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Revisiting Queen’s First Concert Album, ‘Live Killers’

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Queen had long been known for their out-sized stadium rock shows — a reputation that opened the door for a double-platinum triumph in June 1979 with the release of their double LP, Live Killers. The only surprise was that it took so long — nearly a decade and seven full studio albums in — for the British pomp rockers to issue this kind of official document.

This delay only increased fan interest in Live Killers, a comprehensive traipse across Queen’s career to date. The album was bookended by “We Will Rock You,” first in the form of a charged-up opening update and then one taken at a pace more in keeping with original album version. The closing version, as on 1977’s News of the World, is smartly paired with “We Are the Champions.” A mandatory exclamation of “God Save the Queen” then brought the proceedings to a climax, nearly two hours later.

In between, Freddie Mercury, Brian May, John Deacon and Roger Taylor crammed in as many frantically performed classics as they possibly could, including favorites like “Killer Queen,” “Bicycle Race” and “Bohemian Rhapsody,”  which was introduced by a snippet from “Mustapha”’ Elsewhere, moments of required listening like “I’m in Love With My Car,” “You’re My Best Friend” and “Keep Yourself Alive” found a home next to beloved deep cuts including “Death on Two Legs,” “Get Down Make Love,” “39” and “Tie Your Mother Down.”

As if all this weren’t enough, Live Killers also boasted a show-stopping metal romp through “Now I’m Here,” an arguably definitive duet arrangement for “Love of My Life,” and an absolutely epic, 12-minute rendition of May’s solo showcase “Brighton Rock.” It’s all glued together with Mercury’s rousing audience participation activities and ever-saucy repartee.

Live Killers was everything a Queen fan could ask for, the perfect memento from their breathless classic-era concerts — whether you got to see them in the flesh back then or not. Sadly, though they’ve since issued six more concert sets, none has focused on Queen’s remarkable stadium runs through the ’70s. Only 1989’s At the Beeb features music from this seminal decade — and it was recorded not on tour but in a radio studio. That makes Live Killers essential listening in any age.

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