Live, they said. pity the poor consumer who has to spend eight or nine dollars before he or she can read the self-congratulatory liner notes inside Queen’s Live Killers and discover that the better part of “Bohemian Rhapsody” isn’t live at all.
Because Queen is, according to the liner notes, “fiercely opposed to playing with any kind of backing tape” in concert, most of the band’s hit operetta — particularly lead singer Freddie Mercury’s one-man choral climax — is reproduced onstage simply by blasting the album version over the PA system while the musicians leave. The group flatters itself if it thinks this solves the problem in “typically uncompromising Queen manner.” Fans deserve fair warning on the cover.
Anyone who already owns a substantial Queen collection will find Live Killers a redundant exercise anyway. Half of the double-LP’s twenty-two tracks come from Night at the Opera and News of the World, and four more were on last year’s Jazz. There are also two versions of their Aryan command, “We Will Rock You.”
Of what’s left, the tumultuous “Brighton Rock” is bogged down by Roger Taylor’s overlong kettledrum solo and Brian May’s tedious technical display of how to play three-part-harmony guitar with a double echo. “Killer Queen” and “You’re My Best Friend,” two classy examples of the band’s arty pomposity tempered by commercial savvy, are hastily performed as part of a disjointed medley that also includes a ponderous “Get Down Make Love” and Taylor’s unconvincing “I’m in Love with My Car.”
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If Live Killers serves any purpose at all, it’s to show that, stripped of their dazzling studio sound and Freddie Mercury’s shimmering vocal harmonies, Queen is just another ersatz Led Zeppelin, combining cheap classical parody with heavy-metal bollocks. Using a recorded version of “Bohemian Rhapsody” in their show may actually be Queen’s “typically uncompromising” way of taking care of business.