DVD Review: Queen – A Night At The Odeon, Live At Hammersmith '75

DVD Review: Queen – A Night At The Odeon, Live At Hammersmith '75
Eagle Rock Entertainment
All Access Rating: A

Queen - A Night At The Odeon,
Live At Hammersmith '75 2015
Fog machines on full blast, the stage at the grand old Hammersmith Odeon was immersed in clouds of billowing smoke. Colorful lights circled about, as Queen strutted and preened through the bombastic epic "In the Lap of the Gods ... Revisited" like luminous peacocks in satin suits.

And when they were done, blue balloons and festive streamers fell from the rafters on an ecstatic audience begging for more. Even the toy sex doll seen surfing the crowd seemed to want an encore. And she got one.

Far from spent, on Christmas Eve in 1975, Queen – riding high on the chart-topping success of "Bohemian Rhapsody," celebrating its 40th anniversary this year – re-emerged, vamping through their take on "Big Spender" and then careening into a raw, raucous medley of old-time rock 'n' roll covers based around Elvis Presley's "Jailhouse Rock." A heady celebration, indeed, this performance, filmed beautifully for the U.K. TV show "The Old Grey Whistle Test," was as memorable and glorious as any for Queen, and it has now been released by Eagle Rock Entertainment in various formats as "A Night At The Odeon, Live At Hammersmith '75."

Along with a full CD, DVD and Blu-ray package complete with a never-before-seen "second encore" of "Seven Seas of Rhye" and "See What A Fool I've Been," there are separate DVD and Blu-ray versions with other bonus material. Guitarist Brian May and drummer Roger Taylor reminisce about being broke and riddled with self-doubt, how wonderful the night in question was and what made this particular period in Queen history so transformative, when the album A Night At The Opera was soaring in popularity, with "Old Grey Whistle Test" presenter Bob Harris in a nostalgic and revealing 22-minute documentary. That's included with rare and rather dodgy, but still vital, footage of Queen on their much-ballyhooed 1975 tour of the Far East playing "Now I'm Here," "Killer Queen" and "In the Lap of the Gods ... Revisited" in the release's "Live at Budokan" segment.

In stark contrast, the vintage video imagery of the triumphant Hammersmith Odeon gig is sumptuous, capturing with superb camera work all the bluster, theatricality and assured brilliance of a band on fire. May's harmonic, echo-laden solo turn during "Brighton Rock" is truly mesmerizing and that great tone of his bites your ear lobe throughout, while Taylor's drumming is controlled fury and John Deacon's bass work becomes the elastic glue that holds it all together. Not surprisingly, though, it's Freddie Mercury who steals the show, his voice so pure and his expression fierce and unabashedly dramatic, while his piano playing displays both an incredibly deft touch and an ability to pound keys into submission when so moved.

Honest-to-God hits are hard to come by in an interesting set list that reflects Queen's position then as relative up-and-comers, but small portions of the lively, bouncing romp "Killer Queen" and the ominously powerful "The March of the Black Queen" are bookended by the lovely intro and outro of "Bohemian Rhapsody." Just for kicks, they tack on a vaudevillian bit of "Bring Back That Leroy Brown" to the back end of this neat and tidy little medley that is entertaining. For openers, Queen charges right into an uplifting, soaring "Now I'm Here" and follows by staging a cinematic, expansive "Orge Battle," before tenderly treating "White Queen (As It Began)" like the elegant maiden she is and getting swept up in the dizzying frenzy of "Keep Yourself Alive" and "Liar."

Here is a young, hungry Queen feeling its oats, buoyed by its recent success and eager to show off its exquisite song craft, dazzling chops and the audacious showmanship of Mercury. What a night it was.
– Peter Lindblad

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