This is the opening night of the A Day At The Races tour, kicking off what would end up being Queen’s busiest single year of touring – a total of 85 shows over six months on the road, while recording and releasing another album in between. They started playing some of the bigger arenas on this tour. This was the beginning of an album / world tour cycle that would go without reprieve for another five years. For now the band would revel in it.
Seven of the album’s ten tracks would be heard live on stage. Somebody To Love, The Millionaire Waltz, and White Man are most likely performed tonight for the first time. Tie Your Mother Down and You Take My Breath Away were already performed last September. Good Old Fashioned Lover Boy would be added to the set by May, and Teo Torriatte would be performed in Japan starting in 1979. Long Away was rehearsed before this tour (as confirmed by Brian in an interview later in the month), but it was never played live.
The band initially thought Somebody To Love would be difficult to perform live, with the absence of the dozens of voices on the record. In a March 1977 interview, Roger Taylor stated, “Somebody To Love was hard to do because there are so many voices on the record that I didn’t know if we’d be able to do it. I enjoy playing it now, but when we first started the tour, we were dreading it when it came round in the set.”
After the lights go dim, a tape of the A Day At The Races overture is played. As the “Shepard tone” section of the overture plays (or the “audio equivalent of M.C. Escher’s famous never-ending staircase picture” as Brian later called it), the band would get nervous, as Brian would later recall, as the growing intensity of the music signaled that the beginning of the show was imminent. In the dark, the curly-haired guitarist would play the Tie Your Mother Down riff as heard on the album. After 4 bars, the drums and bass make their big entry, as does the lighting. Brian keeps a slide in his guitar strap so he can pull it out in time for the latter half of the guitar solo, as seen on many videos of the song being played over the years.
The Millionaire Waltz would never be performed in full, always part of the medley. Although less than 5 minutes long on record, it is a suite in itself. But live, it is somewhat stripped down. The first verse leads into the heavy section, and just before the orchestra section is expected to kick in, pianist Freddie leads the band into You’re My Best Friend.
The Prophet’s Song is now only a segment of the song. After White Man it begins with a Freddie vocal solo (not only with the delay as on the previous tour, but with electronic effects and a harmonizer, creating nine voices in all), after which the band play the last couple minutes of the A Night At The Opera epic.
Bohemian Rhapsody is now performed more like the record version. The intro is skipped, and the song begins with Freddie playing the main theme on the piano before singing the first verse. The band leave the stage after the guitar solo, change their clothes during the opera section (which plays back on tape along with a light show, as their way of earnestly stating that they are unable to perform it live), and return to the stage for the hard rock section and finale. It would be played like this at every show (minus Live Aid) through 1986, with one small exception: Unlike 1975-’76, Freddie doesn’t sing the “I see a little silhouetto of a man” line, nor is it heard on the tape used at the shows, making the piano the only thing heard at that moment. It would be like this until part way through the North American ‘Jazz’ tour.
The end of the show remains the same. Liar and In The Lap Of The Gods…Revisited still end the set proper, with Now I’m Here always as the first encore number, and the Jailhouse Rock medley following on most nights.
A review attached is from the next day’s Milwaukee Sentinel
There is a write-up from the February 4 Milwaukee Journal isn’t really a review, but it does mention this concert. Which is added after the review.
The first two photos seen above were taken by Brian’s guitar tech Brian Spencer during rehearsals in Boston (they were there from January 4 to 10).