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Released as a companion piece to the recent CD, Return of the Champions is the first Queen and Paul Rodgers in concert DVD. Now Queen concerts are legendary, but two members are no longer present. John Deacon has retired and Freddie Mercury passed away some years back. Will the unforgettable memory of Mercury spoil the excitement and experience?

Queen + Paul Rodgers: Return of the Champions

Film


Filmed on an eighteen camera shoot by the multi award winning director David Mallet, Return of the Champions is Queen but not as we know/knew them. There’s no John Deacon, who has entered retirement, and obviously there’s no Freddie Mercury. Taking vocal duties (for most of the set anyway) is Paul Rodgers from the band Free. For me this wasn’t an obvious choice, his voice is deeper than Freddie’s and I doubted his style would work with the Queen back catalogue. Freddie was a showman, a seemingly irreplaceable front man with huge presence, Rodgers is a great singer but would he be able to fill the huge void left by Mercury?

Any doubts that I had about whether Rodgers could handle the Mercury vocal parts were dispelled within the first few minutes as the band took the stage and held the audience in the palms of their hands and I was swept along with the excitement as well. A stonking version of Tie Your Mother Down gets the crowd on their feet and they stay there for the full set. Paul Rodgers’ voice is in fine form, rich in experience and tone. The concert gives Queen the chance to perform some songs live for the very first time such as The Show Must Go On and These Are the Days of Our Lives, one of the most beautiful songs they recorded.

Queen + Paul Rodgers: Return of the Champions
There’s also the rare chance to hear Say It’s Not True, a track specially written to help highlight the message behind Nelson Mandela’s 46664 Aids campaign which was launched by Brian May, Roger Taylor and Eurythmic’s Dave Stewart in 2003. It’s a simple, acoustic piece, which is beautifully sung by Taylor.

The concert also reminds us of Paul Rodgers back catalogue and so the crowd lap up Feel Like Making Love, Wishing Well and the true classic All Right Now. This guy has been in the background for far too long and his powerful voice has never sounded better.

Special mention should go to the performance of Freddie’s torch song Love of My Life, a track which still resonates with a large heart and is always a beautiful track, no matter who sings it. A tearjerker and a special moment for all Queen fans, one of the best audience participation songs ever written. Brian May’s acoustic performance of Hammer to Fall is also another standout track, this rock classic has never sounded as good as this. There is a nice surprise for Freddie fans but I won’t spoil it for you.

Queen + Paul Rodgers: Return of the Champions
There’s no fancy camera work here or over dubs to be heard, this is a rock concert with heart, feeling and an incredible amount of emotion. The audience (as well as the viewer) get caught up in this fantastic event, which strengthens Queen’s legendary live reputation.

Video


The DVD boasts an immaculate transfer, which copes with everything that is thrown at it. From the constant use of the fog machine to the many crowd sequences, the disc handles everything and there’s never any sign of blocking or pixilaltion. It’s of the high standard that all the other Queen releases have enjoyed. The solid colours are as warm as they can be and never blur around the edges. It would have been better (personally speaking) if it had been shot on film, but hey this captures the concert marvellously.

Queen + Paul Rodgers: Return of the Champions

Audio


As with most Queen releases the soundtrack here is in Stereo and DTS versions. Both are cracking mixes containing huge amounts of deep bass. Where the stereo falls down is in capturing the audience participation moments, they are lost in this mix. The DTS track though puts you bang in the middle of the concert and is a faultless mix utilising the rears to reproduce the concert experience almost faultlessly. The drum and guitar work is clear with plenty of depth and should have the neighbours banging on the walls! Few concert DVD’s capture the Stadium ambiance but this one does it to a real high standard.

Extras


The only disappointment on this disc is the lack of extras. Usually Queen DVD releases have a good selection but here we get only two. The first is ‘Jukebox’ which allows us to choose five tracks of out choice to listen in the order we want to. Now this is not really an extra in my book and just for people who hate using their remotes. The other extra is a track taken from Queen’s Hyde Park show which was given to support London’s emergency services in the aftermath of the recent bombings. Queen + Paul Rodgers cover the John Lennon classic Imagine and it’s a strong piece and well worth hearing but even so this is a poor collection of extras.

Queen + Paul Rodgers: Return of the Champions

Overall


Return of the Champions is a cracking yet emotional experience, Freddie will never be replaced and Rodgers doesn’t attempt to replicate anything that he used to do on stage. This is the concerts strongest asset and hopefully will lead the group to record some new material, fingers crossed. Turn your sub up to eleven for this one.


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