July 5, 1986, Queen performed an open air concert at Slane Castle, Slane, County Meath, Ireland ‘Magic Tour’
Nearly 100,000 people poured onto the grounds (and plenty without tickets) starting when the gates opened at 9am – a full nine hours before Queen were due to appear, and four hours even before the first supporting group was due on stage. Some brave souls came up the River Boyne in canoes, trying to get in the back way! With plenty of people admitting themselves into the show like this, it’s impossible to calculate an accurate attendance for the gig. But the paid attendence of 92,000 was the largest for a show in Slane to date; even bigger than Bruce Springsteen’s concert the previous year.
By all accounts it was a raucous affair – around 70 people were arrested when fans broke through a barrier in a bid to get backstage. A total of 600 security guards and 1,000 Gardaí were on duty at the concert to quell trouble.
A fan recalls there wasn’t much atmosphere to begin with because the show began and ended in daylight, due to a lack of lighting on the Slane site. Plenty of people in the audience got drunk and, combined with the steady rainfall, it led to some problems all afternoon. It began with various objects being thrown at the opening acts. Suzanna Hoffs of The Bangles said at one point, “We’re sorry you’re getting wet. We are too, but at least you can’t get electrocuted!”
Sam Coates (photographer) was in the audience and recalls, “One thing I clearly remember was a guy getting on stage and running at Freddie. Freddie very cool; he put his arm around him and walked him down the steps and led him to the security staff who escorted him off-stage.” Around this point he tapped a security guy on the shoulder and told him, “This is your job.”
Queen’s set was recorded by the band on a mobile 24 track studio. Someone staggered past the equipment at the end of ‘Seven Seas Of Rhye,’ pulling out a cable. At this same moment, the band stopped playing due to a fight among some drunken people in the audience. Freddie has a stern word with the trouble-makers, transcribed here in full:
“Hey! Will you guys stop this shit? Just stop it over here, okay? Will you calm down? Otherwise we’re not gonna do the show! You guys are ruining it for the people out there, okay? Everybody stand up and move back a bit, come on.” He then asks someone else if they’re okay, and continues. “Just calm down a bit. This is stupid. We don’t like it like this.”
Here’s the clip with ‘One Vision’ and the fight as Freddie stops the show momentarily to calm things down https://youtu.be/6lAFt6hal4U
He then seems to address the bouncers, hoping to get some people ejected (either that, or some people got hurt and needed attention): “We have to take care of them now.” He follows with a vocal exchange with the audience, hoping to improve the atmosphere.
Freddie gives his usual rumour speech before Who Wants To Live Forever, and adds, “I want you people to be the first to know we’re not splitting up. We’ll always be together.” At this point, he’s trying anything to lighten up the chaotic atmosphere. “This is a new song for us to do, and we’d like to do it especially for you, but why don’t you just calm down, okay?” He then pleads, “Can you make this a peaceful event, huh? Please give it a try!”
Before ‘Love Of My Life,’. Brian says, “It’s good to be back in Dublin. It turned out alright after all.” He wouldn’t be feeling this way for much longer, as he is later hit by a beer can and as a result he almost refuses to play the encore – the band have to talk him into it. He later said this particular moment was his worst ever concert experience. “It was certainly more chaotic than normal,” he reflected on another occasion, adding that some crowd members tried to force their way backstage. Roger later recalled how he had “never seen so many people consume so much alcohol.”
Before ‘Crazy Little Thing Called Love,’ Freddie fittingly says, “This song is dedicated to anybody who doesn’t think he’s crazy tonight.”
To speed things up, there is no second encore break between ‘Radio Ga Ga’ and ‘We Will Rock You.’ Being in Ireland, Freddie wisely doesn’t come out with a British flag for the latter.
Like in 1984, ‘God Save The Queen’ isn’t played as the band leave the stage, nor does Freddie dress up as the Queen, both measures taken so as not to upset (roughly half) of the audience. He did, however, come on stage at the beginning of the show with the crown (which may have contributed to the anxiety of some audience members close to the stage.0