Sooner or later, it had to come down to this: After almost 14 years, Queensr˙che is once again playing its landmark concept album Operation: Mindcrime live, from beginning to end. The last (and only) time the band did that was in 1991, in those waning days before grunge took over the American airwaves and plunged Queensr˙che into a dark abyss of musical soul-searching.
The band soldiered on, though, experimenting with whatever the current sound was and lapsing into some notably embarrassing moments, punctuated by 2004's dreary The Art of Live CD and DVD. Indeed, the members of Queensr˙che seemed desperate to separate themselves from the past. But desperate times call for desperate measures; hence, the band's welcome return to the album that made Queensr˙che a metal institution and still stands as one of the strongest progressive-metal records of the last quarter-century. If anything, this tale of revolution, psychological manipulation, religion and murder seems even more relevant today than when it was released in 1988.
Perhaps even more surprising than the longevity of Operation: Mindcrime is that the band actually seems relevant again, too. Based on an electrifying performance inside Madison, Wisconsin's sold-out Barrymore Theater on Jan. 23, if ever a metal outfit deserved a second chance, it's Queensr˙che, circa 2005. As temperatures outside fell below zero, vocalist Geoff Tate and the rest of Queensr˙che – all original members save guitarist Mike Stone – exuded a warmth rarely seen onstage from that band since the last time Queensr˙che performed Mindcrime in its entirety. Tate, especially, seemed touched by the fans' reaction. (Madison, incidentally, is where the band filmed and recorded most of Operation: LIVEcrime, albeit in the much larger digs of the Dane County Coliseum.)
Absent the staging amenities that a large-scale venue provides, Operation: Mindcrime took on much more dramatic, graphic and darker tones in a theater atmosphere. Actors (including Pamela "Sister Mary" Moore in a return engagement), props and greater use of video imagery made this presentation of the album a more intimate experience – one that's probably truer to Tate's initial vision than was 1991's production. Highlights included Nikki's character interrupting an on-stage announcement from a local radio deejay about upcoming shows to spew vitriol about the government and subsequently jump-starting "I Remember Now," Moore bathed in stained-glass reflections on an elevated center stage pouring her soul into "Suite Sister Mary," and a crazed Tate working his way through "Eyes of A Stranger" while wearing a straitjacket, his microphone tucked into the sleeves by two short-skirted nurses who eventually rolled him offstage in a wheelchair. There was even a visual reference suggesting who killed Sister Mary, which reportedly will be explored further in Operation: Mindcrime II, the sequel the band is set to record later this year.
Preceding the production of Mindcrime was an eight-song, 40-minute set billed as "hits through the years" that was actually full of surprises, if not hits. Opening with "The Whisper" from Rage for Order, Queensr˙che then launched into the title track from 1990's Empire, the first of four songs from that disc. Along the way came one tune each from Q2K and Tribe, but most unexpected and most welcome was the obscure "Last Time in Paris," from "The Adventures of Ford Fairlaine" soundtrack. While guitarist Michael Wilton took most of the lead solos during Mindcrime, Stone handled many of the leads on this material. The opening set closed with "Silent Lucidity," augmented by a fabulous light show leftover from Queensr˙che's arena days and prefaced by a brief monologue during which Tate asked how many members of the audience were parents. When about half of them raised their hands, he recounted one his experiences as a father: "Just wait until you're sitting at the breakfast table, and your kid says, 'Hey, fuck you!' That's a high point."
When was the last time you heard Geoff Tate crack a funny joke onstage? Talk about a rejuvenated band.
The two-hour performance (plus a 30-minute intermission) was capped by a brief and ultimately unsatisfying audio-visual preview of Operation: Mindcrime II. A little more than three years ago, back in late 2001, vocalist Geoff Tate told me – in enigmatic language that characterized our conversation – that the band wasn't particularly keen on the idea of returning to Mindcrime, either conceptually or musically, preferring instead to continue exploring new aural avenues: "I wouldn't say it would be tough to top Mindcrime. But why would you compare another album to Mindcrime? I don't know why you would compare an apple to an orange."
Whatever you want to call Operation: Mindcrime, it stands the test of time. It's also proven to be Queensr˙che's enduring legacy. And if it took a return to that album to strong-arm the band out of its decade-long funk, the disc deserves even greater adulation.
Queensryche @ Beacon Theater NYC: 02-03-05
For my first concert and Road Report of the year 2005 I cannot think of any better way to kick it off than by seeing Queensryche perform in a theatre setting. For the past few years, the Ryche as fans refer to them, have made sure to make the Beacon Theater in NYC a stopping point. Considering I was only at a Queensryche performance a couple of months ago the thought had come for me to pass on this one. When the news became clear that the group would be playing the evening alone and perform the entire "Operation: Mindcrime" CD, my decision was clear. I was glad that I did, for this was a night with little disappointment and a larger number of highlights.
Broken into two sets the group first hit the stage and was in top form as they brought forth a large amount of tunes from other CD's in the catalog. Out of the 9 numbers, 4 would be from "Empire". Clearly as a hit record, they need to play some of the tunes on it. Yet I would have liked to see a little more expansion from the rest of the catalog. Especially since the main part of the show would be spent playing Mindcrime. In my opinion, "Rage For Order" and the stellar tracks from this CD have been avoided for far too long. There has also been limited attention to the earliest tracks like "Lady Wore Black" and "Queen Of The Reich". Perhaps Geoff can't hit those notes these days, but it will still be nice to see them played once more. That was about my only complaint since the rest of the night was to be stellar.
At the break, someone ran onto the Stage and started screaming into the microphone. This clearly shook up the audience a little especially after the recent Dimebag tragedy. However, this man was quickly attacked and sedated by the orderlies and set aside to the stage exit. We soon realized we were fooled and Mindcrime was off and running. Not only would the music be played from the CD, but video footage shown above and several actors filling in parts that you could only before imagine in your mind. This made the performance a total cerebral experience for me as this is clearly the most renknown of the QR catalog. Released in 1988, it still maintains a fresh and powerful sound today. It is worthy of its respect.
Pamela Moore was again to join the band for this performance and it was great since she was also doing some of the acting. She is Mary from the piece and she did a great job of the singing not only her main songs but some of the others were she provided backup. The song "Suite Sister Mary" was like watching a Broadway version, as she and Tate motioned through the song. Very powerful and done to the point of excellence. Queensryche also addresses who killed Mary during the performance but I shall not ruin that sort of information here. You can find out for yourself and form your own thoughts on it. All in all, everyone was at their playing best. The lighting and sound were done right. The Ryche have been at this long enough to know what works. Geoff made mention that the band has been together for over 20 years. Who would have ever thought this possible. It seems as though Tate, Rockenfield, Wilton, Jackson and Stone shall be around to entertain us even longer than the critics had anticipated. I did find a point of sadness that Chris DeGarmo was not part of this tour. After all he was such an integral part of this records success so I would have liked to see him play on it as well. They could have done the same thing as Maiden did and added the third guitarist. When the band left the stage the audience was treated to a sampling of the forthcoming "Mindcrime II". I found it difficult to focus on it in the hectic crowd. It is my hope that this tour finds its way to a DVD like the last two had done.
3. Another Rainy Night
5. Take Hold Of The Flame
6. In The Rain
7. Jet City Woman
8. Last Night In Paris
9. Silent Lucidity
10. I Remember Now
11. Anarchy X
12. Revolution Calling
13. Operation: Mindcrime
15. Spreading The Disease
16. The Mission
17. Suite Sister Mary
18. The Needle Lies
19. Electric Requiem
20. Breaking The Silence
21. I Don't Believe In Love
22. Waiting For 22
23. My Empty Room
24. Eyes Of A Stranger
Queensryche Official Site: www.Queensryche.com