When I checked in on Facebook last weekend that I was at the Celebrity Theatre waiting to see Queensryche, a friend commented, “which one”? (There are two touring versions of the band.)
I know it’s a tough one, but I usually favor bands when you have the original lead singer. Sure Styx has done a pretty good job with Lawrence Gowan and Foreigner’s Kelly Hansen kicks butt. I cannot say the same for Journey, for example, the latest incarnation anyway -- and most bands just aren’t the same without the original singer.
So when I answered my friend, I said –“Duh! Geoff Tate…hello…!!!”
I just don’t think there is a substitute for that Geoff Tate voice – and moreover, the intensity with which Tate sings. I see a lot of rock shows and rarely see a singer so intense. Paul Rodgers sings this way, the veins coming through his neck looking like they are going to pop with the next note sung…Tate’s incredible vocal range, classic training and progressive metal heart combine to make something so special, I can’t imagine hearing anyone sing his songs.
From the moment this band hit the stage they rocked it, every moment as hard as they could. Even the slow numbers showed an intensity of feeling that kept all eyes on the stage and fans out of their seats.
Geoff Tate looked spectacular, sporting a bald head that looks great on him and he has a super-fit tight and compact muscular body that reminds me of a young Bono – I think the yellow-lensed glasses Tate sported lent to that vibe a little too.
The rest of the band was a mix of some serious rockers with major talent, big-time chops and huge pedigrees…guys who've played with the best and are considered among the best. Seriously, this band kicked some of the biggest ass I have seen in a long time and I think it’s worth taking the time to acknowledge them.
Simon Wright who killed it on drums has some resume...a seven year stint with AC/DC and years with Ronnie James Dio, among others, before joining forces with Tate. A duo of Sarzo brothers brought some major heat to the night. Robert, who wore maybe the single coolest rock star hat ever (see slide show) shredded on guitar, putting on an A+ show from the minute he came on stage. With roots in the industry from Ozzy to Quiet Riot and Hurricane, Robert Sarzo is the real deal – and so is his amazing brother Rudy.
Before I go on, I just have to give major kudos to Geoff Tate for assembling such a stellar lineup of musicians for this tour – incredible stuff!
OK, where do I start with Rudy Sarzo? I wish just saying he is a gifted bass man could do it. But I owe him more than that, if nothing more than for the show alone last weekend. With a career that spans over 30 years he was a member of Ozzy’s band recording and touring during the iconic years of “Blizzard of Ozz” and “Diary Of a Madman”. Following that job, he was member of Quiet Riot recording “Metal Health” and “Condition Critical”. He was also as a member of Whitesnake recording “Slip of the Tongue” and in addition to a ton of other projects, was also in Dio.
Kelly Gray was stellar on guitar, switching leads and combining jams with Robert Sarzo. After forming the band Myth with Tate in the late ‘70s, Gray has remained involved in the industry -- and Tate --over these last 30+ years, producing writing and playing. One of the most humble, yet supremely talented musicians I have had the pleasure to see play, it’s a true joy to see him return to the stage. And I can’t let his awesome ZZ Top-esque beard go without note - love it!
And on keyboards, one of progressive metal’s finest, Randy Gane. Gane co-founded the aforementioned Myth with Tate and is known for the rich notes he evokes from his keyboard and innovative use of sounds – including answering machine tapes!
And for those who may not know much about Queensryche’s front man, Geoff Tate—here are just a few tidbits. Tate is a Grammy nominated singer/songwriter and is regarded as one of the most skilled vocalists in rock, with many popular artists citing him as a major influence. His ability to combining fairly cerebral social consciousness messages with high-energy, jamming rock music have made him not only popular with the hard-driving metal fans, but also thought of by critics and fans alike as the brain behind the ‘thinking man’s rock band’.
I have to say, I was amazed at his ability to keep his composure. Several times during the show while he was talking about things like the 9/11 tragedy and military service, overzealous beer-drinking yahoos yelled unintelligibly and seemingly without cause so loudly, Tate could barley be heard. I thought it was a really odd juxtaposition of brainpower—a kind of yin and yang playing out before us all. If it were me, I’d have had a hard time ignoring the yahoos.
But back to the music…The set was a mix of old and new and I thought the pacing and flow of the set was well-done. It was also longer than I’d expected, a pleasant surprise for sure. Some highlights for me included (of course) the iconic, “Silent Lucidity,” and the awesome “Jet City Woman,” that came toward the end of the set. I also loved a tune called “Big Noize,” about 9/11 really changing everything, and an amazing song that brought the crowd to frenzy, “Breakdown.”
“Middle of Hell,” about the military service of our men and women was an intense song that moved me, and I really enjoyed “Thin Line,” with the cool sax playing by Tate.
I could pretty much cite almost every tune as being super entertaining – the band, the energy, the lyrics and the hard-driving ball of energy on that stage was truly awesome. Since it was my first QR show ever, I didn't know what to expect. I was struck by how deep Tate’s speaking voice was compared to the high notes he strikes in so many songs and was truly blown away by the level of talent on stage. Fans definitely got their money’s worth—and more.
Best I can
In The Hands of God
I Am I
Middle of Hell
Breaking the Silence
I Don’t Believe in Love
Jet City Woman
Eyes of A Stranger