Manning Bar, Sydney NSW
October 15th, 2016
Support – Hemina, LORD
Queensrÿche is a metal band who literally defined a generation of musicians. From their inception in the early 1980s and the release of their debut The Warning, they have received accolades across the metal world. However, in 1998, with the release of Operation Mindcrime, they became super stars and mainstreamed. This continued over a number of releases, and they actually built on their commercial capital and value with Empire, in 1990. However, the band did lose their way for a period after the release of Promised Land in 1994. The memorable hooks and epic songs seemed to disappear and instead, they released a number of mediocre albums. Now I know a lot has been spoken about this in the media, as well as about the ousting of original vocalist Geoff Tate, only a few years ago, so I am not going to go into it here. So now to 2016, with two return to form albums with vocal replacement Todd La Torre, Queensrÿche are gracing our shores for the third time, and the first time with this line-up.
Now the first time Queensrÿche was in Australia was on the back of Operation Mindcrime II, and the second time, as a gig around different “suites” delivering different eras of the band. But in 2016, they are a different band and a band with something to prove. The Manning Bar is a great venue, and for this gig, on a Saturday night, it is pretty well to capacity.
The opening band Hemina hit the stage with only half a hall, but they came to play. This set was a big improvement on the last time I saw them. They have developed as a unit, they were much tighter and the vocal harmonies were really locking in tonight. With a new album on the way they played two new tracks and these were definitely the stronger compositions of the set. It will be interesting to hear the new album in full.
Next up LORD, a Sydney favourite, performing on the back of their US debut last month. LORD is a seasoned band these days, tight, engaging and able to work a crowd. Tonight they focussed on their back catalogue and despite it being a short set they played key songs. Tim’s vocals are as strong as they were fifteen years ago, and he really knows how to keep the audience on side. He is an amazing musician and vocalist, and this came through strongly tonight. Mark (guitar) who hasn’t been in the band for too long is very impressive. He really plays from the heart and he has a great feel with his playing and compliments Tim. Andy Dowling (bass guitar), wasn’t in the line-up tonight, as Tim expressed he was “selfishly on his honeymoon in Prague drinking beer,” and his stand in did a solid job. Tonight in their set the highlight for me was ‘Foots Steps in the Sand’, but they also ended with a great cover of Metallica’s, ‘Creeping Death’, with Mark on vocals. Tonight they showed Sydney just why they are one of the top metal acts in the country at the moment. I don’t know how far away the next album is, but considering how much better this band keeps getting I can’t wait to hear it.
There was a real lot of anticipation for Queensrÿche within the audience tonight. I think some people had come out of curiosity, as this was the first time that we have seen the La Torre fronted outfit, and the Queensrÿche faithful were here in numbers just to support their heroes; and many had completed the whole tour. The band hit the stage, as I mentioned earlier, with something to prove. For me the new material on both Condition Human and the self-titled is strong, but unfortunately we only got two songs from the latest album and not the self-titled. The songs ‘Guardian’ and ‘Eye 9’ stood strong against the back catalogue, and is evidence that Queensrÿche is definitely back where they should be with regard to their new material.
Todd really seemed to be happy to be in Australia for the first time, and the die-hards in the audience engaged with him. He really copes well with the back catalogue but doesn’t waver far from original nature of the tracks. On older tracks such as ‘Mindcrime’, ‘Silent Lucidity’, ‘Jet City Woman’ and ‘Best I Can’ he was great and showed exactly why he is the replacement of Geoff Tate. He has a confidence, and an air about him, that doesn’t reek of arrogance or insincerity.
Michael Wilton (guitar and founding member) was solid tonight. He, in the media, has been seen as the driving force behind the band these days and this shone through in his performance and the audience’s reaction to him. He really has taken on the form of leader and champion for Queensrÿche. Eddie Jackson (bass guitar and founding member), has never really been to the fore within the band, however, he is a great musician, and his backing vocals are so important to the live Queensrÿche sound and support of the lead, and this was evident tonight. Scott Rockenfield is an amazing drummer, and even though he doesn’t have the flashy “chain laden kit” of the 1980s he is playing as well as he has always has. I was impressed by him on most tracks and he was the definite stand out for me tonight, but I would have liked some of the heavier tracks played at a faster pace to balance some of the ballads in the set.
It is always very difficult for a band to reinvent themselves when they replace a front man, but Queensrÿche have done that in my opinion. However, tonight I wished the band had have backed their newer material more and concentrated more on their last two albums rather than the back catalogue. The set which went for seventy five minutes, one of the shortest sets that I have seen in years from an international headliner, did leave a little lacking, and I think a number of the key compositions from the La Torre albums would have boosted the set in its duration and balance. Queensrÿche are no longer slaves to their history but have reinvented themselves into a new outfit, and I understand that they need to respect and celebrate its past, but it is still able to stay relevant and carve a new path with the bands later material in my opinion. Tonight was a good show, and it was excellent to see La Torre for the first time in front of Queensrÿche, and I am looking forward to seeing the band again in Australia with a new album and an increase in confidence and energy as the band grow further together.
Review by Mark Snedden
Pics for the night were taken by Mick Goddard, check out his killer gallery is below – simply click on an image to enlarge.