Queensryche may be feeling a little tattered around the edges after 14 months on the road with this tour, but there's the compensatory satisfaction of knowing that the band is now fully entrenched, a recognised and accepted success story, and the 'Ryche seems to be finally taking their place as the rock institution they were always destined to be - if the music business didn't wipe them out first, that is. Think about it: if Queensryche were a new band today they probably wouldn't be able to land a major label deal. Despite being from Seattle...
|Openers Warrior Soul were loosely compatible with what was to follow, with Kory Clarke seemingly the protest singer of the metal generation. But it's a lot easier to enunciate your message over a solo acoustic guitar than through powerchords and a thundering rhythm section, so all thats left to go by is the music. The crowd is mildly approving of the band's dark belligerence and almost punkish energy, but the overall effect is as impenetrable as the new tune Clarke offered up called, er, 'Punk And Belligerent'. Warrior Soul do some interesting things but, alas, there's a lack of musical memorability which the headliners could teach them all about. It's one thing to aspire towards mood and atmosphere; it's another thing entirely to capture it and make the feeling rewarding. Warrior Soul seem more interested in stating the obvious by telling the crowd what a wanker George Bush is. Warrior Soul are not an easy ride for any audience and they're not my idea of an ideal opening act. They're a street level band who don't translate well to arenas.|
There's something crucially individual about Queensryche; as modern metal stoops from the heights in the search for ever-lower common denominators, Queensryche continue to ignore the trends and just keep on doing what they do. There's too much insistent, memorable melody for them to be just a metal band, too much metal for just another hard rock band....and too much intensity for them to taken lightly - this is a band that combines the best of all worlds, taking us on a different musical journey with each record and each performance.
And that's why audiences are so uplifted, and that's why Queensryche can play for two and a half hours - all of 'Mindcrime' and most of 'Empire' - without losing a crowd. It's not just a bunch of songs, some you like and some you don't - it's an experience. Discounting the unlikely prospect of the band losing their creative flair, this is why Queensryche are the new Pink Floyd, guaranteed multi-platinum success for the next 20 years or for however long they choose to keep on making records.
Playing in front of dual video screens on a modest stage - a couple of ramps and a no big spectacle - the band's initial one-two-three turned out to be 'Resistance', 'Walk In The Shadows' and 'Best I Can', with 'Walk' the only track from 'Rage For Order' to be aired in the show.
It's a well-paced introduction to a long set - a value-for-money set, too; 25 per cent longer than most major acts with ticket prices about 20 per lower - escalating in strength and drawing the crowd into a world that's just slightly removed from reality, aided by a relatively sparse but brilliantly conceived lightshow which first comes fully to life on 'Best I Can'. During the early part of the show it's guitarist Michael Wilton who takes most of the spotlight solos; a worthwhile reminder that Chris DeGarmo isn't the only lead player in the band. This really is a band effort, despite the tendency of some to focus on the most spectacular asset, Geoff Tate's voice. Nobody gets a lion's share of the attention onstage; there are no extended everybody-else-leave-the-stage solos, and no scene-stealing by Tate, either. Well, not too much anyway - when he really gets his teeth into a role within a song there's real magnetism at play. Within 'Mindcrime' he lives the role of Nicky, notably in the intense 'Suite Sister Mary', but best of all is his performance on 'Roads To Madness', the one track the band culled from 'The Warning', where he firmly plants his feet centre-stage and traps 20,000 fans inside the life he's living for those few minutes.
There's an almost audible exhalation of released tension from the crowd as the number ends... but it leads directly into the 'Mindcrime' segment, and when the first recognisable notes of that ring out, accompanied by the first shards of laser light which have been kept in reserve up to that point, the crowd goes duly crazy.
It's a tribute to the strength of the record and to Queensryche's ability to conjure live magic that the band is able to perform it for an hour without the attention of the crowd wavering, faithfully following all the musical twists and turns. 'Suite Sister Mary' was a clear highlight, as was the preceding 'The Mission'; the aching powersurge of 'I Don't Believe In Love' was awesome, but it was a climactic 'Eyes Of A Stranger' which brought the 'Mindcrime' segment to its zenith with incomparable vigour and sheer excitement.
And that's when they screwed up. Sort of. You can perfectly understand them not wanting to conclude the set at this point, but where can you go to from the top of the mountain, but down? 'Della Brown' was just a touch too relaxed to capture the crowd's enthusiasm at this point, resulting in a relatively muted response. Tate perhaps misread this when he asked the crowd: "Got anything left?". They had plenty left but wanted more excitement, and while 'Last Time In Paris' is a damn good song, using it to close the set was clearly anti-climactic. The one encore was low-key, too, but this time it fitted the way it was supposed to - a truly magnificent 'Silent Lucidity' delivered thoughtfully under smoke and scant lighting; a lingering farewell that successfully set the band apart from those who would have us leave with more of the same ringing in our ears.
That bit worked, but the downbeat ending to the set wasn't so astute. Where do you go from the top of the mountain? Maybe you try jumping to another nearby peak.