It only took two songs into Wednesday night's concert for San Antonians to realize they weren't about to see a carbon copy of Geoff Tate's previous two appearances here with his version of Queensryche. But it came awfully close. And that was just fine with those watching it unfold from all three levels of the Aztec Theatre.
Having filled his setlist with tunes from Queensryche's two biggest-selling albums that also are widely regarded as their best -- 1988's Operation: Mindcrime and 1990's Empire -- during his March 28 visit to the Aztec and an April 2013 show at HemisFair Park during Fiestas Fantasias, Tate made sure this time that only 11 of 15 tunes were from those records (see setlist in slideshow at left).
For the first time in three visits since releasing Frequency Unknown in 2013, Tate played something from the only album that features his current band of guitarists Robert Sarzo and Kelly Gray, bassist Rudy Sarzo, drummer Simon Wright and keyboardist Randy Gane when he unveiled Cold as the fourth track of the evening. That came shortly after second tune Breakdown, from the underrated Q2K record, froze many in the audience who were either shocked by the fact a non-Mindcrime or Empire tune was filling their ears or simply unfamiliar with a Queensryche song that was more recent than their beloved classics, yet still 15 years old.
No matter. The crowd was enthusiastic all evening, even during Tate's sardonic moments, such as when he called out a woman for paying too much attention to her smartphone and when he pulled out his seemingly favorite instrument of choice -- a tenor saxophone. "Weird, isn't it," Tate asked, before playing it on another of Empire's hits, The Thin Line (the trumpets that accompany the studio version of the song were not pre-recorded or evident in any way, however).
For a taste of a popular classic, click on the video box to the left for the SAMME's footage of 1990 tune Della Brown.
As for the other somewhat unexpected tunes: Tate's longest spoken moment came when he dedicated Queensryche's 1993 "Last Action Hero" soundtrack offering Real World to its composer, the late symphonic conductor Michael Kamen, and "to anyone who has lost someone." The group also performed I Am I from 1994's Promised Land.
Though Tate has had a long musical history individually with most members of his band, the group is still jelling as a unit in certain parts of different songs. And that's to be expected. Despite all of the talent on the stage, and despite the fact Gray and Gane have made music with Tate off and on for several decades, it's only natural from the vocalist's perspective that playing with five entirely different members than the ones with whom he had spent 30 years of his career signifies it will take time to develop impeccable chemistry live. While that chemistry is on point in some cases, it's a work in progress in others.
Tate and I discussed this, his ambitious-sounding future and more prior to the show in our sit-down interview (see link below).
There's no denying that Tate is having fun and experiencing a sense of freedom playing with his semi-new band. He first shared the stage with Rudy Sarzo in 1983 when Sarzo's Quiet Riot took Queensryche on the road as a support act during Queensryche's debut EP period. Tate and Queensryche also opened for AC/DC in 1986 when Wright was the drummer for the Australian legends.
Wednesday's concert marked the second of three San Antonio shows for Wright in 2014 -- with three different bands at three different venues. He was behind the kit in February with Dio Disciples at Backstage Live, returned Wednesday after missing the March 28 show at the Aztec, and he will be back Sun. Oct. 26 at Fitzgerald's Bar as a member of female-fronted power metal group Hellion.
As for Tate's future in San Antonio under his band's forthcoming moniker of Operation: Mindcrime? Well, as he explains in our interview, the Mindcrime/Empire-dominated performances San Antonians have come to know and love may be relegated to the past for good. Hopefully, you enjoyed them while they lasted.
For related SAMME coverage of Queensryche, including the aforementioned interview accompanied by another slideshow from the concert, visit the "Suggested" links in blue below.
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