Freddie Mercury's death 25 years on: Can you remember his last Queen concert in the North East?

It was arguably the best performance by a frontman at St James's Park all year.

By The Newsroom
Wednesday, 23rd November 2016, 11:59 am
Updated Tuesday, 29th November 2016, 9:27 am
Freddie Mercury pictured in 1985. Picture: Press Association.
Freddie Mercury pictured in 1985. Picture: Press Association.

Mind, considering Newcastle’s centre forward at the time was the bruising Billy Whitehurst, that wasn’t saying much.

And the only reason it was the best performance for just a year was because American singer Bruce Springsteen had played the same venue 12 months earlier.

British rock group Queen (from left) Brian May, Roger Taylor , Freddie Mercury and John Deacon .

The date was Wednesday, July 9, 1986, and the occasion was the last appearance in the North East by rockers Queen with singing showman Freddie Mercury.

Just over five years later – and 25 years ago on November 24 – Mercury would die at the age of 45 from bronchial pneumonia triggered by AIDS.

Back in 1986, the Newcastle concert was eagerly awaited following an upsurge in the band’s popularity after their performance at the Wembley Live Aid concert 12 months earlier.

While U2 singer Bono might disagree, Mercury, gyrating provocatively with his mic and effortlessly coaxing the 72,000 crowd into mimicking his every gesture, stole the show.

A ticket for the 1986 concert.

Nor did they disappoint at a packed St James’s Park.

With the internet and online booking still to be invented, queues of people had snaked through Newcastle city centre streets when tickets went on sale at the City Hall months earlier.

Such was Freddie’s fame that even Status Quo had been recruited as one of music’s more illustrious support acts.

Oh and some up and coming Aussie band INXS were third on the bill.

British rock group Queen (from left) Brian May, Roger Taylor , Freddie Mercury and John Deacon .

As it turned out, Michael Hutchence and co didn’t appear as their equipment was caught up in traffic delays further south.

With no allocated seating, his absence did not prevent thousands of spectators from piling into the ground as soon as the gates opened at 3pm.

By the time Queen appeared around 8.30pm, the sell-out audience were putty in Freddie’s palms.

Seven Seas of Rhye, We Will Rock You, Crazy Little Thing Called Love, We Are The Champions. Name the hit, it was sung.

A ticket for the 1986 concert.

As for that tricky high-pitched “Galileo” maneouvre in Bohemian Rhapsody, the band simply left the stage, let the studio version do the hard work before returning in time for guitarist Brian May’s solo crescendo.

Armed with crown, gown and coronet, it was soon time for Mercury to bid farewell after a resounding version of God Save the Queen.

With his departure, the regular series of summer rock concerts at St James’s Park also ended.

Queen and Springsteen had been preceded in 1982 by the Rolling Stones and in 1984 by Bob Dylan.

Twelve months later David Bowie was due to appear in Toon until work on the club’s new Milburn Stand was delayed.

The 1987 performance was eventually switched to Sunderland’s Roker Park with the Black Cats’s Stadium of Light now the established home of big-name concerts in the region.

David Bowie, one of many famous music names to leave us in 2016, in Sunderland? How did that one begin again? Ask someone older if you don’t know what his first words to the crowd were.

PS: Don’t tell Billy Whitehurst I’ve cracked a poor joke at his expense. There’s a slim chance we could meet soon and fat chance that I’d come off best.