The show must go on. This adage was as apt as ever when Sir Brian May and Queen took to the stage in Madison Square Garden on 12 October 2023. The show was the first of two sold-out New York shows, and the fifth show on the band’s first tour to North America in four years. Hours before Queen ft Adam Lambert performed, Brian May heard that his close friend Phil Webb – his driver and family bodyguard for over 30 years – had died unexpectedly from a heart attack at the age of 61.
When he heard the news, Brian May posted on social media: “This is one of the saddest days of my life. Last night we lost Phil Webb to a heart attack. Phil, my dedicated driver for over 30 years was my family’s dearest friend and protector and the kindest and most decent man I have ever had the pleasure to meet.” Brian still managed to put on an incredible performance of “Love Of My Life” even in the toughest of circumstances.
During the first 2023 New York Show, before Love of my Life, May paid tribute to Phil Webb. “This is a kind of difficult night for me,” May said. “It’s a very sad night because I lost one of my dearest friends ever. For me, I’m playing for him tonight. It’s Phil Webb, and I’m playing the show for him tonight.” Despite May’s grief, the band received great reviews. Forbes called the show “rhapsodic.”
Significantly, the first 4 shows of the 2023 North American tour featured The Show Must Go On. The song was dropped for the New York shows, most likely due to the rawness of May’s loss. The next video, below, is from the first show of the tour in Baltimore, 4 October 2023.
The Show Must Go On, written by May but credited to Queen, explores Freddie Mercury’s determination to continue performing despite being seriously ill from AIDS. Mercury was so frail when Queen recorded it in 1990 that May was uncertain that he would manage. Of course, Mercury nailed it, as we know from the Innuendo album (1991).
A feature of the 2023 North American tour has been the inclusion of Is This the World We Created…? for the first time with Adam Lambert. Here it is at the first Madison Square Garden show:
In its rave review of the first New York show, the one dedicated to Phil Webb, Rolling Stone wrote that on the 2023 tour “the band dipped deep into the Queen catalog and resurrected the 1984 deep cut Is This the World We Created…?” Written in response to African poverty and played at Live Aid in 1985, the song “took on a new meaning at New York’s Madison Square Garden on Thursday night in the aftermath of the massacre in Israel”, Rolling Stone continued.