 
Following George was his and Freddie’s old friend Elton John - sporting an extraordinary new syrup! - who sang Freddie’s masterpiece ‘Bohemian Rhapsody’ up to the opera passage, when, as ever, Queen vacated the stage. They returned with a whirling Axl Rose, just the madman to sing the song’s Heavy Metal climax. Axl and Elton finished the song harmonising, then Elton sang one of the songs Freddie never lived to perform live, ‘The Show Must Go On’.
 
Axl came back in his third costume to scream ‘We Will Rock You', which could only be followed by ‘We Are The Champions’. For this last number, Queen were joined by one of Freddie’s heroines, Liza Minelli, who gave the song a touch of Broadway that Freddie would doubtless have loved. The whole cast trooped on to finish the song and the show, Axl laughing, Duff McKagan headbanging, bless him! And who invited the Scorpions?!
 
As ‘We Are The Champions’ finally ended, Roger Taylor mustered a half-­smile.
 
“Thank you and goodnight,” he bowed, and Queen’s brilliant career was over.
 
It was, as Brian May had promised, ‘one helluva send-off to celebrate the life, the work and the dreams of one Freddie Mercury’.
 
Throughout the night, Wembley had been a cauldron of emotions with the dividing line between happiness and sorrow never closer.
 
Ultimately, to pay tribute and create the send-off Queen had wanted, it had taken 16 of the world’s most celebrated vocalists to perform just a portion of Queen’s greatest creations.
Yet it took just one Freddie Mercury to sing them all.      PE/NJ
 
PICTURE CAPTIONS:

ROBERT PLANT: incomparable... as ever
 
SLASH: really wigging out in this one


Last edited by Blackstar on Fri Jan 25, 2019 1:37 am; edited 1 time in total
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Post by denitza on Fri Nov 23, 2018 8:53 am

I remember watching this show on TV. Axl was the greatest that night.
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Post by Soulmonster on Fri Nov 23, 2018 12:53 pm

It must have been an enormous pressure. An ocean of people. Singing Mercury songs. But yeah, he did really well. An iconic performance.
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Post by denitza on Fri Nov 23, 2018 8:57 pm

Did some of you, guys, watched the new Bohemian Rhapsody movie?
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Post by Soulmonster on Sat Nov 24, 2018 4:25 am

@denitza wrote:Did some of you, guys, watched the new Bohemian Rhapsody movie?

I haven't. Did you?
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Post by denitza on Sun Nov 25, 2018 12:03 am

@Soulmonster wrote:

@denitza wrote:Did some of you, guys, watched the new Bohemian Rhapsody movie?



I haven't. Did you?



Yes, I liked it. It's emotional movie
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Post by Blackstar on Wed Jan 23, 2019 2:02 am

Gay activist organizations were opposed to GNR's participating in this concert. Los Angeles Times, March 15, 1992:
POP EYE

Will Axl Say He's Sorry? ACT UP Applies Pressure

March 15, 1992|Steve Hochman

Can you imagine more than 70,000 people booing Guns N' Roses?

Or Elton John, George Michael and Metallica publicly shunning Axl and the boys?

Both things will happen at the Freddie Mercury tribute concert next month at London's Wembley Stadium if the London branch of ACT UP has its way. The controversial AIDS awareness organization is calling for these actions at the April 20 concert honoring the Queen singer, who died from AIDS in November--unless Rose formally apologizes for what the organization feels are anti-gay lyrics and statements.

"We will accept Guns N' Roses (on the bill) when they have a press conference and publicly denounce everything they've said about AIDS and homophobia," said ACT UP/London's John Campbell, referring to an anti-gay lyric on GNR's old song "One in a Million" and other statements made on stage or during interviews.

"We want the words, 'We were wrong. We're sorry,' " said Campbell. "They've been responsible for misinformation about AIDS. Their homophobic attitude creates an atmosphere of ignorance and intolerance."

If they don't apologize?

"We will ask artists to put pressure on the show's management to remove (Guns N' Roses) from the billing," Campbell said. "If management refuses we won't ask anyone not to appear, but for Guns to be snubbed by the other artists, and we'll ask for people to boo the band off the stage."

So will GNR apologize? Campbell shouldn't hold his breath.

"We're disgusted by ACT UP's lack of sensitivity in trying to politicize this tribute," said a Guns N' Roses management representative. "Perhaps they should read Axl Rose's comments in the new issue of Rolling Stone for a more enlightened perspective. We refuse to be their pawn."

In the Rolling Stone interview, Rose just touches on "One in a Million," dealing more with the song's racial tone, but says that he is growing and learning and acknowledges having said and done things in the past that he now regrets. But Campbell said that ACT UP would settle for nothing less than a full apology.

It wouldn't be the first time GNR had been dropped from an AIDS-related event. The band was slated to play a 1989 concert being organized by the New York-based Gay Men's Health Crisis, but pressure from gay activists troubled by "One in a Million" forced the organization to remove GNR from the lineup, and the show was ultimately canceled.
https://tinyurl.com/ya8soqej
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Post by Blackstar on Wed Jan 23, 2019 2:11 am

Elton John on meeting Axl and performing with him at the concert (Los Angeles Times, August 23, 1992):
[...]
With a fortune estimated at more than $150 million (largely based on publishing rights, real estate and an extensive art and antique collection), John could walk away from his career altogether. But he still loves music, he says.

He was especially touched by the Freddie Mercury memorial and AIDS benefit concert in April at Wembley Stadium in London, where he sang Queen's "Bohemian Rhapsody" with Axl Rose of Guns N' Roses.

Their joint appearance was a dramatic moment because the London branch of ACT UP, the AIDS activist group, urged fans to boo Rose if the rock star didn't apologize for alleged anti-gay lyrics and sentiments.

John, who has long been active in AIDS-related projects, once criticized the late comedian Sam Kinison during a rock awards show in New York for what John felt were earlier anti-gay remarks, so there was some question when Rose walked onstage to join him in the song if John would keep his distance. Instead, he reached out his arm in greeting.

"I heard that he had problems with the people in ACT UP, but I thought if he was willing to come on the show that we should make him feel at home, which is why I put my arm around him," John says. "We all say and do things we regret. I met him before the show and he seemed quite gentle, and I very much like some of his music."

John pauses and looks down at the floor, as if trying to find a way to summarize his feelings on the subject.

"In this business, I don't care who you are. There are Jekyll and Hyde characters in us all. There's not one performer who can't be an absolute animal at times. You have to be pretty strange to want to be a performer.

"There must be a need to want to be loved. I'm not a psychiatrist, but there is something very vulnerable in most performers. Just listen to Axl's songs. I understand the nightmare of being a performer. There are fantastic moments, and there are dangerous, life-consuming ones. The art is to find a balance. And I'm glad I got a second chance."
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Post by Blackstar on Wed Jan 23, 2019 2:18 am

Review from Melody Maker, May 2, 1992:
Various Artists: The Freddie Mercury Tribute, Concert For Aids Awareness, Wembley Stadium, London

Paul Mathur
2 May 1992


IT'S, UH, KINDA TRAGIC

IF FREDDIE Mercury had been alive today, he would have voted Conservative. Would have helped return a government whose obscene underfunding of AIDS research and care facilities make the consensus politics of an event like this necessary. Irony's a bitter old pill isn't it, boys and girls?

"He was a genius... irreplaceable... it's the end of an era". Actually that's Ernie Wise on Benny Hill, who never lived to see this hollow pan-global belch, but it serves to show how death brings with it a hyperbolic reassessment of character, a myth-making exercise that is both undignified and unwarranted. Let's get one thing straight from the start: Freddie Mercury was never as stellar as his name and in the candidacy for godhead status was at best languishing mid-table. Queen may have invented stadium rock, but they also whored it to Sun City. He was destroyed by the excesses he redefined, but on finding he was HIV positive didn't have the courage of character to admit it, let the coven of PRs and industry coldhearts build a barrier of lies between him and his public. Sure, this event raised much-needed money for AIDS charities, but why couldn't it have happened two years ago, with more than a video ghost to spread the message? Maybe, just maybe, if it had, then half a dozen of my close friends would still be alive. Angry? Yeah, I'm angry. Angrier still that despite all the good intentions, this event only served to reiterate the preconception of those with HIV as tragic victims, as losers. It's at best patronising and at worst unforgivable.

But hey, the show goes on, right. The potentially world-altering event warps into a cockeyed karaoke wake because "it's what Freddie would have wanted". Everyone was his best pal and it's Easter Monday, so when better to huff and puff through four hours of muddy attempts at resurrection? 71,999 people are having a great time.

And maybe that's the most disturbing revelation. This isn't about raising AIDS awareness or, oddly, even particularly about celebrating Freddie Mercury. It's about the Stadium Experience, about seeing all the usual old lags slap each other's backs and pop off to Browns for a knees-up. It's about standing in the giant crowd, buying a bit of promotional merchandise then rushing home to see if you managed to get on TV. There's no sense of relative importance, of greatness. The global village get-together flattens the experience and, by its lumbering size somehow manages to shrink it all until it becomes just another crumpled ticket stub to pin on the wall next to Live Aid, Comic Relief and Eric Clapton's 15 nights at the Albert Hall.

And so to the music. Ho hum. Such is the spontaneity that the press are issued with complete setlists a good two hours before the show even starts, all but wiping out the chance of even a glimmer of surprise. It's perfectly orchestrated, immaculately arranged and even in its most overblown, pompous moments, completely and utterly in control. Just like every other Queen concert since the Middle Ages in fact. A cheap jibe I know, but collective idiocy kind of brings that out in you.

METALLICA come on approximately 35 seconds late, after the remaining members of Queen have told us that it's alright to cry. 'Enter Sandman', 'Sad But True' and 'Nothing Else Matters' don't exactly get the old tear ducts flowing like undammed rivers, but the band are a good as anyone at marshalling Nuremberg-sized crowds into mindless frenzy. The first time you see a Queen crowd rattle into a bit of synchronised clapping (and let me tell you, they clap better than anyone I've ever seen), it's pretty impressive. The second, third and 400th times it's, well, not.

And it all fair whizzes along. Out bounds Roger Taylor to tell us that the next band are "the people who, more than anyone, understand Queen, understand what Freddie was about"'. And who do we get? Nitzer Ebb? Bananarama? The massed ranks of the Pink Fur Teapot marching band? Nope. EXTREME. Yeah. Extreme, on the run from the Style Police and ready to rock their way through a tone-perfect medley of Queen songs, seamlessly showcasing every nuance of the Queen sound. Actually there is only one nuance (the one that gets the audience handclapping) but they go at it with some gusto. If they'd been on Stars In Their Eyes they would have walked it.

Next up, some fuzzy video compilation on the giant screens wherein Freddie bobs around some unspecified exotic locations and we all get to cry a bit. No mention of AIDS yet, but I'm sure we'll come to it soon. Not, however, before we've watched DEF LEPPARD buzz through three of their finest moments. Unfortunately such a spectacle has to give way to something I'd rather do, so as they "get rocked", I'm mooching around backstage looking for someone to tear out my fingernails with rusty pliers.

BOB GELDOF comes on dressed as Billy Connolly, or perhaps it's Connolly dressed as Pamela Stephenson, or Mr Bean dressed as Fergie. Anyhow, as a comic turn it isn't that funny. I suppose it could have been serious. Nah.

SPINAL TAP have one funny joke about cutting their set short by 35 songs "because that's what Freddie would have wanted", then they play some rubbish heavy metal before we switch to a video screen in the good US of A so my old chums U2 can further demonstrate that they're not as good as they used to be. Bono's in full rabble-rousing flow, but the song sounds like it's being delivered through a megaphone stuffed with cotton wool. U2, they're the tops in my book.

And so, with heavy heart, to GUNS N' bleeding ROSES. The expected and — in our house — almost feverishly anticipated mass storming of the stage by Molotov cocktail-waving Outrage members never materialises. Instead we get a sheepish Axl Rose in a crap Union Jack coat flexing himself for some serious unit shifting via 'Paradise City' and 'Knocking On Heaven's Door'. As a showman he's undeniably charismatic, especially with that cute little ass of his, but he's a marked man and there's a duty to be done. So, when he whops his coat off to reveal a tee-shirt bearing the slogan "Kill Your Idols" and a picture of Christ, I reach for my Kalashnikov and bellow "Okeydoke you homophobic bastard". I kill four pigeons and Axl, Man Of Steel, lives to fight another day. Harumph.

The snippet of the South African link-up isn't from Sun City, so the audience gets bored and does a Mexican Wave before a bit more furious simultaneous handclapping. They're still at it when LIZ TAYLOR comes on and attempts to deliver a pre-rehearsed speech about AIDS. She has more integrity than almost anyone else present and, inevitably, is heckled. "Give us some music," yelps one of the over-achieving, train-spotter, queer-basher morons who make up more of the crowd than you'd like to know. I'm on the pitch by now and there's a flurry of hysteria as about 50 people come over all previous at the sight of Jonathan King lurching by. Honestly.

The second half of the show is karaoke in full effect. Call it a communal rush of blood to the head, call it your worst nightmare, but the sight of BOWIE, GEORGE MICHAEL, ROBERT PLANT et al taking turns at pummelling Queen songs into submission is best hidden under the rug of historical document. I wouldn't want my grandchildren to read about such maudlin, mawkish cap-doffing. Highlights, such as they are, include the fabulous ANNIE LENNOX grazing her lower lip across Bowie's chin (surprisingly, in a tribute to a man for whom hedonism was so important, tonight's only moment of real eroticism); old Ziggy himself proving in 'All The Young Dudes' and an astoundingly squelchy 'Heroes' that he is now officially completely redundant as anything other than a caricatured object of ridicule and LISA STANSFIELD becoming the first person ever to bring a Hoover on stage at Wembley. Her 'I Want To Break Free' at least captures some of the old Queen spirit, paving the way for George and ELTON JOHN to show that as purveyors of the blandly impressive they have no peers. The show closes with its greatest moment. LIZA MINELLI, with more superstardom in her little toe than the rest of the assembled cast put together, gives a gusty, gutsy rendition of 'We Are The Champions' and it's one of the few genuinely thrilling and moving moments. It's rather knocked askew by the ensuing run through 'God Save The Queen' (alas not the Pistols version), but at least the crowd can file back to the tube on something of a high.

As a celebration of one man's life and work, this, I suppose, fulfilled its brief. As a vehicle for raising money for AIDS charities it has to be applauded. Unfortunately, in the time between the concert and you reading this review, half as many people as were there will be newly infected with HIV worldwide. And perhaps it's going to take more than tears to change that.
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Post by Blackstar on Fri Jan 25, 2019 1:43 am

Hartford Courant, April 20, 1992:

1992.04.20 - Freddie Mercury Tribute, Wembley Stadium, London, England Jt9sHE4O_o
1992.04.20 - Freddie Mercury Tribute, Wembley Stadium, London, England XjoEP75s_o
Rock world finally acknowledges AIDS in tribute to Mercury

By ROGER CATLIN
Courant Rock Critic


Six months ago, the career of Queen, once England’s most popular band, was practically kaput. Its last album fizzled; a reissue series of its classic albums on compact disc sold disappointingly for the new Disney-financed label, Hollywood Records.

And six months ago, AIDS was a verboten topic in rock, frequently the brunt of snide jokes among the macho rockers, and certainly not an issue they felt they needed to seriously address.

As virtually every other form of the arts was both devastated by AIDS deaths and sensitized enough to address the effects of the disease through various fund-raising or conciousness-raising projects, the number of similar projects in popular music could be counted on one hand.

Because of the death of Queen’s Freddie Mercury of AIDS last November, some of the top names in rock will play the year’s biggest concert at London’s Wembly Stadium today in a show meant to raise public awareness and to pay tribute to Mercury.

A revival

The concert comes as Queen’s career is undergoing its biggest revival in more than a decade.

The epic “Bohemian Rhapsody,” which only hit as high as No. 9 when it was first released 16 years ago, is now bigger than ever — currently riding at No. 4. Proceeds from the sales of the reissued single — more than $1.76 million so far — have been turned over to AIDS charities.

Two weeks ago, “Bohemian Rhapsody” was represented on the Top 10 albums chart twice — as part of the “Classic Queen” retrospective that hit No. 9 and as part of the No. 1 soundtrack to “Wayne’s World.”

It was the use of the song in one of the hit movie’s most amusing sequences — Wayne, Garth and pals in the Gremlin with the tape player cranked, wagging their heads to the song — that may have helped the Queen revival as much as anything.

The video, which intercuts “Wayne’s World” footage with the original Queen video, succeeds in creating a sweet tribute to the band, in which Mercury muses fatalistically: “If I should die tomorrow” before concluding “nothing really matters.”

Penelope Spheeris, who directed “Wayne’s World,” which has grossed nearly $100 million already, and the video, said, “Perhaps this video can serve to remind us of the profound contribution of Freddie Mercury and Queen” so that “kids today can grasp what an extraordinary band Queen really is and that their innovative sound is everlasting in rock ’n’ roll.”

Clearly, it is the tribute to Queen — and not necessarily the AIDS cause that is attracting some of the harder rock bands to today’s concert, which sold an unprecedented 72,000 tickets in four hours although the performers hadn’t been announced.

Axl Rose as host

Guns N’ Roses lead singer Axl Rose has maintained that a Queen record was the first he ever bought and showed him the possibilities of rock ’n’ roll. He hosts a new MTV documentary about the band this Saturday after a four-hour broadcast of the concert (a two-hour version will be broadcast tonight at 8 on Fox, Channel 61; see box).

Metallica’s Kirk Hammett said his band, which won a Grammy last year for its version of Queen’s “Stone Cold Crazy” that appeared on “Ru-biyat: Elektra’s 40th Anniversary” album, was asked to be a part of the lineup.

“We covered a Queen song and it’s for a good cause, so why not?” Hammett said in an interview before the band’s Hartford concert Thursday, its last before the London date.

“You know, he was an important artist,” Hammett says of Mercury. “It happening to him really woke people up in the music industry, a lot like Magic Johnson’s thing woke up people in the sports industry.”

Previously, the music industry’s response to the disease was typified by the disaster that resulted the last time a rock AIDS benefit was attempted.

Guns N’ Roses was kicked off the bill of a subsequently canceled 1989 concert sponsored by the New York Gay Men’s Health Crisis because of their lyric in the song “One in a Million” about “immigrants and faggots ... spread some [expletive] disease.”

(The activist AIDS awareness group ACT UP is suggesting a snubbing of Guns at today’s concert for the statement, for which the band has yet to apologize).

Any star who attempted to pitch in on the AIDS cause — from Elton John to Madonna to Michael Stipe — was then saddled with rumors that they were infected.

Skid Row lead singer Sebastian Bach seemed genuinely surprised that some were offended by the T-shirt he was pictured wearing in a rock magazine that said: “AIDS KILLS FAGS DEAD.”

Changing attitudes

Perhaps because so few rockers died of AIDS (the B-52s’ Ricky Wilson and obscure avant rocker Klaus Naomi were the only widely reported victims), there was little mention of the disease in songs or in concerts.

Madonna, who has put information in albums and urged safe sex in live appearances, took out a back-cover ad in Billboard magazine urging support to AIDS organization last Christmas.

The attitude in the rock world has begun to change this year.

Last month in Australia, INXS headlined a “Concert for Life” in Sydney that attracted 100,000 people and raised more than $1.5 million, according to early estimates. It was the continent’s biggest rock concert, local papers said. Funds will benefit the Victor Chang Cardiac Research Centre and the AIDS Patients Services and Research Centre at Sydney’s St. Vincent’s Hospital.

A smaller show this month in Hollywood featuring the Red Hot Chili Peppers, Fishbone and the Beastie Boys benefited local AIDS groups.

The rock group Rush quietly donated a large check to AIDS organizations earlier this year.

Record mogul David Geffen, who includes both Guns N’ Roses and Nirvana in his stable of labels last month contributed $1 million to AIDS Project Los Angeles, listed as the largest individual donation ever to an AIDS service organization.

Proceeds from U2’s current single, “One,” are also going to AIDS research.

Still, many artists remain quiet about the specter of AIDS and rock’s response. A story in the current issue of Rolling Stone says such hard rockers as David Lee Roth, Poison’s Brett Michaels, Aerosmith’s Steven Tyler and Guns N’ Roses’ Slash “did not want to be part of an AIDS-related article.”

Even activists such as Elton John and Madonna did not wish to be interviewed for the Rolling Stone story, instead letting their publicists comment on their behalf.

But all that may change, beginning today in the name of Freddie Mercury.

***

Want to tune in?

Highlights from “A Concert for Life,” held today at London’s Wembly Stadium, will be presented in a two-hour show tonight on Fox (locally WTIC, Channel 61) beginning at 8.

Performers in the show, a tribute to late Queen vocalist Freddie Mercury, include David Bowie, Guns N’ Roses, Elton John, Metallica, George Michael, Roger Daltry, Def Leppard, Extreme, Ian Hunter, Annie Lennox, Robert Plant, Seal, Spinal Tap, Lisa Stansfield, Paul Young, U2 (in a satellite hookup from Sacramento, Calif.) and the three surviving members of Queen: John Deacon, Brian May and Roger Taylor.

MTV will broadcast a half-hour behind-the-scenes report on the concert at 7:30 tonight.

MTV will also broadcast four hours of “A Concert for Life” Saturday from noon to 4 p.m. as part of “Strike Back Saturday,” a day dedicated to raising awareness and money for AIDS research.

The half-hour pre-show will also be re-broadcast at 11:30 a.m. and a one-hour retrospective on Queen, hosted by Guns N’ Roses’ Axl Rose, will be broadcast at 6:30 p.m.

Fox and MTV will donate all profits from the broadcasts to national AIDS charities and local AIDS hospices.

— Roger Catlin
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