Geoff Tate – Gig Review & Photo Gallery 8th Feb @ The Croxton, Melb VIC

Geoff Tate
The Croxton, Melbourne, Vic
February 8, 2023
Support: Demonhead

“They said it was dark, they said it was brooding, they said it was futuristic . . . yes, yes and yes!”

This is one of Geoff Tate’s recollections of a time, way back in 1986, when his then-band released their unique, ‘light years ahead of its time’ (which I think is what the critics actually meant when they described it as ‘futuristic’) sophomore album Rage for Order.

Now, with the benefit of more than three and a half decades’ worth of hindsight, such descriptions have been proven unequivocally correct, both in terms of the fact that that record still sounds so superb and so current, and that here we are, 36 years later, showing up in our venue-packing droves to see it performed live in its entirety (albeit with a little help from the less esoteric, more commercially satisfying and successful Empire album.) Both albums are iconic, in very different ways, and to hear them both in track by track order on the one night is an opportunity than cannot be passed up.

But, before Geoff and his band take the stage, there is a support band to experience first. Local Melbourne four-piece Demonhead smash out a pretty traditional, four-on-the-floor hard rock sound with all the trimmings, Acca Dacca-inspired riffs and grooves (the drummer injecting some tasty double-kick work here and there to spice things up, which transports them into trad-metal territory at times), lead guitar trade-offs and harmonies, cheesy 80s stage moves, attempts at audience participation and so on. It’s an old-school hard rock/metal fan’s dream.

Yes, this style has been done a bazillion times, but it’s always fun, always good value. There is a reason why this kind of music is still around and still enjoys a large following, it just works in a live setting. And these lads have been around more than long enough to make it completely convincing and credible. Their 30-minute set whizzes by in a flash and the steadily building Croxton crowd have had their whistles wetted and appetites whetted.

To me, Queensryche’s Rage for Order through to 1994’s Promised Land is among the absolute greatest three to five album stretches in rock music history. Tate brought his young band out with him a few years back and did the mighty and magnificent Operation: Mindcrime end to end in all its glory, and that instantly became one of this scribe’s favourite recent live music memories. Now it’s time for the two records that bookended that most iconic of all concept albums.

The crowd has built beautifully for the start of Geoff’s set. I position myself on the step-up section of the Crocko’s band room to the left of the stage so I can get a decent overview of the crowd as well as the band. To my very pleasant surprise, many members of the audience sing along with just about every single word of the relatively obscure Rage for Order album, a fact that is not lost on Tate himself (“I don’t need a teleprompter tonight,” he quips, “I can just lip-read off you guys!”). That’s the type of album it is. While highly progressive, almost to the point of being actually experimental, R4O also features huge singalong vocals/soaring choruses. That’s part of what makes it so damn amazing, and the crowd loves every second.

I’m not going to cherry-pick a highlight track from this set. R4O is wall-to-wall quality, every song is idiosyncratically iconic, every song is a unique masterpiece, and this makes for a set that is itself a 50-minute long highlight.

There is a predictability in playing classic albums end to end in track order, but it’s a predictability that is immensely enjoyable. The hardcore fan knows exactly what’s coming next, and he/she anticipates it, savours it, and the familiarity is like slipping into your own warm, cozy bed after a long hard day.

After a 20-minute break, the man and his band return to the stage and hit us with the more exuberant, the more accessible Empire. It is easy to see why this album fleetingly made Queensryche one of the bigger bands on the planet. Even more soaring and singalong-worthy than R4O, the song structures, lyrical themes and the general vibe of the piece are far more easy on the ear, far broader in their appeal. Of course, being the band they are and were, they still shake things up and keep things highly dynamic, from the propulsive heaviness of ‘Resistance’, to the moody bluesiness of the fabulous ‘Della Brown’, to the melancholy sweetness of mega-hit ‘Silent Lucidity’, and the sheer scope of sound at this band’s disposal during their heyday come across to magical effect across the course of these two sets. Plus, the killer double-barrelled encore of ‘Eyes of a Stranger’ and ‘Queen of the Reich’.

The man himself is in fine vocal fettle this night. Hell, the guy is 64 years old, probably close to triple the age of his band members, and he is cannily, professionally aware of the limitations that age has brought. He doesn’t attempt every single high note that he used to take in his stride in his prime (especially in the encores), but the ones he does attempt he absolutely nails. Quite an achievement for a man of that age. On top of that, the chemistry of his interactions with his young band members is very real and fun to watch and his onstage banter is quirky and funny, the memories he brings of that heady time in he and his old band’s career bring a collective smile to our faces.

The man still cuts a completely compelling figure, and appears to be having an absolute ball doing it. And, given the fact that the members of his band are all superb players, recreating the complex instrumentation on these classic albums about as faithfully as can be done now, it all adds up to one hell of a package.

Tonight is a cathartic nostalgia trip of the most joyous imaginable kind, a celebration of two unrepeatable, moment-in-time records.

Tonight also highlights one of the many things I love so much about progressive rock and metal music: it evolves, morphs, never stays the same, remains perpetually open to change, while hard rock music just is. Hard rock sounds much the same as it did in 1986. You can send the 2023 hard rock band back in time to 1986, put it on a live bill and it would barely raise an eyebrow. Send a 2023 prog rock band back to 1986 and it would stick out like a knot on a log, just as Rage for Order did at that time. Prog in 2023 does not sound one single iota like Rage for Order, and R4O does not sound like 2023 prog. 2023 prog does not sound like prog from 2003, or maybe even 2013, let alone 1986. And this is all part of the sub-genres immense charm.

Master Tate, and band, you have done it again.

Review by: Rod Whitfield (Twitter)

Photo Gallery by Clinton Hatfield. Insta:
Please credit Wall of Sound and Clinton Hatfield if you repost photos.


Geoff Tate

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