Over the years I have become a pretty big fan of Queensryche. Some who know me would say that’s an understatement but regardless, I own all the albums except for the first EP and the most recent live album and I have seen them live about 4 times now. They are one of the bands that regardless of how good or bad their last album is, I rush out to see what they’ve done on their latest because the experience is always different. When they first appeared on the scene (for me that was during the Rage For Order Era) I thought they were kinda strange and I wasn’t quite at the point where I could appreciate the voice of Geoff Tate. I was into bands like Poison, Van Halen and the new round of glam bands like Warrant, so Queensrych was a hard pill to swallow.
Over the years the band has released many great rock albums that just seem to sound like nothing else out there. Heavy, sometimes bizarre and intricate, their music stands between insanity and pure, focused Zen. The album Rage for Order still stands up as an amazing piece of work and the song “Screaming in Digital” is the perfect (Pre-Mindcrime) queensryche song. If you’ve never took the time to experience “The Ryche” check out this live version of the song which I would describe as the “definition” of what Queensryche is all about. Strange, intricate, dark and intense… metal music at it’s best.
I’ve always thought that if I was ever stranded on a desert island and I had the choice of 10 albums to be stuck with for the rest of my life, one of those albums would be a Queensryche album. If I had to pick only one though it would be the epic rock opera Operation Mindcrime — but for me more specifically the live version (Livecrime October 28th, 1991) is the perfect hard rock album. It combines the greatness that is the Mindcrime experience and combines it with the bombastic live sound and energy that it deserves. All in all a perfect slice of hard rock history, capturing a band at the height of their fame and popularity.
Although I do own the album, I unfortunately missed the actual show the first time around — which my cousin described as a “religious experience”. I’ve always regretted not attending the show when they came to Cleveland and vowed to go if they ever went on tour performing the entire Mindcrime album. Well, needless to say when I heard they were hitting the road again to promote the new Ryche album Operation Mindcrime II (Due 2005) and to perform the first Operation Mindcrime in its entirety, I jumped online and grabbed my ticket. I was not going to miss the show again.
So upon arriving at the amazing, brand new House of Blues in Cleveland last night I was greeted by the ultra cool vibe that is The HOB experience. The House of Blues owns one of the largest collections of Folk art in the world and the experience has to be seen to be appreciated. Every inch of the walls are either extravagantly painted or adorned with eclectic art which results in a vibe that is rarely produced anywhere. I have seen one other concert at The House of Blues in Myrtle Beach South Carolina and it still stands in my mind as one of the best sounding concerts ever so I was even more excited to see if the sound would stand up this time around.
I have to say that the experience that is Livecrime at the HOB was definitely worth the wait. The band hit the stage in front of a sold out crowd and performed a “whatever-the-hell-we-want” warm-up set that totally rocked. Minus the dreaded song Silent Lucidity, the majority of the set was not a greatest hits blow-off. They plowed thorough hard hitting classics (Empire), rarities (Last time in Paris) and some of my favorite new songs which included “Open” from the Tribe CD, a great first step for Queensryche to reclaim their former glory after the fairly disappointing album Q2K in 1999. They performed “When the rain comes down” from this album which isn’t the strongest song in their catalog but was a very enjoyable tidbit that will probably never be performed live extensively again. Overall the band did a nice warm-up for themselves and headed off to prepare for the second act — which is why everyone was there in the first place — Mindcrime.
I did find it interesting that they would actually take an intermission and let the crowd wind down. At first I thought it might be a bad choice but truly when they hit the stage again with the opening intro to “I Remember Now” the crowd was on fire! The band hit the stage and the show was everything I had hoped for and more. The sound was perfect, the band was as tight as any band I have ever heard, Geoff sounded great and the fiery duel guitars of Michael Wilton and new road dog Paul Speer were note for note just brilliant. Taking the stage and performing the first act of Mindcrime in a Queensryche ski mask Speer had no problems filling the big shoes of previous guitarist Chris Degarmo (1983-1997). It would have been nice to see Chris back with the band but honestly he wasn’t missed a bit.
The great thing about the Mindcrime concept is that it combines the best of metal music with the story and theatrics of an opera and the boys did themselves one better this time around by employing not only their usual backup singer Pamela Moore as the nun/prostitute Mary but also brought along another live actor in Nikki and several other extras to fill in the roles of a doctor, nurse and of course the constant visual attack from behind the band on their big screen. It was sometimes a little cheesy but overall the production was excellent and combined with the band, lighting and the perfectly timed words and imagery on the screen it truly was an amazing audio and visual experience that will probably never be repeated by any band.
For the last song “Eyes of a stranger” the doctor and nurse appear and actually tie Geoff Tate down in a straight jacket — his eyes dark with make-up and covered in sweat — he sang the entire last song in the jacket with his microphone propped in a fold. Eventually the nurse appears again and carts him away in a wheel chair as the band blazes toward the finale that came way too soon.
Overall I would have to say it was one of the best concerts I have ever experienced. The small venue and sound were perfect, the band was perfect, and I can finally say that I’ve had my religious experience. Finally — thanks guys.
After the band came out and bowed and thanked the crowd the screen promised a peek at the new Mindcrime album that is coming in ’05. This was my only disappointment of the evening because I had heard rumors that there would be a preview of one new song and I thought they would play it live. Much to my disgust the song was played over the sound-system and pretty much drowned out by the screaming crowd. It was hard to make a judgment on the new tune but at first listen it wasn’t even in the same ballpark as Mindcrime I. We’ll be waiting to see though how it all turns out.
All and all these guys are still “Spreading the Disease” after over 20 years as a band and they are still rocking big time. They’ve had some lows over the most recent years but the power that is QR is still there. I’ll be there when OMCII hits the stores this year for sure and if you have the chance, get out there and see this band perform one of the greatest rock operas of all time. You too may have an experience unlike no other.Powered by Sidelines