From Cornwall gig to Freddie Mercury's last
Alexandra Pollard

12:11 27th June 2014

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44 years ago today (27 June) a little known band, Smile, performed their first ever gig with their new frontman Freddie Bulsara. Soon after, they went from Smile to Queen, Bulsara became Mercury, and the rest is history.

To celebrate the inception of one of the most iconic rock bands in history, we've charted Queen's career through six of their seminal live performances. Many of the band's songs, including 'We Will Rock You', were written with audience participation in mind, and to see Queen live was to see something truly unforgettable. 

44 years later, even if you have to watch them through grainy, muffled YouTube footage because you were -22 when they started out, Queen's live shows are still nothing short of iconic. 


  • Cornwall, 1970: Smile, featuring brand new lead singer Freddie Bulsara, performed at Truro City Hall in Cornwall. Smile would later become Queen, and Freddie Bulsara, of course, Freddie Mercury.

  • Hyde Park, 1976: Just six years after their debut gig, Queen cemented their star status with a free concert in Hyde Park. 150,000 people turned up - an attendance record. Mercury chose his white boiler suit so that he would stand out even to those at the back.

  • Sao Paulo, 1981: The band performed two concerts at Morumbi Stadium in Brazil's Sao Paolo. The first night was attended by 131,000 people, breaking the record for largest paying audience for a single band anywhere in the world.

  • Live Aid, 1981: Broadcast live to 1.9 billion people, Live Aid was an ensemble effort, but it's a truth universally acknowledged that Queen stole the show. Their performance was named the world's greatest rock gig in an industry poll, and essentially invented hand clapping. Brian May said he had "never seen anything like that in my life" when the 75,000 strong crowd began clapping along, unprompted, to 'Radio Ga Ga'. Video footage of the strangely moving phenomenon has racked up over 3 million views.

  • Wembley, 1986: As part of the tour to promote new album A Kind Of Magic, Queen performed two nights at Wembley Stadium. The show was recorded and released on CD, eventually going 5x Platinum in the US and 4x Platinum in the UK.

  • Knebworth Park, 1986: After failing to book Wembley for a third night during the same tour, Queen instead opted to play at Knebworth Park. The show sold out in 2 hours, and the crowd was made up of around 120,000 fans. Freddie Mercury was diagnosed with AIDS the following year, and died in 1991. Knebworth Park was his last live performance.

Grab your copy of the Gigwise print magazine here.

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