By Val Tapia, BADS Contributing Writer
Photos By Fred Kuhlman from the Tucson, AZ show with Judas Priest
It’s been real interesting observing progressive hard rock band Queensryche over the last ten years. Given the lineup changes during that time, to its credit the band has refused to let that stop them from producing new music.
However, during that same time frame Queensryche also (by-and-large) stuck to playing songs created by its original lineup (during the 1980s) when it came to live shows.
To that end, it wasn’t long before fans who enjoy the band as it is today (with current lead vocalist Todd La Torre, who replaced original vocalist Geoff Tate after being terminated from the band in 2012) would push for more current music on tour. Understandably so I might add.
In other words, those fans feared that Queensryche had succumbed to the “nostalgia trap” that many of their ’80s contemporaries are bogged down by— albeit (arguably) to a lesser degree though.
It was a delicate balance from the band’s perspective for sure. How in good conscience can they ignore the original band’s legacy on tour? Likewise, if they want to move forward creatively, they have to write new music so the current incarnation of Queensryche (consisting of guitarists Michael Wilton and Mike Stone, bassist Eddie Jackson, drummer Casey Grillo, and the aforementioned La Torre on vocals) can be judged on its own merits.
All that in mind, I would say that the band today seems to be in a good place. If their show at Tempe’s Marquee Theatre on Tue. March 14 was any indication, it appears that Queensryche won’t be slowing down any time soon— after 40 years, mind you!
Touring in support of new album Digital Noise Alliance, the audience was treated to four songs from it. More on that shortly.
The show’s opening song was a complete stunner that nobody in the crowd saw coming: Spreading The Disease (from Operation: mindcrime, 1988). All I can say is…. they nailed it!
Child Of Fire and En Force (from 1984’s The Warning) followed, then new song Behind The Walls. Again, to the band’s credit, I think they found a happy medium (so far) on this tour when it comes to pleasing themselves and pleasing their dedicated fanbase with the set list.
La Torre then introduced the fifth song of the night as “the first song we wrote together when I joined the band”, that being Don’t Look Back (from Queensryche, 2013). It was the only song performed from that album.
Despite some of the backround vocals seeming to be too low in the mix, there’s no doubt that Queensryche still sounds good live.
Furthermore, it’s nice to see that the entire band shines throughout the… 75-minute set (???…I’ll get to that soon!) where the songs are the focus— not technical prowess. That’s likely why the music of Queensryche has generally held up over time so well. Yet, the musicianship is still top notch without question.
Light-years (from 2019’s The Verdict) is next, a song “written by Mr. Eddie Jackson”, La Torre stated enthusiastically. New songs Sicdeth and Forest (from 2022’s Digital Noise Alliance) go over okay, however, familiar terrain comes next with Jet City Woman (from 1990’s Empire).
Admittedly, one song that I’m kind of surprised hasn’t made a return to the set is Guardian (from 2015’s Condition Human), arguably the Empire of the “La Torre era”… so far. It’s provocative, timely, and poignant all at once. Hopefully it will show up in the set list once again in the near future.
Speaking of Empire, yes, that is rightly a concert staple. Honestly, it wouldn’t be a Queensryche show without it. In short order, it remains one of the greatest hard rock songs of Gen X— period.
I should note that it would be disingenuous and dishonest of me as a journalist if I didn’t state some constructive criticism about the set, particularly the show’s length.
First, a quick story. Fans were informed by staff of the Marquee that Queensryche would be playing a (roughly) 105-minute set from 9:30 p.m. to 11:15 p.m. In point of fact, they even posted this time on the doors of the venue.
Much to the disappointment (and confusion) for some fans in attendance, there were no encores played Tuesday night. All told, Queensryche’s set was a “mere” (as three angry fans put it to me) 75-minute, 15-song set.
In my opinion, this would be “fine” if a band or artist had three or four albums to their name, or if it was 1986. However, Queensryche has a very sizable catalog, which justifies a longer set in 2023— fairly or unfairly.
By “longer”, I mean twenty songs or two hours onstage— minimum. Either one would be appreciated by most fans, again, in my opinion.
To be fair, last weekend the band was forced to postpone three shows in the Texas area last weekend due to La Torre falling ill. Perhaps taking precaution for his health, the band decided to cut out some songs that were played during the first five shows of the tour. That’s completely understandable, and ultimately the right thing to do in that situation. Glad that La Torre is feeling better now.
Back onstage, another blast-from-the-past off The Warning (Deliverance) came towards the end. Needless to say, quite a few jaws dropped on that one. Wilton looked like one happy camper, given that he wrote that song and it was so well-received. Nice to see it resurrected on this go-round.
The night concluded with My Empty Room and Eyes Of A Stranger from Queensryche’s magnum opus, 1988’s Operation: mindcrime. There really isn’t a better way to conclude a Queensryche show.
For those who may not have seen Queensryche in a long time, I think you’ll enjoy this tour. There’s a little something for most fans (longtime and new) this time around. Well worth the time.
The Verdict (pun intended), you might ask? Four out of five stars.
Queensryche Set List:
Spreading The Disease
Child Of Fire
Behind The Walls
Don’t Look Back
Jet City Woman
My Empty Room
Eyes Of A Stranger