Addicted To Vinyl Musical thoughts from the open road, with headphones on

12May/091

Queensryche @ House of Blues 5-6-09 – An alternate take

Here's a guest review of last week's Queensryche show at the House of Blues, from my good friend Chris Akin of Pitriff. Check out my own review of the night, right here.

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Queensryche is one of those bands that always works hard to give the fans what they want. Rarely in the last few years have they merely gone out on tour and done the standard greatest hits run. Usually it’s some kind of concept or theme-based concert. Over the last few years, they’ve offered up the entire Operation Mindcrime 1 & 2 albums presented as a play, old school shows featuring nothing but music from the early era of the band, and even contests where they let the fans pick the setlists. This year, they are touring to support their new album, American Soldier, but yet again are doing so in a way that will be pleasing to fans. Broken into three suites of music and timing in at over 2 ½ hours, Queensryche are featuring the music of American Soldier, as well as their 1987 album RAGE FOR ORDER and their biggest commercial success, Empire. As a Queensryche fan, it seemed like a great idea. However, the show at the House Of Blues in Cleveland simply failed to deliver.

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For multiple reasons, this show was a real letdown. First and foremost, the sound from where I was standing (which, in fairness, was near the back) was abysmal. From our vantage point, the vocals were decidedly low a lot, and the rhythm guitar of new guitarist Parker Lundgren was nearly non-existent on most songs. To say the least, it was frustrating to hear half the band from the stage.

While this is a problem, it wasn’t the major downer. The major problem with the show was the overall song choices in the setlist, as well as the presentation on most songs. While I’m a longtime fan of Queensryche, it was disappointing that they did almost three hours of mid-tempo music. While the set did have a few higher energy songs from the band’s catalog (“Screaming In Digital”, “Empire”), the bulk of the material was slow and plodding as they worked through the three suites of music. While hearing things like “I Dream In Infrared” and “Hand On Heart” may have been nice, somewhat rare choices to hear at a Queensryche show, virtually every song stayed at this pace. When they ventured to the American Soldier material, a lot of the crowd was lost. The album itself is pretty much midtempo, and songs like “If I Were King” and “The Killer” were solid, but part of a very dull hour coming from vocalist Geoff Tate and the crew. By the time they got to the Empire material, it was time for a major energy shift that just didn’t come. Missing from the set were songs like “Resistance”, yet slow, plodding songs like “Anybody Listening” and the standard “Silent Lucidity” rang out.

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Another issue with the show was the overall performance. While I hate to say it, vocalist Geoff Tate was not in very good form. The band downtuned everything from the older albums to allow Tate to hit acceptable notes on songs like “Walk In The Shadows”. That’s fine…if the effort was put in. A glaring new feature from Tate that was not good was his complete abandonment of singing the choruses. Much like a Motley Crue show where Vince Neil sticks the microphone out to the crowd every time there’s a tough note to hit, Tate transformed literally every song to a sing-a-long where he didn’t sing any of the choruses at all. The reality of the night though was that Tate needed the crowd to sing for multiple reasons. First, he didn’t do well when trying to hit the high notes, and second, the backing vocals were so quiet throughout that crowd interaction was needed to give songs like “Best I Can” and “Jet City Woman” any kind of “oomph”.

Next problem – the woodwinds. Rarely has an idea that just doesn’t fit been displayed that fits what they do less than Geoff Tate’s new affinity with the saxophone. Last time I checked, Queensryche was not a Vegas lounge act, and hearing him “punch up” cool songs like “The Thin Line” with saxophone accompaniment was a disaster. Granted, it’s not like it was a Clarence Clemons sax overkill moment in the song, but the ‘Ryche needs to remember that it’s a classic heavy metal band and not an Eddie Money tribute act.

One last criticism, and it really didn’t have much to do with the show itself, but was embarrassing. In between the end of the main set and the encore, drummer Scott Rockenfield came out on the stage and did one of the single most embarrassing presentations in recent memory. Instead of simply throwing out a few drumsticks and a drumhead, Rockenfield stood center stage, arms out “Jesus on the cross” style, while the lights came up; seemingly looking for some cheap audience pop before continuing the set. It was really, really lame.

To this point, I had never seen Queensryche perform a bad show. Sadly, I was leaning toward the doors early on, and only stayed because I had something to do with a fellow concertgoer afterwards. I love Queensryche, but this was overkill of slow material from them. These tickets should have come with complimentary pillows.

Chris Akin

Thanks to Amy Weiser for all photos!