“This tour has been a pilgrimage for me…I’m trying to find my faith.” – Geoff Tate
And with those words, Queensrÿche lead singer Geoff Tate continues to shake off the demons of the past three turbulent years. Growing tensions within the original version of Queensrÿche fractured the band into two separate entities, and the current on-going legal proceedings appear to be weighing heavy on the singer. Finding solace in writing and performing, Tate has released his second solo album, Kings and Thieves, and has also released a new Queensrÿche record, titled Frequency Unknown. To continue on with the Queensrÿche legacy, Tate’s version of Queensrÿche has been touring to celebrate the twenty-fifth anniversary of their classic concept album Operation: Mindcrime, which was the album that shot Queensrÿche into the stratosphere back in 1988. The anniversary tour was welcomed here in Atlanta last week (Jan. 10) at the very packed Center Stage Theater.
One of the only negatives that exists when a band performs one of their “classic” albums is that there is very little spontaneity. Everyone knows what the tracklist is, so you know what’s coming. But for any fan of the band, Operation: Mindcrime is probably THE most loved release in the band’s history, and any occasion to hear it performed live is well worth the lack of spontaneity.
The songs “Revolution Calling,” “Operation: Mindcrime,” “Speak,” “Spreading The Disease” and “The Mission” set up the story line of main character Nikki; a junkie who is brainwashed into becoming an assassin for the mysterious Dr. X. Guitarists Kelly Grey and Robert Sarzo, bassist Rudy Sarzo, keyboardist Randy Gane and drummer Simon Wright faithfully replicated the original score as Tate, long considered one of the best voices in rock, showed he still has a lot left in the chamber. He may not have the “air-raid siren” of his “Queen Of The Reich” days, but his voice sounded strong and he accented his performance with expressive hands.
“Suite Sister Mary” was an early highlight, as Nikki and love interest Mary (performed by the phenomenal Canadian singer Sass Jordan) plan their escape from the evil syndicate. “The Needle Lies,” “Electric Requiem,” “Breaking The Silence,” “I Don’t Believe In Love,” “Waiting For 22,” “My Empty Room” and “Eyes of A Stranger” bring the story to a close, as a delusional Nikki slowly descends into insanity after finding Mary murdered, unsure if he or Dr. X has committed the crime.
After the final notes of “Eyes Of A Stranger” faded, Tate and the band continued the show with material from their other hugely successful album, the triple-platinum Empire. “Silent Lucidity” was up first, with Robert Sarzo finger-picking the song’s delicate opening chords. “Best I Can” got the crowd chanting the song’s signature hook “I Won’t Let Go!” “Jet City Woman” and “Empire” brought the evening to a close with a bang.
Say what you will about the current state of affairs connected with this band, but there’s no denying that Queensrÿche – and I do mean either version – remains one of the finest progressive rock bands in existence, and both versions deserve consideration, acceptance and support.
Full Gallery of Queensrÿche
Opening for Queensrÿche was the fast-rising Atlanta rock band Kickin Valentina. “Kickin” is an appropriate term, because they sure got things kicked off in the right fashion with a solid set of fist-pumping rock and roll that got the crowd on their feet. Lead singer Joe Edwards (whose vocals at times remind me of Buckcherry’s Josh Todd), guitarist Heber Pampillon, bassist Chris Taylor and drummer Jimmy Berdine like their rock and roll loud and sleazy, and worked hard to energize the hall with standout tracks “Dirty Girl,” “Get Ready” and the super-catchy “Anita.”
Full Gallery of Kickin Valentina