Rebirth of the Titans – Queensryche has new life
Flashback: Summer 1988. I was 15 years old, and my father forbade me from going to the Monsters of Rock show where 75,000 fans jammed Candlestick Park to see Kingdom Come, Dokken, Metallica, Scorpions, and Van Halen.
My only recourse was to sit in front of the entertainment system at home and use a series of cassette tapes to record the “Monsters of Rock” weekend that the local rock station had programmed.
In those few days, I was exposed to several new bands…but when I least expected it, one song by one band had the hair standing on the back of my neck.
Queensryche‘s “Breaking the Silence” ended up on the playlist.
I was HOOKED! I didn’t know who they were or anything about them…but I knew I would immediately be finding out more. I went to Tower Records and bought that CD, Operation: Mindcrime, the very next day.
Operation: Mindcrime was (and still is) an epic metal opera that tells a story from start to finish. Not a single song on it left anything to be desired. It quickly became (and still is) one of my top five favorite CD’s of all time, to the point where over the years I ended up buying it three times due to wearing it out!
Over the next few years, I got exposed to the Queensryche back catalog, and was more and more impressed with everything I heard. “Queen of the Reich”, “Walk in the Shadows”, and “Take Hold of the Flame” grabbed me…had me headbanging so hard that they made my chin bounce off my chest and the back of my head hit my spine!!
Only one problem: Every time they came around, I missed them in concert somehow. For 12 long years they eluded me: During those years I was either too poor to even pay attention, or I was in the military and not able to get to their shows.
All that changed, however, when I moved to the Pacific Northwest in 1999.
I knew Queensryche was from Seattle — and that ‘hometown bands’ generally play in their hometowns most often — but I had NO IDEA just how many times I would see them in concert over the coming years.
From the first time I saw them in 2000 — at the TacomaDome (opening for Iron Maiden) — to 2009’s American Soldier tour, I would see them no less than eight times, including two of three of the nights they played at the Moore Theater in 2006 while recording the live DVD Mindcrime: at the Moore.
In retrospect, I realized something that I didn’t at the time; over the course of that time period, it seemed more and more that the band (with the exception of the lead singer) was just going through the motions of performing…almost as if it was a job and not really fun. Sure, the music was great…it was Queensryche, after all…but there was definitely an element of energy missing.
The next few years would prove to be tumultuous for the band, as anyone who follows them would know. By 2012, the lead singer — who all the fans knew to be one of the best in metal — was out. As a fan, I had serious doubts that those shoes could be filled by anyone anytime soon.
One day in early 2013 I was sitting at my computer. Having subscribed to all the local concert venues’ schedule emails, I just happened to be at the right place at the right time when up pops the announcement for Queensryche’s CD release party (with new lead singer Todd LaTorre) at the Crocodile Café in Seattle. Being a tiny venue, and being that the tickets were $12, I jumped on them. My girlfriend and I were both curious to see if the new singer would be able to fill such huge shoes…
The show sold out in minutes, as the capacity of the Crocodile is only a few hundred people. When the day of the show arrived, the line was literally around the block…and we had NO IDEA how absolutely floored we would be by the end of the night!
They; La Torre, bassist Eddie Jackson, drummer Scott Rockenfield, and guitarists Michael “Whip” Wilton and Parker Lundrgren, opened the show with “Queen of the Reich” – one of my favorites, and a song that, in 12+ years of seeing them live, had never seen them perform — absolutely BLEW the ROOF off the place! With the nailing of the first high pitch scream at the beginning of the song, any doubts I had about Todd being able to assume that role were OUT THE WINDOW! The rest of the night was a blur of perfectly performed ‘Ryche…from the classic to the brand new.
On July 12th, 2014, hometown Queensryche fans would get a special treat: a FREE show!! Thousands of ‘Rychers would converge at the new Lawless Harley Davidson dealership in Renton, about 20 miles south of Seattle. We would all brave 90+ degree heat (unheard of in these parts usually, except for a few weeks in August) to see them perform for almost two full hours. I got to the venue at 5:30pm. There was already over 1000 people there, most of them taking shelter from the hot sun inside the dealership, in the shade or in the beer garden. At 6:30, I took my place at the center of the barrier, ensuring a prime spot for the evening for pictures and video.
They waited until the sun went down (almost 9 pm), about a half hour later than the scheduled start time. An absolutely EPIC set of music would follow, spanning 30+ years of material…
Nightrider/Breaking the Silence/Walk in the Shadows/The Whisper/En Force/Spore/Warning/Silent Lucidity/X2/Where Dreams Go To Die/A World Without/Double Guitar Solo/The Needle Lies/NM 156/The Lady Wore Black/My Empty Room/Eyes of a Stranger/Empire
Queen of the Reich/Jet City Woman/Take Hold of the Flame.
The night’s performance was FLAWLESS, with Todd LaTorre nailing every note in every classic song in exactly the same manner as his predecessor. The band seemed rejuvenated, with Parker, Michael, and Todd all crossing the stage multiple times throughout the night. Whip spun around in circles, banging his head as he played. You could TELL that the band was having fun!
Since Todd joined the band in 2012, I have seen Queensryche three times. I have noticed that there is a marked change in the band’s demeanor. They seem genuinely happy to play! I can’t speak for the band members themselves, but in the years leading up to Todd joining, it seemed like this was not the case. His induction has seemed to rekindle a fire in the rest of the band, and it shows. Todd is humble and thankful to be able to be the frontman for his favorite band. In my opinion (and a lot of other fans’ opinions, for that matter), the current material sounds more like classic ‘Ryche than anything they’ve done since Empire. Not to mention the fact that Todd hits EVERY NOTE of the classic songs in the way that we’re all used to. If I was blindfolded, I would be hard pressed to be able to tell the difference between his voice and his predecessor’s…and most other fans I’ve talked to feel the same way.
The bottom line is that Queensryche has been reborn. The shoes that were left by predecessors have been filled…by even bigger feet!!
For THIS fan, December 5th’s show at Snoqualmie Casino (which will end this tour where it started) CAN’T COME FAST ENOUGH!
\m/ ‘RYCHE ON!! \m/
All photos © 2014 by Corey Urband.
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