Remembering Queen’s beautiful but ‘forgotten’ Live Aid performance

20 January 2023, 20:12

Because of their legendary exploits, Queen's later performance at Live Aid is largely forgotten.
Because of their legendary exploits, Queen's later performance at Live Aid is largely forgotten. Picture: Sony/BMI

By Thomas Curtis-Horsfall

It was the performance that defined the decade.

It can't be overstated how Queen's 20-minute set at Live Aid in 1985 was one of the best live performances ever.

Rami Malek's Academy Award-winning portrayal of Freddie Mercury in the biopic Bohemian Rhapsody brought the epic show back into the spotlight in 2018.

But even before then music lovers all around the world would refer to Queen's short set as one of the best of all time.

After a period of instability and in-fighting within the band, the rock legends came out on a global stage and proved themselves to be one of the greatest band's the genre has ever created.

When we think of Live Aid, Queen's epic performance always springs to mind first. (Photo by Phil Dent/Redferns)
When we think of Live Aid, Queen's epic performance always springs to mind first. (Photo by Phil Dent/Redferns). Picture: Getty

Everybody in attendance (and no doubt around the world) at Wembley Stadium on 13th July 1985 knew they'd witnessed history in the making.

So that's very much likely why Queen's afternoon set is often the first thing that springs to mind when anybody mentions Live Aid.

The image of Freddie triumphantly punching the sky has since become iconic, and has etched itself into the minds of millions around the globe, whether or not they're fans of Queen.

Though only hours after, Freddie returned to the stage alongside Brian May for a beautiful, impromptu song that is now largely forgotten.

Queen very much stole the show at Live Aid. (Photo by FG/Bauer-Griffin/Getty Images)
Queen very much stole the show at Live Aid. (Photo by FG/Bauer-Griffin/Getty Images). Picture: Getty

Claiming to be the loudest act on the day (having supposedly turned the sound system up a notch during their set), Freddie and Brian returned to the stage later that evening in a very different manner.

Queen battered the Wembley audience's eardrums with epic renditions of 'Bohemian Rhapsody', 'Hammer To Fall', 'Radio Ga Ga', 'Crazy Little Thing Called Love', 'We Will Rock You', and 'We Are The Champions' when they first appeared at 18:42 that evening.

Three hours later it was a completely different story however, as they stripped back the bombast and showmanship for an incredibly beautiful performance.

Having seen footage of the pain and suffering caused by the Ethiopian famine, Freddie and Brian had been inspired to write a song in dedication to those who endured it.

Before the event, they spoke to Live Aid creator Bob Geldof about the prospect of contributing an original song to the cause.

So at 21:48 the pair returned to the stage, accompanied by just Brian's guitar, and brought 89,484 people to tears.

The Queen frontman and guitarist performed the gorgeous song 'Is This The World We Created?', written by Freddie and Brian in Munich.

It was a beautifully introspective moment in amongst all of the rock and pop anthems performed by the likes of David Bowie, U2, Phil Collins, Paul McCartney, Status Quo, and Sting on the day.

On the recent anniversary of Freddie Mercury's death when fans were sharing their favourite memories of the rock icon, Brian May also chipped in.

He reposted the video of this Live Aid moment alongside the comment: "This is the part of our performance at LIVE AID you don’t so often see."

And it's totally true - but who can blame people when their earlier set is widely considered the greatest of all time?

In every Queen concert after Live Aid, Freddie and Brian would relive this performance with their adoring fans. 'Is This The World We Created?' also closed out 1984 album The Works.

Though this heartfelt performance is often forgotten, it doesn't mean it's any less impactful than their legendary set earlier that evening.