A hot Bank Holiday weekend in England brought the return of Washington’s finest, Queensrÿche, and the atmosphere inside Bilston’s Robin, Sheffield’s Corporation and London’s O2 Academy was scorching as the three venues played host to a band still very much on top of their game and experiencing an extraordinary resurgence.
Chris Nelson: Photos by John Inglis
Here’s a band who have lost two core members yet have come back totally revitalised and rejuvenated and how many times have we been able to say that before?
The Rÿche have previously sold over 20 million albums worldwide and still have three original members, guitarist Michael Wilton, drummer Scott Rockenfield and bass player Eddie Jackson, but completing the line-up are second guitarist Parker Lundgren and Geoff Tate’s more than worthy replacement Todd Le Torre.
Queensrÿche have previously commented that “the umlaut over the ‘y’ has haunted us for years” but any lingering ghosts have now been well and truly banished by a much more diverse set-list which includes classics from their early career which Tate never really tackled due to lack of range towards the end of his time with QR.
Opener ‘Guardian’, from their most recent album ‘Condition Human’, was celebrated as a return to song-writing form in the style of their illustrious early beginnings and Le Torre’s voice immediately reminds why only he alone could have replaced Tate, and that was with the best still to come.
A massive roar greeted the familiar opening dialogue to ‘Operation: Mindcrime’ as it eerily encased the speakers making way for the title track from their definitive 1988 album and as the crowds sang along word for word, the show really kicked in.
The oft-overlooked ‘Empire’ album was more than well represented on this trio of dates with ‘Best I Can’ being one of several enormous highlights of the night. It’s hard to believe that ‘Empire’ was released a staggering 26-years ago now and it more than stands the test of time as three packed out venues rose to the challenge.
Wilton and Lundgren are a formidable duo and in perfect unison on the soaring guitar parts which are suitably bolstered by one of the best rhythm sections in the business supplying the backbone but the star of the show was undoubtedly the man from St Petersburg, Florida who originally started out as a drummer.
The challenge of stepping into Geoff Tate’s Empirical sized boots was no doubt a daunting one but TLT has taken hold of the flame and given brand new life to this iconic band who now find themselves moving forward, never looking back and focussed on the big attack.
‘Damaged’ from ‘Promised Land’, ‘Killing Words’ from the very underrated ‘Rage For Order’ and ‘The Mission’ from ‘Operation: Mindcrime’ were perhaps surprise inclusions but they showed off the aforementioned diversity in all it’s glory and went down an absolute treat.
And back to back The Rÿche delivered two killer punches in one of the finest rock ballads of all time, ‘Silent Lucidity’, quickly followed by ‘Empire’ itself and with the crowds now totally buzzing out came even more of the big guns. ‘Eye 9’ is another top track from their new baby ‘Condition Human’ and it also went down a storm but what the audience really wanted by this stage was more hits, and the five did not disappoint.
Todd really shone and showed what he can really do on two of the toughest ‘rÿche songs with the vocal on ‘Queen Of The Reich’ bringing an outbreak of goosebumps as Geoff Tate’s original offering was surpassed, as it was on ‘Take Hold Of The Flame’ which absolutely lifted the roof off.
And still there was more as ‘Screaming In Digital’ added to this complete emotional rollercoaster of songs and what better track to finish off the night than probably the best known song from the 1988 epic, ‘Eyes Of A Stranger’.
It’s difficult to imagine how Queensrÿche can possibly better this performance, even with the inclusion of the missing ‘London’, ‘Walk In The Shadows’ and ‘I Dream In Infared’ in the set-list.
The talk amongst fans after all three gigs was nothing but completely positive and it won’t be too long before Queensrÿche are back playing much larger venues than this. The Queen of the Reich is coming for you but this weekend the new King of the ‘rÿche was crowned and what a coronation it was.
The lady did indeed wear black as a warning sounded that ‘rÿche n’ roll is well and truly back from the dawn.
Best I Can
The Killing Words
Queen Of The Reich
Jet City Woman
Take Hold Of The Flame
Screaming In Digital
Eyes Of A Stranger
“I want to be a busy man
I want to see a change in the future
I’m gonna make the best of what I have
I want to write for a magazine
I’m gonna be the best they’ve ever seen
I know I’ll win if I give it all I can”