The Reason Brian May Can’t Watch Himself Play Guitar
Brian May appears on The One Show, 2019 - QueenAbsolute / Youtube
Brian May, founding member and guitar maestro of the iconic rock band Queen, boasts a musical career spanning four decades and is widely recognized as a world-class guitarist and songwriter. His contributions to the music industry include production and performance credits on records that have sold over 100 million copies worldwide.
With Queen, May has written 22 global hits, including iconic anthems such as “We Will Rock You”, “The Show Must Go On”, and “I Want It All”, as well as emotive ballads like “Who Wants to Live Forever”, “No-One But You (Only the Good Die Young)”, and “Save Me”.
Yet, even with such dazzling achievements, the legendary guitar player still found it unnerving to see himself play his solo iconic on arguably the best rock song of all time, “Bohemian Rhapsody”.
May, always the self-critic, admitted in a lengthy Instagram post that videos of himself playing are always “hard to look at”. He however took exception to the fan-shot video thanks to its “outstanding sound quality”.
“I usually find it hard to look at them and see the imperfections”
In the said October 31 Instagram post, Brian May shared his thoughts about the difficulties he encounters when watching his own performances, particularly after he came across a fan’s video.
Dated October 21, the post features May playing during a show in Austin, Texas. Upon discovering the video, May reposted it to his followers and openly discussed his discomfort in reviewing recordings of his live performances.
Admitting that he typically refrains from sharing videos of himself playing during their shows due to his inclination to scrutinize them for imperfections, he mentioned:
“Good Morning Chicago! Good to be back in your epic city. It always gives me a charge. This clip posted by @stereo_ephemera caught my eye. I don’t often post videos of me playing in our show – because I usually find it hard to look at them and see the imperfections. This is actually no different, except that it’s a good video capture with a cracking sound quality.”
Greatness despite the occasional technical issues
He went on to explain that this particular performance was the night they encountered issues with their Black Tracks, devices that automate spotlights to follow their movements on stage, allowing the lighting team to focus on other tasks.
While it’s generally a reliable system, May acknowledged that every system, including the performers themselves, can experience occasional glitches:
“So, the result was that in this clip, you can see it takes a long time for the front follow-spot to find me. It makes for an interesting, dramatically dark face, but it also means that, especially in all that smoky stuff, I can’t see my fingers, making things just a little more difficult than usual!”
You can check the whole post below:
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“It’s a high-pressure moment anyway”
Performing such an iconic song, May acknowledged the pressures when performing the solo in “Bohemian Rhapsody” and highlighted that his rendition of the song varies from night to night due to various factors.
He exclaimed: “It’s a high-pressure moment anyway because I perform it as a set piece, and just like ‘God Save the Queen’ on top of Buckingham Palace, pretty much everybody knows what it should sound like!”
On that particular evening, the need for a swift costume change led May to opt for a simple shirt instead of his usual ‘human mirror ball’ suit. May explained the decision:
“It’s also a mad scramble underneath the stage on wheels to get into that trap to rise up in smoke at that precise moment. It’s fun, for sure – a kind of magic trick that entails a lightning-quick change of clothes too. On this particular night, time was too tight to don the ‘human mirror ball’ suit I’ve been sporting.”
Brian May facing his self-doubts head-on
During the Queen and Adam Lambert UK tour in 2022, May directly confronted his self-doubts.
Despite over 50 years of experience with the band, he confessed to feeling critical and lacking confidence during a performance. This revelation came about after encountering a fan-recorded video, which he once more reposted.
“Here’s a fragment from my Dvořák solo adventure in the show a few nights ago. This is the kind of thing I always wanted to do – so it fulfills a dream for me.”
However, on that specific night, the guitarist wrote that he felt self-critical of his performance and lacked confidence. He went on, “So I wouldn’t have looked for a video clip of it.”
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