Freddie Mercury Tribute Concert: A Historic Send Off

November 7, 2018

PA Images/Sipa USA

Categories: 

In April of '92, the Freddie Mercury Tribute Concert was held in honor of the late rock star, just under five months after his passing. The show, which also served as a benefit concert, took place at Wembley Stadium -- the same place where Mercury took the stage with Queen during Live Aid just seven years prior -- in front of an audience of 72,000. Those 72,000 tickets sold out in just three hours, way before buyers even knew which artists performing. Similar to Live Aid, the concert was broadcasted live on television and radio stations all around the world, increasing the audience number to over one billion.

Related: Freddie Mercury's Final Music Video

Those unidentified artists that fans purchased tickets to be ended up being a mix of Mercury's closest friends and those he had inspired. The concert's bill would soon include names like David Bowie, George Michael, Elton John, Guns N' Roses and so many more.

As the tens of thousands of fans filtered inside Wembley on the evening of the 20th, the Monday following Easter, there is no doubt the energy flowing through the crowd was bittersweet. The show opened with a message from Queen's remaining members, Brian May, Roger Taylor and John Deacon. May was quoted to say,"Good evening Wembley and the world. We are here tonight to celebrate the life, and work, and dreams of one Freddie Mercury. We're gonna give him the biggest send off in history!" 

And the biggest send off in history, they did. To this day, more than 25 years later, the show remains the largest concert held in tribute to a deceased musician.

The first half of the show included performances from musicians that were influenced by Mercury and Queen's extensive discography. The set, which seemed more like an ultimate rock concert, was as follows: 

  • Metallica – Enter Sandman, Sad but True, Nothing Else Matters
  • Extreme – Love of My Life, More Than Words
  • Def Leppard – Animal, Let's Get Rocked, Now I'm Here
  • Bob Geldof – Too Late God
  • Spinal Tap – The Majesty of Rock
  • U2 – Until the End of the World (played via satellite from California)
  • Guns N' Roses – Paradise City, Only Women Bleed, Knockin' on Heaven's Door
  • Mango Groove – Special Star (played via satellite from South Africa)
  • Freddie Mercury – compilation of various interactions with the audience

Liz Taylor was also in attendance to give the audience an AIDS prevention speech in between songs.

The second half of the concert turned to be way more emotional than anticipated, if that were even possible. The performances by guest stars all featured May, Taylor and Deacon. The set looked something like this:

  • Joe Elliott & Slash + Queen – Tie Your Mother Down
  • Roger Daltrey & Tony Iommi + Queen – Heaven and Hell, Pinball Wizard, I Want It All
  • Zucchero + Queen – Las Palabras de Amor
  • Gary Cherone & Tony Iommi + Queen – Hammer to Fall
  • James Hetfield & Tony Iommi + Queen  – Stone Cold Crazy
  • Robert Plant + Queen  – Innuendo, Thank You, Crazy Little Thing Called Love
  • Brian May + Spike Edney – Too Much Love Will Kill You
  • Paul Young + Queen – Radio Ga Ga
  • Seal + Queen – Who Wants to Live Forever
  • Lisa Stansfield + Queen – I Want to Break Free
  • David Bowie & Annie Lennox + Queen – Under Pressure
  • Ian Hunter, David Bowie, Mick Ronson, Joe Elliot & Phil Collen + Queen – All the Young Dudes
  • David Bowie & Mick Ronson + Queen – Heroes
  • George Michael + Queen – 39
  • George Michael & Lisa Stansfield + Queen These Are the Days of Our Lives
  • George Michael + Queen – Somebody to Love
  • Elton John & Axl Rose + Queen – Bohemian Rhapsody
  • Elton John & Tony Iommi + Queen – The Show Must Go On
  • Axl Rose + Queen – We Will Rock You
  • Liza Minnelli  + Queen, with support from all performers – We Are the Champions
  • Queen – God Save the Queen

After Bowie and the gang finished Heroes, he spontaneously knelt down and prayed out-loud, reciting the Lord's Prayer much to the crowd's confusion. He was quoted saying, "I felt as if I were being transported by the situation. I was so scared as I was doing it."

The profits from the concert were used to launch The Mercury Phoenix Trust, an AIDS charity organization. It also served as the last full-length concert for Deacon.

Read more about the show here.