New episodes of the mini-documentary, which are released every Friday at 12:00pm GMT, follow up on the 50 episodes of Queen The Greatest, which charted the band’s half-century history. This time, the focus is on how Freddie Mercury, Brian May, Roger Taylor and John Deacon have become one of the greatest live acts in rock music history. In new interviews in the first episode, the guitarist and drummer revealed their rehearsal secrets, which continue on their tours with Adam Lambert to this day. Check out the video below, which features the late Queen singer in rare soundcheck footage singing Tie Your Mother Down and more.
The two active members of Queen have made it clear that the rehearsal and soundcheck process is vital to their live performance being perfect.
Brian May said: “Rehearsing before the tour is always a bit surprising because you don’t know how much you’re going to remember and you don’t know if you’ll still feel the same way. But it’s amazing how things flow back to you, to your veins once you start kicking them.”
Roger Taylor shared: “Usually we play a song and see if it works, if we think it will work live, and they don’t always work live. Some of them are simply not suitable for an exciting or enveloping performance, a live performance. So there are probably quite a few songs that we’ve never played live that have been on albums and probably for good reason.”
Brian May continued: “We’ll try a lot of things and very often we’re like, ‘Oh well, we did this last time. Well, maybe we’ll do that,’ and he puts together a rough set very quickly. It is about many things. It’s also about watching the sound and making sure everything is in place for the people in front. It’s about looking at the monitoring system, making sure we can hear each other like I can hear Rog, he can hear me, etc., etc.
“It’s also about the lights, the whole production. So you have a lot to do in that rehearsal period. And it’s easy for things, I suppose, to be left unfinished. So you know you’re going to tour the first night and it’s not over. There will be work in progress, but that is the nature of the game. You can’t be perfect. You can’t touch the perfect ground. You hit the ground, okay? And you evolve to the place where you hopefully want to be. So when you get to the end of the tour, you’re really good.
“Sound checking is the real baseline kind of touring, really. If you don’t soundcheck while you’re in the process of touring, you’re static and you’re kind of dead. That is my feeling. I know it’s also Roger’s feeling.”
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Roger continued: “We just wouldn’t be happy unless we felt like we knew exactly where everything was – setting up the sound, even if we’re doing multiple nights in one place. You want to go the next day and make sure everything sounds good. It is well tuned. Everything is fine… And there may be something you were not happy with the night before. You want to correct it, you know. And then we might change a song, and then we’d rehearse a new song to put it on and try things out, really. But I think Brian and I are certainly not content with just turning cold. We like to know that all is well and hopefully nothing will go wrong.
“The sound check. Normally at 4 o’clock, I go first knowing that Brian is going to take a long time, so I can do mine pretty quickly. And then I’ll leave the stage and the other guys will be there, rhythm, bass, keyboards and they’ll be going over things, technically, harmonies, things like that. And then Brian will come along to get the sound from him and then we’ll come together as a unit and play together. Yes, this is how it normally works. Yes.”
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Added Brian May: “We call it sound checking, but part of it is sound checking and it’s always necessary, but the rest is just testing things, even if it’s just a few bars. Like ‘What happened last night? Oh that happened. What if we do this? And gradually, gradually you evolved the show, finding little parts that didn’t work as well as they could. Maybe they could be improved. ‘Oh, let’s try it. We haven’t tried this song in years. Maybe we’ll try this? And if it does well on soundcheck, you play it the next night.
“But it can be all kinds of little, little, little, little things. Like ‘if I do this, you know, you usually do the thing that conflicts, you know, then maybe we… Oh yeah, okay, I’ll do this.’ And you adjust those little things that, that improve. They call it Kaizen in Japan and you improve little things along the way and suddenly everything shows improvement. And that’s why the show is so good, I think. I mean, I hope it’s good. People say it’s good.”
Next week’s Queen The Greatest Live is titled Rehearsals – Part 2: Preparing for the greatest show of all time.
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