They emerged in the ‘80s as a “thinking man’s metal band.” Lead singer Geoff Tate’s stratospheric pipes catapulted him into the same ranks as Maiden’s Dickinson and Priest’s Halford. The band peaked creatively in ’88 with the concept record, “Operation Mindcrime,” and commercially in ’90 with “Empire.” By 2000, musical visionary Chris Degarmo had left the band, and the group’s quality and popularity has been in a tailspin since.
“Operation Mindcrime” is a sacred work to metal fans, and this tour was billed as Queensryche’s 25th anniversary celebration of that record. That was the draw—to hear the entire record played live by Queensrcyhe. The problem was, only one of the six guys on stage was actually from that band. This almost “tribute” band was fronted by Tate, who is the unmistakable voice of the band. But is he Queensryche?
The other original members think not. And they’re on the road with another lead singer to prove it. Both camps are racing to get out new material and tour in the hopes of winning over the increasingly disgusted fan base.
As expected, tonight’s set list featured the entire “Operation Mindcrime” record, plus “Silent Lucidity,” “Best I Can” and the title track from “Empire.” What it didn’t include was a single note from either the last three releases or the upcoming one. Tate’s leaning heavily on the band’s 25-year-old sweet spot to sell tickets. He has to. Because while this performance wasn’t terrible, it also wasn’t Queensryche.
Gone was the intricate drumming of Scott Rockenfield, replaced by the simplified pounding of former AC/DC and Dio drummer Simon Wright. Gone was the signature guitar harmonies of DeGarmo and Michael Wilton, replaced sloppily by Randy Sarzo and Kelly Gray (whose wardrobe, flying V and sound brazenly clashed with the Queensryche brand). And gone was the distinct bass sound of Eddie Jackson, replaced by former Quiet Riot/Ozzy/Whitesnake player Rudy Sarzo, who is a legendary musician but an awkward fit. His finger licking and rock poses only emphasized the fact that the guys playing the music onstage had nothing to do with its creation.
Gone, too, was the value. For $48/ticket, Tate’s Queensryche played for less than 90 minutes with no entertaining stage show or video support. No strobes, props or choreographed lights. Just a black backdrop with logo.
The only thing offered tonight was the music — songs belted out by Tate, muddily supported by what he called “his band.” And for most of the 2/3 full venue, that seemed to be enough, despite Tate’s frequent dodging of the higher notes.
Knowing in advance what’s happening with the two versions of the band, I went half expecting (perhaps hoping?) to see a train wreck. But nothing derailed and the majority of those on board were happily reliving a better time in the band’s catalog, regardless of who was driving the train. Call it a “win” for Tate in his battle vs. the rest of the band.
Just don’t call it Queensryche.
Alan Cox is the president/creative director of Cox Creative, a Highlands Ranch-based creative shop. He works too much, sleeps too little and spends every free moment coaching baseball, shooting images and hanging out with his rowdy sons and rowdier wife. Check out his photos here.
John Leyba is a Denver Post photojournalist and regular contributor to Reverb.