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Queensryche (Saturday, January 22, 2005, First Avenue, Minneapolis)
Queensryche - Publicity photo

By Sean Sauder

Sometimes you just have to cut a band off. There comes a time when you no longer buy their albums or go to their concerts. Times change, musical tastes change, and there just isn't enough money or time to buy and listen to everything a band puts out if it no longer resonates with you - even if it's one of your favorite bands.

And so it was for me and Queensryche. I finally had to let them go after 1997's Hear In The Now Frontier. The album wasn't terrible, and I saw them on that tour as well, but the songs just weren't as strong as they used to be. After repeated listenings (I tried, I really tried) of Hear In The Now Frontier and 1994's Promised Land, there was only about a song or two off each album that stuck with me. Like I said, there wasn't anything particularly bad about the albums, but they certainly didn't measure up to previous ones, which had immediately hooked me the first time I heard them.

From their debut self titled EP in 1983, through 1984's The Warning, Rage For Order (1986), Operation: Mindcrime (1988), and Empire (1990), Queensryche remained firmly entrenched among my favorite bands, and I saw them live several times during that era. I might add, these albums to me, have stood the test of time. I don't think they sound dated at all.

Now that we've had our history lesson, if I cut Queensryche off in 1997, you might ask why I ended up going to see them on their current tour. There are two reasons: 1. They were playing Operation: Mindcrime live in it's entirety for the first time in 15 years. And 2. The show was at First Avenue, to me far and away the best concert venue of any I've been to - bar none. The only downside is that original guitarist, Chris DeGarmo no longer tours with the band. More on that later.

The Midwest had been hit with a pretty good blizzard the day before, and on my way to the show, I imagined this probably made for a slow commute to Minneapolis from Kansas City where the band had played the night before. As I arrived downtown an hour before doors were to open, my prediction proved true, as the crew was still unloading the equipment truck. Keep in mind this show needed more preparation time than average, with the production for Operation: Mindcrime requiring a video screen, multiple cameras, extra lights, etc. A club staff member told me that the band and crew had arrived only a few hours before show time. After a trying day on the snow covered roads, they did a hell of a job to not only make it to Minneapolis, but to get everything set up in such short order. The show did start about 20 minutes later then advertised, but all things considered, that was not bad.

The show started with a short 45 minute set, before an intermission, and then on to Operation: Mindcrime. The first song was "The Whisper", from Rage For Order, followed by "Empire". What looked to be a promising start for the set turned into a slight disappointment. Sure, we got to hear all the "hits" from Empire ("Jet City Woman", "Another Rainy Night (Without You)", "Silent Lucidity", "Empire"), but nothing else from Rage For Order, The Warning, or the Queensryche EP. (No "Queen Of the Reich", "Take Hold Of The Flame", "Walk In The Shadows", etc. Oh well, what can you do?). They also played a brand new song ("Open") and 2 others I didn't recognize, but I assumed were from 1999's Q2K or 2003's Tribe, which I've never heard. (Remember, I quit paying attention in 1997. Though after the show last nite, I am slightly motivated to give them a listen.)

Now on to the moment everyone had been waiting for: Operation: Mindcrime! I had seen the band perform it twice when the album was new, and I was really looking forward to seeing it again. An incredible album, both musically and lyrically, not only is Queensryche able to do it justice live in both of those ways, but the live production is also impressive. While the band plays, the story evolves on a video screen and with live actors on stage. Pamela Moore is on the tour as Sister Mary, as she was on the album, and this really adds to the show. (I thought her vocals were a little low in the mix from where I was standing, but it wasn't a huge issue). Some of the video footage has been updated to include some of today's political issues. I especially enjoyed the section of "Revolution Calling" where the lyrics are, "Who do you trust when everyone's a crook?", and George W. Bush is flashed across the video screen.

Other highlights for me were, "Speak", "Spreading The Disease", "The Needle Lies", "Breaking The Silence", "I Don't Believe In Love", and "Eyes Of A Stranger". At the conclusion of the show the band took their bows and brought out the actors and introduced them. Then we were treated to a preview of Operation: Mindcrime II (to be released later this year) on the video screen.

I really enjoyed the show, despite my complaints about the song omissions in the first set. Geoff Tate is a great singer, but there are times when he doesn't reach for some of the high notes that are on the album (I noticed this with "Take Hold Of The Flame" when I saw them in 1997, too). Perhaps he can't hit those notes anymore, so I guess I'd rather have him not try, than to try and not be able to, so kudos to Geoff for knowing his limitations. The guitarist playing in place of Chris DeGarmo was o.k., but of course it would be much better seeing all of the original band members. Also, I thought he really looked out of place - too "nu metal" for me. He just had nothing in common with the rest of the band's appearance.

All in all, a great show and a fun evening. If you get a chance to see it, check it out. The tour runs through February 19, with dates still left in the Midwest, East Coast and West Coast.

Sean Sauder is