It has been almost 20 years since Queensrÿche first imparted the story of Nikki and Sister Mary on their unsuspecting fans via their brilliant heavy metal concept album of 1988, Operation: Mindcrime. Is it me, or does time speed up exponentially as you get older? Three years later, while touring in support of their follow-up to Mindcrime, the equally impressive Empire (and my personal Queensrÿche favorite), the band performed a full-blown, theatrical concert performance of the entire Mindcrime album, which was all captured on video and released the same year as Operation: Livecrime.
Since then, Queensrÿche have gone on to release a string of comparatively mediocre albums, no help in part to the resignation of founding guitarist, and apparent best songwriter, Chris DeGarmo from the band. In 2003, DeGarmo briefly rejoined his old bandmates in the studio to co-write and play on about half of the new Tribe album. Unfortunately, this would not be a permanent reunion, as DeGarmo declined to tour with, or officially rejoin, the band.
Queensrÿche have always remained a vital live act during this time, and this is documented by two other pretty decent concert videos; Live Evolution in 2001, and The Art Of Live in 2004 — although the latter was marred by some serious production blunders. Back in 2003, when Dream Theater was still my favorite progressive-metal band, Queensrÿche opened for them on one particular night of their amazing co-headlining tour that I attended, and proceeded to simply outclass their east coast counterparts. I gained a whole new respect for them that night.
As with Queensrÿche’s previous few efforts, I have not been very impressed with the new Operation: Mindcrime II album. 2003’s Tribe is the only post-Empire album that I still listen to occasionally. I have certainly given the new Mindcrime it’s due amount of spins, patiently waited for it to grow on me, but it simply lacks any real standout tracks to reach out and grab you like the original Mindcrime does. This becomes painfully obvious during this concert performance, when the much weaker Mindcrime II material has to follow the utterly amazing first set.
Now, don’t get me wrong. Just because Mindcrime II does not quite live up to its predecessor, that does not mean that it is a bad album — it is just not a great album. This makes the flow of the concert seem as if the headlining band had opened for the opening act; kind of anti-climactic. With that said, the reason that this video still gets such high marks from me is that, although it was already done brilliantly back in 1991, this new performance of Operation: Mindcrime was absolutely mind-blowing.
Mindcrime At The Moore is a two disk set that features Queensrÿche’s historic performance of the entire Operation: Mindcrime saga during a sold out, three-night run, at the Moore Theater, in their hometown of Seattle, Wash., on the 13th, 14th, and 15th of October 2006. They pulled out all the stops here, reprising Pamela Moore in her seminal role as Sister Mary, using several additional actors to portray the main characters in the story, such as Nikki and Dr. X, and effectively using video imagery to help illustrate the story line.
The first set begins with an animated video interpretation of “I Remember Now,” which is shown on a single big screen, positioned at the rear-center of the stage. “Anarchy-X” kicks off dramatically with the Seattle Seahawks Drum Line marching out on stage to augment the rest of the band who have already taken up their designated positions. Well, you pretty much know what comes next, because both Mindcrime albums are performed in order, in their entirety. The highlights of this performance were pretty much the highlights from each album.
“Revolution Calling” couldn’t be more relevant today, especially with the current political climate in the U.S. Geoff Tate, or Tate’s character, is holding up a sign that has “U.S. OUT OF IRAQ” on one side, and “WAR IS TERRORISM” on the other, while REVOLUTION is occasionally splashed across the screen in big, white letters. There are plenty more anti-Bush sentiments injected throughout the rest of the set as well. Other highlights include “Spreading the Disease” with Tate and the Pamela Moore, still in pre-Sister Mary prostitute attire, each turning in stunning vocal performances. Moore still looks and sings great, and Tate’s vocals have never sounded more powerful and in control, even though he has to sing while fully engrossed in his character.
There are much more theatrics and acting going on during this performance, compared to Operation: Livecrime. Geoff Tate’s amazing singing was no great surprise, but his superb acting skills certainly were. Now I’m certainly no theater or acting critic, but during some of the more intense and emotional scenes, such as throughout “The Mission” and “Suite Sister Mary,” I found myself scribbling “young Brando” in my notes during Tate’s performance. Okay, maybe I got a little carried away, but Tate certainly deserves some type of rock opera acting award, if there ever were such a thing.
The band’s performance of the Mindcrime I set was exceptionally tight and dynamic. The few improvisational liberties they took were mostly during “Electric Requiem” and “My Empty Room,” where Michael Wilton and Mike Stone added some fresh new guitar interplay. Stone, who joined the band on the Tribe tour, lays down some exceptional guitar work throughout the show, but his ridiculous looking punk-rocker Mohawk was very distracting and stood out like a sore thumb amongst these prog-metal veterans. “Eyes Of A Stranger” forcefully closed out the first set leaving me anxious for more and stunned by the incredible set I had just witnessed. Easily a 10+ rating so far.
The Mindcrime II set opens with a live action video accompanying the first two songs, “Freiheit Ouverture” and “Convict,” and eventually kicks into gear when Tate takes the stage dressed in a slick business suite, gun in hand, and harassing a group of bar yuppies while belting out “I’m An American.” Early highlights from the second set included a dynamic performance of “Hostage,” which portrays the trial of Nikki 18 years earlier, as well as “Fear City Slide,” which sounded far more powerful than the album version. As a matter of fact, the entire performance was much better than the album.
“The Chase” was done rather poorly, as both Ronnie James Dio’s part as Dr. X and Geoff Tate’s vocals were only presented via the big screen. It is understandable that RDJ could only make it to the Los Angeles performance, which is included in the Bonus Features, but the actual video they put together for this song looked unimpressive. “Murderer?” concluded with the second most shockingly violent scene of the show, as a dazed Nikki (Tate) eventually fires a blood-splattering bullet into the head of a tied-up Dr. X, while the ghost of Sister Mary looks on. The most shocking imagery, of course, was when Mary blew her own head off during the first set.
The Mindcrime II set ends very anti-climactically with the lackluster Tate-Moore ballad “All The Promises,” which stands in stark contrast to the explosive “Eyes Of A Stranger” first set finale. They do settle the score when they come back out for killer encore performances of their Rage For Order classic “Walk in the Shadows” and Empire‘s “Jet City Woman,” which brings the show’s total running time to an impressive two and one-half hours.
The overall production values of this DVD are nearly flawless. Powerful, well balanced Dolby 5.1 surround and PCM stereo mixes are marred only by a slightly weak drum mix. The widescreen video presentation was incredibly sharp and colorful, and special props go out to director Bruce Green for coming through with some of the best camera work and editing you could possibly have asked for, which was essential to making a theatrical rock concert like Operation: Mindcrime work so well.
Bonus Features include a 24-minute, behind-the-scenes tour documentary, a brief look at Queensrÿche’s “Rock N’ Ride” charity motor cycle ride, the L.A. performance of “The Chase,” featuring Ronnie James Dio as Dr. X, and a photo gallery.
Mindcrime At The Moore has certainly exceeded my expectations, and provides a fitting closing chapter to the Operation: Mindcrime saga. Hopefully, this will remain the last chapter though, and Queensrÿche will go on to knock us out with something completely fresh and new.
01. I Remember Now
03. Revolution Calling
04. Operation: Mindcrime
06. Spreading the Disease
07. The Mission
08. Suite Sister Mary
09. The Needle Lies
10. Electric Requiem
11. Breaking the Silence
12. I Don’t Believe in Love
13. Waiting for 22
14. My Empty Room
15. Eyes of a Stranger
01. Freiheit Ouverture
03. I’m American
04. One Foot In Hell
06. The Hands
07. Speed of Light
08. Signs Say Go
09. Re-Arrange You
10. The Chase
13. If I Could Change It All
14. An Intentional Confrontation
15. A Junkie’s Blues
16. Fear City Slide
17. All the Promises
18. Walk in the Shadows (Encore)
19. Jet City Woman (Encore)