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December 22, 2021

Rare Photos of Freddie Mercury Riding on the Shoulders of Santa Claus at The Forum in Inglewood on Dec. 22, 1977

This is the final night of the News of the World Tour. To celebrate it there are some holiday festivities on stage. First, during the acoustic set, Freddie Mercury and Brian May perform a one-off version of “White Christmas”. Later, for the first encore of “We Will Rock You”, the band’s bodyguard, Paul Korzilius (“Big Paul”, as the band and crew called him), comes on stage dressed as Santa Claus. Instead of the expected toys in Santa’s sack, Freddie emerges from it in his silver lurex suit where he then sings the song on Santa’s shoulders. Prior to this, Brian May plays a bit of “Deck The Halls” in his solo spot, which is greatly enjoyed by the audience.

Earlier in the evening, Mercury refers to the medley as a “cornucopia of delight. Something nice and pretentious, just for all the critics.”

The performance is nothing short of ferocious from Mercury and the band, certainly one of the finest of their career. While the band were always on their game during this period, on this night they tap into their energy reserves and give a little extra in nearly every song. Mercury’s delivery of “Somebody To Love”, “It’s Late”, “Liar”, “My Melancholy Blues”, and “White Man” are amongst his best ever, and the band, now with 25 shows on the tour under their belt, are tight and focused.

Brian comes in a couple bars late for the initial “We Will Rock You” guitar solo, and since the backing track with the explosion is on tape, he gets cut off for the last couple bars of the solo. Later, his pitch shifter doesn’t work during “Get Down Make Love”, resulting in the middle section being cut short. But besides that, as well as their somewhat under-rehearsed yet warmly received attempt of “White Christmas”, they nail pretty much everything else to perfection.

The bulk of the pictures were taken during the outrageous second encore. Three hired belly dancers emerged, Queen’s manager John Reid came on dressed as an elf, and crew members (and Mercury’s friend Peter Straker) were dressed as reindeer, clowns, a walking Christmas tree and even a gingerbread man, among other characters. Blow up dolls and 5,000 balloons were dropped onto the audience from above.


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