Queen's Hot Space-era is definitely one of their more intriguing. Here was a band that by the early '80s, was at the top of the rock heap, both commercially and artistically. But two years earlier, the group decided to join the ever-growing list of rock acts that dabbled in disco (the Rolling Stones, Kiss, Rod Stewart, etc.), and scored one of the biggest hits of their career, "Another One Bites the Dust." So for their next album, Queen decided to focus more extensively on dance music. Bad move. You probably couldn't have picked a worse time to be a rock band with a sudden disco fascination than in 1982, when the lines were clearly drawn in the sand between rockers (who loved to display that 'Disco Sucks' on car bumpers and t-shirts) and dancers. But that's what Queen did, resulting in their poorest selling album in ages, which basically buried them in America -- until their Wayne's World resurrection ten years later. But it's not to say that the supporting tour for Hot Space was a dud. Instead of playing a healthy amount of selections from their latest, they kept it to just a handful of selections, as evidenced by the 2004 double-disc DVD, Queen on Fire: Live at the Bowl ('the Bowl' in question being the enormous outdoor venue in England, Milton Keynes Bowl). Despite issuing not one of their best albums, British fans still flocked to see 'em, and the band was still a fantastic live act. As with most live Queen videos, it doesn't take long to realize that Freddie Mercury was one of the best on-stage frontmen and singers in all of rock -- it must've taken an awful lot of work and talent to keep such a large audience engaged for an hour-and-a-half -- not to mention the fact that Freddie's voice sounds as strong (if not better) than it did in the studio. Kicking things off with one of their more uncommon show-starting selections (a one-two punch of two tracks from the Flash Gordon soundtrack -- "Flash's Theme" and "The Hero"), what follows is a great, high-energy performance. While the expected favorites are included -- "Bohemian Rhapsody," "Somebody to Love," "Crazy Little Thing Called Love" -- longtime fans will be curious to hear what the Hot Space material sounds like live "("Under Pressure"" would be the only Hot Space-era song to be performed on future tours). Surprisingly, these uncommon selections ("Action This Day," "Staying Power," and "Backchat") sound much better live than on their more restrained album versions. Another highlight is "Fat Bottomed Girls" -- although a sizeable hit, it was performed on only a few tours (perhaps due to its demanding three-part harmonies, which the group pulls off quite well). The second disc is comprised of several rarely seen interviews (including one with a very 'serious' Freddie), as well as highlights from other shows on the tour -- which include another rarely performed Hot Space track, "Put Out the Fire." Also featured is a photo gallery which, much to the dismay of fans, includes the audio, but not video, of another Hot Space selection, "Calling All Girls" (nowhere to be seen is a rendition of "Body Language," which was a U.S. hit, and indeed performed throughout their ensuing stateside tour). But this complaint is a small one -- Queen on Fire: Live at the Bowl is by far the best Queen DVD to be released yet.
AllMusic Review by Greg Prato
Track Listing - Disc 1