Studio City, CA – February 19, 2005 — It was another rainy night in Los Angeles. The recent thunderstorms continued and shook the city, but there is nothing quite like the thunderous applause of a loyal, supportive audience. Everyone braved the weather and came to pack the house at Universal Amphitheater for the evening’s heavily-anticipated performance. The air was static with electricity. You could feel it. The aisles buzzed with conversation, beer was flowing, people were laughing and meeting their friends. But once the lights went down and the sound came up, only to be met by that booming noise from the fans welcoming Queensryche, well, you just forgot about everything else.
Original band members Geoff Tate, Michael Wilton, Scott Rockenfield, Eddie Jackson were there to bring us all back to their roots, rock us hard, and then move us forward to present tense, with a teaser of what is yet to come. Their intentions were completely successful. Not only are Queensryche a class act, but they have never had to resort to the trite vulgarities that have become commonplace for so many modern rock bands. They come at you with raw talent, mind blowing vision, and such skill that it feels as though you are no longer at a rock show at all – this is heavy music at its finest, and its most refined.
Openers for the first portion of the set included “Take Hold of the Flame“, “Jet City Woman“, “Silent Lucidity“, and other Queensryche classics that fit the bill for a perfect “Evening With Queensryche“. As the rain poured outside the walls of the amphitheater, one felt as though the ambience had been specially requested from a higher source. There were trips down a rain-soaked memory lane, and there were nods at the bloodied present state of things in government.
There were the constant reminders of how unbelievably crisp and clear and beautiful this band still sounded after over two decades of solid, hard-hitting music. This time, they even asked members of the Los Angeles Philharmonic (or, as Geoff would describe: The Phildemonic) to add their special elegance to the mood and yet another layer of sound. Then, after a brief intermission, the time had come for what everyone in attendance was most anxious to witness.
Resurrected after 15 years, and still as beautiful and as compelling and as completely relevant as it was then, Operation Mindcrime was performed in its entirety as the second act. Mindcrime is like watching the 11 o’clock news to a stunning, provocative soundtrack. It was both haunting and frightening. Although glimpses of it were offered at the end of the performance, one can only imagine what “HOSTAGE“: Operation Mindcrime II will be like.
From start to finish, the crowd was on its feet. There is really no way to describe the rush of adrenaline that came with the first appearance of Pamela Moore in her haunting portrayal of Sister Mary, the tortured nun and former ‘whore for the underground’, who would eventually succumb to the mind control of the malevolent Dr. X, and take her own life, revealing the answer to the mystery of Who Killed Mary?. An equally powerful and chilling performance (shared with Geoff Tate) was given by the actor, cast in the role of Nikki.
It was the final night of this tour, and Geoff and his bandmates held nothing back. Geoff Tate‘s voice is otherworldly. Not only did he belt it out perfectly, line after line, he ended the performance by singing with just as much force while strapped inside of a straitjacket as his portrayal of Nikki reached its peak. He showed his versatility as a singer and an actor as he stalked the stage with defiance, and just as convincingly broke down in the tragic ending to the Mindcrime saga.
It’s hard to believe that a voice with that much stamina can actually exist. He’s a one man tour de force. I still insist that it is a terrible oversight that Tate was not cast in the role of the Opera Ghost in this year’s release of “Phantom of the Opera“. (Can you imagine that?) Still, a vocalist in a band is only as good as the musicians that support him. Bringing us back to the early days, the sounds of Michael and Eddie‘s guitar and bass were amazing together. Michael Wilton is one of the best guitar players there is. He is such a natural, and he makes playing with such complexity look so easy.
It was hard to deny missing Chris DeGarmo, as he was such a key player in the line up, but there was plenty of guitar to go around. Most impressive had to have been the crushing power of Scott Rockenfield. It was his performance that was especially stellar. He worked his drum kit so hard to keep things anchored, and there was no denying just how well he did it. He is, hands down, a driving force for this band. Talk about stamina.
Queensryche are, truly, a force to be reckoned with. Any fan who doesn’t know what it’s like to see them play is missing something huge. Being there to witness such an incredible, powerful performance was an honor – and a new journey through old feelings I will never forget. Seeing this show, with the barrage of visual effects, soaring vocals and the lush but relentless aural assault, made me think and think hard. The world is a scary place to live. Then again, fear is the one thing that makes it work. Fear and corruption and religion and sex and all the things this performance tonight so terrifyingly, albeit artfully, exposed.
Queensryche were way ahead of their time from the beginning. The message is as chilling now as ever before. The world will crumble if the people do not rise against all the corruption. It isn’t about judgment day or any of that nonsense. It’s about the dangers of one entity possessing too much power. On the other hand, there are ways to promote change, and it is easier to sleep at night knowing there are artists like Queensryche and their masterful way of getting the word out there. At least they can share what they know with the world and not be harmed for doing so. Still, even at 2:45AM, it was hard to sleep with my mind reeling like that.
And oh, the dreams I had when I finally did close my eyes, as I slipped into silent lucidity.
Reviewed by Lesa May.
Extra special thanks for the great photos by Alan Birdsell ( alanb1925 [at] aol [dot] com) and Mike Zamora ( giantzee [at] cs [dot] com ). True music fans rule.
No thanks whatsoever to Kevin.