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

12May/0987

Setlist: Queensryche @ House of Blues 5-6-09

Wednesday's night with Queensryche at the House of Blues was destined to be a tough sell for some in attendance. In fact, it had been a few years since I had seen Queensryche, because in my mind, I had already seen THE show. A few years ago, Chris Akin and I saw a tour opening set from Queensryche at Blossom Music Center, a tour which found the band supporting Judas Priest, who themselves were back in the saddle with Rob Halford on vocals.

The hook was there - Queensryche would only be performing material from their first four albums - and Chris and I joked that this would be a show that for us, all we needed to see would be Queensryche, and then we would be heading out the door. And unexpectedly, that's what we did. Queensryche were coming off a spotty series of releases and tours, and the jury was out, even knowing the setlist plans, whether or not the show would be cool. Queensryche blew our collective minds on that evening with a 50 minute set that covered it all, and once they left the stage, Chris and I looked at each other, and said "we've seen what we need to see," and headed for the exits.

With the 2009 release of American Soldier, the band once again announced fan-pleasing plans for a tour that would feature music from three particular albums: Rage For Order, American Soldier, and the band's commercially bombastic Empire. Chris and I were on-board with the thought that this particular tour would be very cool. And as you'll read in Chris's review, this is where we part ways with our opinions heading in different directions. I think it's safe to say that the Queensryche fanbase excitement was evenly split between anticipation for a set of Rage For Order era tunes, and for the younger fans, anticipation was high for the Empire set. I'm not sure how many folks were eagerly anticipating that American Soldier set, but for anyone that might not have been on board, it seemed like fair play in exchange for the Rage and Empire sets.

For me personally, the night was all about Empire. Sure, Rage for Order = awesome, but after catching the various themed tours in recent years, featuring material cherry picked from specific albums in the catalog, I had already seen most of the Rage cuts performed live. Empire was different - the band managed with past tours to never quite hit the cuts that I really wanted to hear from Empire. I knew from looking at advance setlists that there was a really good chance that I was going to get my dream Empire set.

So on this particular night, I enjoyed the text message commentary from friends during the first two suites of music - the American Soldier set was a tad wordy with between song conversational setup from singer Geoff Tate, as evidenced by the text message "WTF! I didn't realize this was VH-1 Storytellers!" When Tate made his first appearance with saxophone in hand, I got the text "there is no place for brass in rock and roll, or woodwinds for that matter." The American Soldier suite was a lengthy 30/35 minute period for anyone to endure who hadn't heard the album. I honestly haven't spent a ton of time with American Soldier, and while I thought that the new stuff came off well live, I still remain relatively indifferent to the album as a whole.

Empire was one of the very first albums that my friend Spoony and I connected on musically when we met in 1995. The album had been a big part of our collective teenage youth, and neither of us had actually seen Queensryche perform the album during the tours for that era. So while a good portion of Cleveland's metal royalty were hanging in the back for the show, Spoony and I had the optimal position in the pit so that we would properly experience the full power of the 'Ryche on that evening.

While the performances of Rage For Order material had been a bit suspect earlier that evening, it was all spot-on once we arrived at the Empire portion of the night. As the opening moments of "Best I Can" began to unfold, it was 1990 all over again for Spoony and I. Talk about hearing music that takes you right back? That's where I was at that particular moment. Mindcrime and Empire were MY albums growing up, and I was finally receiving the moment at the House of Blues that I had waited nearly 20 years to see. There was some cheating going on - some background vocals that were obviously on tape, but as good as the final results sounded to my ears, I was okay with a little bit of audio enhancement on the night to help deliver my favorite 'Ryche album as I remembered it.

The band threw down the entire Empire album minus three very crucial cuts - "Della Brown," "Another Rainy Night Without You" and "Resistance" were missing on the night. The absence of "Resistance" was a sticking point with some, but with the band rotating setlists each night on the tour, chances are good that you might get it in your city. I had two specific cuts - "One and Only" and "Hand on Heart" - that I was pulling hard to get. From watching the setlists, it had been a couple of nights since the band had played either, so I knew that chances were good that I would get both. And man, did I ever! Total score! We also got an extra tune ("Take Hold of the Flame") in the encores that had gone missing for several shows.

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My friend Rob was right with his assessment that new guitarist Parker Lundgren had gotten a good grasp quickly on the classic 'Ryche guitar parts. Combined with longtime 'Ryche axeman Michael Wilton, the pair delivered the classic riffs from Empire note for note perfectly. 'Ryche drummer Scott Rockenfield remains as one of my favorite rock and roll drummers to watch live - the man is still a force behind the kit, and I thought that his pre-encore interaction with the crowd was completely genuine, and a very cool touch to help cap off the night. While singer Tate's business-like stage attire was odd and made him look like a bit of a used car salesman, I thought that he was in pretty good shape vocally for most of the evening. As Chris alludes in his review, Tate had the crowd in his hand the entire night with plenty of call and response moments shared between the singer and the audience, although I question his assessment that Tate didn't sing any of the choruses - he certainly bailed on a fair number of them, sharing the moment with the crowd, but it never approached Vince Neil levels to these ears.

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Overall, I thought that the night was pretty good fun, although I would have probably done it a bit differently. I would have opened with a brief set of American Soldier material, followed by the entire Empire album, with an encore set of the crucial hits. There were definitely some people in attendance that didn't know what the tour was all about, and were pissed as a result, to not hear a single cut from Mindcrime. The American Soldier tour certainly has something for everyone (well, unless you wanted Mindcrime tunes,) but drags during the middle American Soldier portion. I'm happy to hear that they will be documenting this tour with a live release, because that's one thing that is severely missing from the Queensryche catalog - a good Empire-era live recording. The live release from this tour won't completely fill that void, but it will be something good to listen to until the band gets around to mining their vaults for a good live release from the period.

That's my take on the night, click here for a review from Chris Akin that is nearly completely opposite of my opinion - that's how we roll!

Thanks to my good friend Amy Weiser for all photographs used in these reviews!! We'll do it again next weekend for Rock on the Range!

Setlist:

Rage for Order Suite
01 Intro
02 Neue Regel
03 The Whisper
04 Screaming in Digital
05 Geoff Talk
06 I Dream in Infrared
07 Walk in the Shadows
08 Surgical Strike
09 I Will Remember

American Soldier Suite
10 Sliver
11 Geoff Talks, introduces soldier
12 The Killer
13 If I Were King
14 Man Down
15 Geoff Talks
16 Dead Man's Words
17 Home Again
18 The Voice

Empire
Suite
19 Best I Can
20 Geoff Talks
21 The Thin Line
22 One and Only
23 Hand on Heart
24 Silent Lucidity
25 Jet City Woman
26 Is Anybody Listening?
27 Encore break
28 Empire
29 Geoff Talks
30 Take Hold of the Flame

Geoff Tate - vocals, horns
Michael Wilton - guitar
Scott Rockenfield - drums
Ed Jackson - bass guitar
Parker Lundgren - Guitar
Jason Aimes - Keyboards, vocals

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