In a new interview for Smooth Radio, Queen guitar player Brian May looked back on what he sees as the scariest performance in his entire career. When asked to reveal “the most nerve-wracking” and “the most terrifying” show he’s ever done, May replied (transcript via Ultimate Guitar):
“The roof of Buckingham Palace, because it was a complete one-off, and nobody had ever done it. And it was completely live. And I couldn’t hear the orchestra very easily. They were miles away, and it was all going to be out of sync if I could hear them, so we had to devise ways of us hearing the same core time signature.“
As Brian further explains, such a performance comes with plenty of other challenges that probably wouldn’t cross your mind if you haven’t found yourself in that situation. He adds:
“I had a conductor who I couldn’t see very well, and I’m not on top of the roof, and anything can go wrong. I’ve got a wire that came up through the palace, which did go wrong, so I couldn’t hear anything about half an hour before the show. It was utterly terrifying, and I’ll never be the same again [laughs]. But you kind of face the fear, you have to. It’s a real life-changing experience, that stuff.“
“People used to say, ‘Were you afraid of falling off the roof?’ ‘No, I was afraid of looking an idiot in front of a billion people.'”
The performance in question took place in 2002 at the Golden Jubilee of Queen Elizabeth II. For this unique performance, May played his arrangement of “God Save the Queen” on the roof of Buckingham Palace. What’s more, Brian was the one who opened the event with this performance.