The Queensryche machine is in high gear. They released their new album, ‘The Verdict’, earlier this month and have taken to the road to promote it. They have recruited metal veterans Fates Warning to join the tour and the duo played to a packed Medina Entertainment Center in Medina, Minnesota.
I first stumbled onto Fates Warning when the video for “Anarchy Divine” made the rotations onto Headbangers Ball in 1988. I followed the band through the albums ‘No Exit,’ ‘Perfect Symmetry,’ and ‘Parallels’ before losing track of them. I was excited to see these guys live and to prepare I had been cranking up ‘Live Over Europe’ which was released in 2018. Fates Warning consisted of vocalist Ray Alder, Jim Matheos and Frank Aresti on guitars, Joey Vera on bass and drummer Bobby Jarzombek.
The band kicked off the eleven-song set with “From The Rooftops.” The song starts off with a mellow vibe but it wasn’t long before the players were turned loose and the song launched off the stage. One of my favorites from the night, “Life In Still Water” was next and followed by “One.” I thought Adler sounded great vocally and the musicianship of these guys was nothing short of spectacular. This is group of people that have honed and crafted their skills to unreachable heights for most. Their music was a great fusion between heavy metal, hard rock, and progressive with a leaning to the more melodic side of things. Some of the other songs that stood out were “Seven Stars,” “The Eleventh Hour,” and the closer “Point Of View.” Although Fates Warning never broke through into the mainstream they had tremendous support from the fans at the Medina Center and the performance was top notch.
Queensryche has released three albums with vocalist Todd La Torre. ‘The Verdict’ followed ‘Condition Human’ in 2015 and the self-titled album in 2013. There are two hurdles that a band like Queensryche faces on a daily basis. The first issue is the band is now down to two original members. Only bassist Eddie Jackson and guitarist Michael Wilton remain in the touring version. As more of the iconic bands from the 80’s and 90’s lose members, many fans choose to check out, especially when the voice of the band has changed. The second hurdle is almost self-inflicted; creating new music, and then playing that music live. For bands with extensive catalogs already, adding new material sometimes doesn’t go well. I was really interested in seeing what the set-list would be comprised of as the band had promised some new songs being inserted.
To no surprise, ‘Blood Of The Levant,” kicked the night off. The opening track of the new album and it rocked. Despite being brand new, it unlocked the code to that classic sound that the band was built on. Pulling out “I Am I” next was a treat and it was nice to hear something off “Promise Land.” Digging even deeper in the catalog, “NM 156” from ‘The Warning’ was unexpected. That’s a song that mainstream Queensryche fans probably don’t know but the hardcore fanatics ate every note of it. The fourth song returned to the new record as “Man The Machine” was played. Before digging into some the classic stuff the band played “Condition Human” and then launched into “Queen Of The Reich” and “Silent Lucidity.”
Despite fighting a cold Todd La Torre sounded his usual fantastic self. Geoff Tate supplied a truly distinct voice to Queensryche and to find somebody able to fill that space, and as good as Todd does it, was an amazing find. I do miss former guitarist Chris DeGarmo playing with Michael Wilton. I thought that tandem was special and probably not talked about enough in great guitar duo conversations. Filling that void is Parker Lundgren and I’ve seen that fit get tighter though the decade he has been in the band. Teaming up with Eddie Jackson to provide the rhythm section was drummer Casey Grillo who has replaced Scott Rockenfield the past few years.
This is where the set may have gotten sticky for some fans. The next three songs were all off the last three records. “Open Road,” “Selfish Lives,” and “Light-Years.” I like all those songs and hearing them performed live was great. The flipside was the fans that haven’t kept up with the latest material seemed a bit confused. The rest of the show, the last five songs, was all soaked with Queensryche lore. “Screaming In Digital,” Take Hold Of The Flame,” and the closer before the encores, “Eyes Of A Stranger” had everybody fully onboard. The rule in closing a concert is leaving the crowd wanting more and after “Jet City Woman” and “Empire,” fans were ready for one or two, or maybe, three more.
I liked what Queensryche is doing with this tour. I’ve seen them three times in the past few years and it’s been pretty much the same set every time. Although some of the faces have changed the essence of the sound is still being preserved. I appreciate the fact they are continuing to create and record new music and want to play it live. I know there were fans that just wanted the hits, and that playing only one song off ‘Operation: Mindcrime’ was probably a criminal offense. The legacy of Queensryche can never be undone or erased from time. I would rather have them try to add to it as opposed to resting on it. That time is now with this current “The Verdict Tour.” Hopefully people give the new material a chance; there is so good stuff to be heard and the vintage material sounds as good as ever.