Friday, January 14, 2022

Queen revisit John Deacon’s final performance on The Greatest

Queen are revisiting their final live performance with bassist John Deacon on latest episode of the band’s 50th anniversary video series The Greatest.

Inspired by Queen's ‘Made in Heaven’ album, and driven by the desire to shine a light on the AIDS pandemic and the tragedy of the people who died too young because of it, the internationally renowned choreographer, Maurice Béjart, approached Queen with an extraordinary vision for a new ballet which would draw its inspiration from the lives of Freddie Mercury and Béjart’s former principal dance Jorge Donn, both lost to AIDS.

“I met Maurice Béjart at the unveiling of the (Montreux) statue to Freddie,” recalls Roger Taylor. “He was an entrancing man and his steely blue eyes lit up and he would carry you along with his enthusiasm. We were delighted that somebody wanted to do something so creative with the music. So you know, why not?”

With Queen's extensive and eclectic catalogue of music to choose from, Béjart began to create a ballet that interpreted some of the band's most iconic songs in completely new ways; he also added some music from Mozart into the mix, and as the ballet took shape, he then turned to Gianni Versace to design the costumes.

The January 1997 premiere at the Théâtre de Challot in Paris included a performance by Queen joined by Elton John that would prove to be another milestone in the band's history.

“The first proper public show was due to be in Paris, and we talked about being there and we said we'd like to be there,” explains Brian May. “We thought ‘oh dear’, because it's a strange thing for us to do, firstly, we haven't played for God knows how long. We don't have a singer. It's one song and you have to get a whole production for one song, one performance. And then this message came from Elton saying, ‘Let's play’.”

“And that was John (Deacon)'s last ever performance,” adds Taylor, “and I could tell he wasn't happy because he was sort of chain-smoking and very, very nervous and had been severely traumatized by losing Freddie.”

Brian May: “Deacy, our dear friend John, I think he didn't arrive at the same places as we did. And John is there, but John is really so desperately uncomfortable with the whole thing. You can see him kind of his whole body is sort of reacting against it. And at the end of it, he says, I can never do this again. I can't do this. And it was true, that’s the last time he ever played with us, John, in public.”

The Ballet For Life was a key part of the Queen story, and 25 years later is still very much alive and continuing to tour, entertain, and enthrall audiences around the world.

“It did something very big for us,” says May. “It changed the way we felt about the continuing life of Queen music in the world, and I'm very happy, very proud of that moment in time when Queen Music and Mozart and Maurice Béjart came together in one place.”

See also:

Queen revisit Made In Heaven on The Greatest
Queen revisit The Freddie Mercury Tribute Concert on The Greatest
Queen spotlight Roger Taylor drum solos on 50th anniversary series
Queen explore Brian May live guitar solo on 50th anniversary series
Search Queen at hennemusic