Tailgaters Sports Bar - Bolingbrook, IL
November 3, 2012
I feel like I need to tell you a few things about my personal relationship with Queensryche music before I can deliver my take on this show, but for those of you who want the short story, here goes.... Tate’s voice sounded pretty sharp, even though he avoided the highest highs. He failed to bring along the all-star band lineup that he claimed would be joining him as the “new Queensryche,” and instead had only a slightly better than average group of players around him. And as for the setlist, well, I’ll be charitable (and G-Rated) and say that it was extremely disappointing.
Now for you folks that want the details, strap yourself in.
Let me start by telling you that Queensryche is pretty high on my Top 10 list of favorite bands. I latched onto the band just after they released their 4-song debut EP back in 1983. I remember playing the damn thing over and over until their full length EMI debut, The Warning, came out in 1984. I don’t think I ever anticipated a release more than that one, and it didn’t disappoint. The Warning is still one of my favorite records of all time, and much of the reason for that is because of Geoff Tate and his amazing vocal range and style. And while I punished my vinyl copy ofThe Warning day in and day out, I really thought this band could not do any better. Rage For Order was next, and it was a real killer as well, but then they released Operation: Mindcrime. Now, not only did I doubt that Queensryche could ever make a more brilliant piece of art, I had my doubts about any band creating something better than Mindcrime. Mindcrime still sits strong among my three favorite albums of all time.
As years went by, I continued to listen to the band religiously. I had a love affair with the Empire album, did some heavy rotation with the Promised Land disc, and even courted Hear In The Now Frontier for an extended amount of time. It’s only been since the Q2K release that my passion for the band and its sound has dwindled. I can’t say that any of the releases in the new millennium have really impressed me, but I can say that Operation: Mindcrime II did disappoint me quite a bit. But, even with some of the majesty of the band faded in recent years, a chance to see one of my favorite singers in a sports bar was highly appealing, to say the least.
I went into this show knowing that Tate had a new solo release coming out in three days. I fully expected him to flex some of its muscle to a crowd of virgin ears. In truth, I was looking forward to hearing some of the new material. I didn’t think his first solo release was all that strong, so I was hoping this material might go in a different direction. But let’s face it, this is the Geoff Tate that built the empire we’ve come to know as Queensryche. I came to hear some of that classic stuff.
As Tate took the stage sporting a black leather jacket and shades, it was refreshing to hear his voice as he opened the show with “Forever” from his first solo release. Not the strong opener I was hoping for, but he and the band sounded pretty solid doing it. The stage seemed packed with musicians. There were seven players on stage including three guitar players, none of which really captured the sound of Queensryche’s Chris DeGarmo or Michael Wilton. He writes on the Queensryche website that his “new Queensryche” is made up of Rudy Sarzo on bass; Bobby Blotzer from Ratt fame on drums; Glen Drover from Megadeth on guitar; Randy Gane, his old friend from the pre-Queensryche band Myth on keys; and another Myth/Queensryche pal in Kelly Gray on guitar. He did not introduce his band, but I can tell you with utmost certainty that Blotzer and Sarzo were not a part of the night’s action, and I don’t think Drover was present either. It did look like Kelly Gray was wielding one of the three axes, and who the hell knows if it was Gane back there on keys or not. I was really looking forward to seeing and hearing Rudy Sarzo, so this was a small disappointment.
After doing a few solo tracks that sounded pretty strong, Tate broke out his first Queensryche tune. He decided to do “Sacred Ground” from the weak Q2K release. Although it’s one of the stronger tracks on that release, it’s not really one of the songs that helped define the band or its sound. He followed up with “Disconnected” from the Promised Land disc, which is also a decent tune, but not one that really had the lethal Queensryche machine going full steam. I did like the fact that Tate brought along his saxophone and broke it out for “Disconnected” and a few others. He’s actually quite the player and it was a fresh addition to the overall sound, especially when he traded licks with his guitar player. But, out of all the masterpieces to pick from in the Queensryche catalog, I just found these to be odd choices.
After the third or fourth tune, I remember wondering if he was going to speak to us at all. Early in the show Tate was aboard a runaway music train and it was chugging along quite nicely. When Tate did decide to talk to us it was the beginning of the end. His speaking voice is as sultry and smooth as his singing voice; but his lengthy, adolescent banter about sex had fans from the back of the bar demanding that he cease fire. “Stop talking and sing!” came a few screams from the back of the venue, and for the most part I could sympathize with that sentiment. With the exception of his touching expression of love for musician Michael Kamen before introducing the song “Real World,” most of his rambling was a classless waste of precious time.
Tate would go on to play a few Queensryche songs, but most were from Promised Land or Q2K. Go figure. We did get “Another Rainy Night (Without You)” from Empire, in which he let the crowd handle the chorus of high notes, but it still was a welcome addition to the set. “Bridge” is a great song from the Promised Land album, and it was very nicely done here. It’s songs like “Until There Was You,” a real weak b-side from the Q2K remaster, that I could live without. And don’t even get me started with him doing “Got It Bad” from the Dedicated To Chaos album. Just a couple of many bad decisions Tate made with this setlist. The set did pick up a bit as he finished up before the encore with “The Thin Line” (from Empire) and “Grain Of Faith” from his first solo release. “Grain Of Faith is definitely the most powerful song on that disc, and it sounded great here, too.
Let’s summarize this....
It was time for the encore and we haven’t heard one song from the self-titled EP, The Warning, Rage For Order or the classic Operation: Mindcrime album. This was a Geoff Tate solo show, I fully understand that and I fully expected to get a strong showing of his latest material. But, hearing two from Q2K and one from Dedicated To Chaos while ignoring some of the greatest prog metal material ever written was downright hurtful to the hardcore Queensryche fan like myself. Sure we got some Empire stuff, but dammit, it just wasn’t good enough. Tate and his band would finish with “Silent Lucidity” and “Jet City Woman,” which meant that he did a full set without touching anything from the first four Queensryche releases. I felt like I got punched in the face when the lights came up in the sports bar. It was at that moment that reality struck me with a crushing blow. Perhaps there was something behind the fact that I was standing speechless and frustrated in the middle of a sports bar instead of a 20,000 seat arena.
I have just heard about the rest of Queensryche doing their first dates without Tate as their singer. They opened their show with new frontman Todd LaTorre hitting each and every note of “Queen Of The Reich,” and they packed their set full of songs from the first four releases. Hmmm.... I think I just got down off the fence and picked a side.