Brian May has been playing with a “hologram” of Freddie Mercury since the 2012 We will Rock You Tour. Since then, the format of the Mercury interlude hasn’t changed. Brian May sits on a stool up front, and starts a solo acoustic version of Love of my Life. Towards the end of the song, Freddie Mercury appears and takes over the vocals.
Mercury’s soaring delivery dramatically contrasts with May’s more restrained singing style. As the song ends, Freddie reaches out towards his guitarist friend. May stretches out as if to take Freddie’s hand. To this day, after all the shows, May gets visibly moved. Sometimes he waves goodbye, sometimes he sheds a tear, as in the video below.
This video was filmed ten years after Brian May first played with the “hologram” of the departed Queen frontman. One can’t help observing that after the success of the Bohemian Rhapsody biopic and after the pandemic, the appearance of Mercury during Love of My Love on the Covid-postponed worldwide Rhapsody tour is more touching than ever. As we see, grief has no expiry date. The story behind the song, a track from A Night at the Opera (1975), the fourth Queen album, only adds to the poignancy.
It is often assumed that the ballad was written about Freddy Mercury’s fiancé Mary Austin, and this is how it is depicted in Bohemian Rhapsody. According to Queen manager John Reid, Love of my Life was for Mercury’s secret lover and first proper boyfriend, David Minns. Initially Queen was unaware of how popular the track was with their fans. This changed in Buenos Aires in February 1981, when the 300 000 capacity audience enthusiastically sang along to the song, as shown in the video below.
The avatar of Freddie Mercury that has featured in Queen concerts since 2012 is commonly referred to as a hologram. While it looks like a hologram, it is not a true 3d projection. It is a 2d image that has the appearance of being 3d, thanks to a conjurer’s trick called Pepper’s Ghost which was popularised in the 1860s.
In essence, Pepper’s Ghost utilises the reflective properties of glass to give the illusion of depth to images that are projected onto angled glass. This technique has been used in rock concerts since the 2006 Grammy Awards, when projected footage of Madonna was used in a performance by Gorillaz. Notable uses of Pepper’s Ghost include a projection of Tupac Shakur at the 2012 Coachella Festival and the 2022 Abba show.