If you’re a fan of Queensryche or metal in general, you’ve probably been keeping track of the ongoing saga of Queensryche as they fired former vocalist Geoff Tate and replaced him with former Crimson Glory singer Todd La Torre. I won’t bore you with the gory details, as the story is just a Google search away. The current line up of Queensryche featuring original members Michael Wilton, Scott Rockenfield, and Eddie Jackson, guitarist Parker Lundgren, and La Torre have been on a current “Return to History” tour, only performing material from their first five classic albums (the EP through Empire) and ignoring their recent subpar releases of the last 15 or so years with Tate at the helm.
When I learned that the newly invigorated Queensryche would be performing a free show at The Wolf Den (an open air venue inside Mohegan Sun Casino) within a two hour drive from my home, I had to see the La Torre led Ryche for myself. I’ve seen Queensryche many times over the years, the first time being as the opening act for Ozzy Osbourne in 1987 supporting their groundbreaking album Rage for Order. The last time seeing the band with Tate as the frontman was at Hampton Beach Ballroom last year in New Hampshire. I couldn’t help but notice that the bands performance was dull and lifeless and the bands earlier material was noticeably absent from the setlist. I’m sure by now many of you have seen the clips on YouTube of Todd performing the early material with the band, and if you’re like me, you were thoroughly impressed. Still, despite the rave reviews, I had to see it for myself.
Having never attended a free show at The Wolf Den, I didn’t know what to expect. When I heard storues of people lining up at 9:00 a.m. that morning, I knew I had to get there early as the venue only hold 300 or so people. So I arrived at 4pm for a show that was scheduled to start at 8pm and was 20th in line along with my friend Carl. The line soon grew in size spread around the casino. Finally around 7:30 p.m. the line started moving. That’s when the downside to the evening started. When Carl and I arrived at the front entrance the person at the door asked us for tickets. Confused, I replied that we didn’t have tickets for this free show. I was then told that a casino employee had been passing out white tickets to people in line so they could present them at the door to get in. As Carl and I tried to explain that no one had informed us of this, things turned ugly as the casino employees became rude and unprofessional telling us we were “lying” and to get out of line. Without a doubt this was the most embarrassing and unprofessional venue I have ever been to in over 20 years of attending concerts. But I digress, eventually; a kind young lady named Michelle offered one of us her “plus one” as she was on the guest list. I told my friend Carl to take it and I would try to plead my case to the casino staff. Unfortunately my calm reasoning fell on deaf ears and I was forced to watch the show from the casino floor. As ridiculous as this situation was, I was not going to let it ruin my night.
At 8 o’clock the band hit the stage to their metal classic Queen of the Reich. As soon as La Torre hit the familiar opening scream, I smiled and knew my once beloved Queensryche had returned with a vengeance. The band then launched into Speak from the bands breaktrough album Operation: Mindcrime. As I watched each band member I saw something that was severely lacking in their performances over the past few years..smiles. The entire band was smiling and moving around with the energy of a band half their age. It’s as if the band had a huge albatross lifted off their collective necks and was finally allowed to have FUN! The band then dove into my personal favorite Queensryche album Rage for Order with amazing renditions of Walk in the Shadows and The Whisper. It was amazing to hear these songs being performed with intensity and passion again, especially with the exceptional vocals of La Torre. The bands classic debut album The Warning was represented as well with En Force, Child of Fire, Warning, Roads to Madness, and the Ryche classic Take Hold of the Flame. The capacity crowd was cheering, headbanging, and singing along to every lyric. The Ryche even pulled out a deep track for the most dedicated fans with The Prophecy, a solid metal tune that never actually made it on to a Queensryche album, but was added to the EP and on their Live in Tokyo video release from 1985. The conversations around me were overwhelmingly positive as people were exclaiming how great La Torre sounded with the band. The Mindcrime album was represented with blistering performances of The Needle Lies, I Don’t Believe In Love, My Empty Room (a nice moment featuring Wilton and La Torre), and Eyes of A Stranger finishing the bands regular set. The crowd was not ready to leave and cheered for more as drummer Scott Rockenfield came out to the front and thanked the crowd for their support and announced that the bands new album would be released on June 11th through Century Media records. The band then finished the night with a trio of hits from the bands most successful album Empire, playing Jet City Woman , Silent Lucidity, and ended with the title track Empire. After years of disappointing albums and lackluster performances, my faith has been renewed in Queensryche. The band has finally embraced their metal past and the future looks bright for Wilton, Rockenfield, Jackson, Lungren, and La Torre. Don’t miss them when they come to a town near you!