Friday, January 28, 2011

Queensryche walks 'The Thin Line' in Wendover

Other than a great show, one never quite knows exactly what to expect from a Queensryche concert -- and I’ve got to admit, that’s the way I like it.

Uh-huh, uh-huh.

The Seattle-based band is not one that regurgitates the same setlist every night, year after year. Queensryche has charted plenty of hits, but outside of maybe one or two songs, there’s never a guarantee it’s going to play any specific ones every time out. Additionally, the band always seems to shuffle through some obscure album tracks during the course of a show, which always keeps things interesting, for the band as well as the fans.

Take Queensryche’s sold-out show Saturday at the Peppermill Concert Hall in Wendover as an example. The show, not only Queensryche’s first of the new year, but also the only one on the touring schedule until July, featured material from eight different albums touching nearly all eras of the band’s recording career.

In fact, the first part of the show was dominated by album tracks that audience members who simply followed the band by its radio hits would have had no clue about. Songs like “Hit the Black,” which opened the show, “Sacred Ground,” “Damaged,” the new “Man Down” and “The Hands,” my favorite tune off of “Operation: mindcrime II.”

As might be expected, the band played a handful of songs off its seminal 1990 album “Empire.” Not so expected, however, was the eschewing of some of that record’s hits in favor of a couple of album tracks that open it. In fact, two of the best parts of the show were the performances of “Best I Can” and “The Thin Line” – the first two tracks on “Empire.” “The Thin Line” was especially enjoyable, with Tate augmenting the tune’s vocal gymnastics with a bit of saxophone – an instrument which also saw extended play in “Promised Land” and “Disconnected.”

If there is a more purely theatrical rock performer than Tate, I’d like to see it. Queensryche’s tours have often incorporated an uber-theatrical presence – the “Evening with Operation: mindcrime I and II” and “Promised Land” tours come quickly to mind – but even when playing the music in a straightforward way, Tate can’t help but act out the lyrics as he belts them out. So he doesn’t just sing “every push and shove” during “I Don’t Believe in Love” but he also portrays it with an emphatic two-handed push. Added to that, Tate, whose recently shaved head gives him a slight Howie Mandel appearance, exhibits some of the greatest range of any rock vocalist, handling pulsating rockers, tranquil ballads and everything in between with equal aplomb.

The rest of the band was spot on as well. I’ve written it before, but it was obvious to me yet again, it’s not often a bassist’s sound is so front and center in a band’s mix as it is in Queensryche – in fact, many times one has to struggle to listen for the bottom end notes over the squeal of live guitars. But Eddie Jackson’s lines remain high in the mix and easy to follow, and he and drummer Scott Rockenfield provided the backing template that powered the band forward all night.

Guitarists Michael Wilton and Parker Lundgren worked well in tandem. They often appeared together at center stage dueting on several solos as they played up to the crowd. Songs that called for a single soloist were pretty exclusively handled by Wilton, who has obviously taken over many of the lead licks that used to belong to Chris DeGarmo, who first departed the band after the 1997 tour. Lundgren is the only non-original member of the group, having replaced former replacement guitarist Mike Stone in 2009. Lundgren, who toured with Tate’s solo project a couple years back, is in his early 20s and sports a bit of a goth look, two things that make him stand out from the rest of the band.

Other set highlights included “The Lady Wore Black” and “Breaking the Silence,” two traditional QR anthems. Just as the pace was picking up, the band slowed things down again with “Silent Lucidity,” which despite being a huge hit, did seem a slightly offbeat choice to close the main set due to its mood-calming effect.

Mood was no issue in a dynamic four-song encore that opened with “Best I Can” and followed with three powerhouse rockers -- “I Don’t Believe in Love,” “Jet City Woman” and “Empire” – that had the crowd fully involved, on its feet and singing along.

“It’s so important these days to go see live music,” Tate exhorted audience members during “Empire.” “They say you don’t give a [crap]. Not here! Not tonight! This is what we celebrate!”

If the Queensryche show was any indication, and I believe it is, there is still much to celebrate about live music.

Queensryche is currently in the studio finishing a new album, but after the show band members were mostly tight-lipped about the project. The only word Rockenfield would use to describe the effort was “big” – and that was offered with a sarcastic smile.

Peppermill Concert Hall
Jan. 22, 2011

Hit the Black
Sacred Ground
Man Down
The Hands
The Thin Line
The Lady Wore Black
Promised Land
A Dead Man’s Words
Breaking the Silence
Silent Lucidity

Best I Can
I Don’t Believe in Love
Jet City Woman

Performance time: 1 hour, 30 minutes

1 comment:

  1. If one cannot attend the concert...your reviews are the next best thing....nice videos!

    Uh-huh, uh-huh.