Reviewed by Colin Jacobson (September 21, 2014)
When I visited a 2014 Blu-ray called Live at the Rainbow, it featured the band Queen in late 1974 as they stood on the cusp of super-stardom. As I mentioned in that review, 1974’s Sheer Heart Attack was a major hit in the UK and also made it to number 12 in the US, the band’s first success in the States.
Released in November 1975, A Night at the Opera vaulted Queen high in the charts in both places – and many others. An enormous success, Opera established Queen as the international megaband they’d remain.
A Night at the Odeon shows us Queen as they tour to support A Night at the Opera. Shot on Christmas Eve 1975 at London’s Hammersmith Odeon, the Blu-ray includes only one song from the then-new Opera: “Bohemian Rhapsody”.
Sheer Heart Attack provides a stronger presence, as it gives us “Killer Queen”, “Brighton Rock”, “Now I’m Here”, “In the Lap of the Gods Revisited” and “Bring Back That Leroy Brown”.
1974’s Queen II delivers “Ogre Battle”, “March of the Black Queen” and “White Queen (As It Began)”. From 1973’s Queen, we find “Keep Yourself Alive”, “Liar” and “Son and Daughter”. We also find covers of “Big Spender”, “Jailhouse Rock”, “Stupid Cupid” and “Be Bop a Lula”.
Odeon omits parts of the original 1975 concert. It drops
Queen II’s “Seven Seas of Rhye” and that single’s B-side, “See What A Fool I’ve Been”.
Apparently this occurs because of the nature of the original production. Odeon was filmed for broadcast on the BBC and only slotted for one hour, so when time was up, that was that. Audio versions of the missing songs exist but apparently there’s no video footage of them.
The biggest surprise comes from the paucity of Night at the Opera songs. I realize the album had been out only a month or so when Queen did this concert, but that wasn’t any different than it’d been a year earlier when Queen played the Rainbow. Actually, Sheer Heart Attack came out only a couple weeks before the show documented on that Blu-ray, but Queen still did seven of its songs.
So why ignore Opera at the Odeon, especially given what an enormous hit it’d already become? I have no idea, but it disappoints, as it’d be nice to get a setlist that favored songs the band couldn’t have played in 1974.
In terms of overlap, both Rainbow and Odeon share quite a few songs. In addition to “Bohemian Rhapsody”, only one unique Queen track shows up here: “Brighton Rock”. All of the other tunes previously appeared on Rainbow.
Given that Odeon and Rainbow present concerts 13 months apart with largely similar setlists, the question becomes what differences make Odeon appealing. I faced the same question when I reviewed Rolling Stones Live in Leeds 1982. That 2015 Blu-ray showed a concert from the same tour as 2014’s Hampton Coliseum and it provided a very similar setlist.
In the case of Leeds, I didn’t think there was a really compelling reason to own it if the viewer already had Hampton, and I feel largely the same about the circumstance that greets owners of Rainbow. They don’t have a really great reason to get Odeon as well.
That said, I can find a better rationale to own both Rainbow and Odeon than to buy Hampton and Leeds. As similar as the setlists may be, Odeon does provide a bit more visual pizzazz when compared to Rainbow. We get on-stage flash pots and a few other touches that add some spice.
I also think the band seems a tad more powerful in Odeon. Don’t get me wrong – they sounded very good in 1974. But the extra year on the road – and the confidence that comes with success – seems to have added to their swagger. Queen just feels more sure of themselves, and that leads to a slightly tighter performance.
As replicated on home video, Odeon continues to demonstrate a resemblance to Rainbow. Directed by Tom Corcoran, Odeon sticks with a fairly straightforward approach. It lacks the crazy editing we’d find with a more modern program, and that’s fine with me. While it doesn’t present a lot of polish, Odeon reproduces the concert in a satisfactory manner.
On its own, A Night at the Odeon works well. It shows a good band at the top of their game and gives us a solid performance. It simply loses points due to redundancy, as fans who already own Live at the Rainbow seem likely to experience a feeling of déjà vu.