Queensryche – Live Review – The Longbranch, Raleigh, NC – 3/23/13

The “Queensryche” story took a nasty turn last year, leading to an acrimonious split leaving Geoff Tate standing on one side of a courtroom, facing his three former corporation partners and band-mates, Scott Rockenfield, Michael Wilton and Eddie Jackson. I don’t intend to reiterate the story here, except to note for now there are two versions of Queensryche, one with Tate and a collection of hired hands, and the other with the original three members, plus Parker Lundgren who joined in 2009, and the most recent member, Todd La Torre on vocals. While the story will remain unsaid here, it would be impossible to ignore the situation, but trust me; I have tried to keep the animosity out of what follows.

Queensryche fans are a passionate bunch, with some falling hard on the side of Tate, while others have thrown their support behind the La Torre fronted version (from here onwards referred to simply as Queensryche in this article). The true diehard fans reading this will know that Tate was not an ‘original’ member and basically was brought in as a session singer for the self-funded/self-titled EP that broke the band. It was only after the EP had sold a significant number of copies and received worldwide praise that Tate would leave his band “Myth” and join Queensryche as a full member. Shortly after this the band were signed to a 15-year/7-album deal with EMI. My point here is that Queensryche were never the “Geoff Tate band” which the impression you get from some people when they discuss the current situation.

However you view it, the first five albums put out in the period 1984 through 1994 are classic metal albums that should have a home in every rock fans collection. Following this period and perhaps facilitated by Chris DeGarmo’s departure in 1997, the bands releases have become increasingly inconsistent, as have the live performances from the band. My opinion on this is that Geoff Tate was never a “metal-head” rocker at his core, and I think some of his solo work really takes us to a place he is more comfortable with, but that’s pure speculation on my part.

Anyway, Queensryche have been gigging consistently since the split with Todd La Torre out front, and have been receiving much praise and solid support. Despite a pretty busy schedule they also found time in the past 12 months to record a new album due for release this coming June. As soon as I heard my favorite promoter, Marty Burns, had booked Queensryche to play The Longbranch in Raleigh, NC, I was ready to hit the road and find out for myself. So, this is where we found ourselves last Saturday, making the 300 mile ride down I-95 to see what I hoped would be the re-born Queensryche.

Also on the bill were three other local bands, Devyce, Dark Design and Widow, but I’m going to save reviews for these for another time, since I think I have plenty to cover with Queensryche alone, however I will say they all did a fine job of warming up the crowd and by the time Widow left the stage The Longbranch was fired up and ready to rock.

Just to set the scene, I feel it’s only right to let you all in on a little background here – Queensryche have been consistently in my top 10 bands ever since I first discovered them in the pages of Kerrang! magazine back in 1984, and saw them on their first ever tour of the UK supporting Dio in October ’84. I vividly remember walking into Hammersmith Odeon a few minutes into their set and being totally stunned by how good the band was, the guitar harmonies and searing vocals. However, this is not to say that this is a blind addiction and with the exception of Mindcrime II (2006) I have been increasingly frustrated with the album releases starting with “Hear In The Now Frontier” in 1997. I’m not saying there isn’t some good music in this period, but you have to work much harder to find it.

Just prior to writing this review I revisited the most recent album from the Tate era, “Dedicated To Chaos” and it’s a good record… but it seems to have come from a different band entirely when you stand it up against “Rage For Order” or “Empire” for example. And I don’t think this is just 30 years of evolution – you only have to look at other contemporaries such as Iron Maiden, AC/DC, Y&T, etc, to see that a band can still grow, but not grow away from what made them successful.

Looking back, particularly to the show at the M3 Festival last year, which was the last time I saw Queensryche live, the writing was on the wall, and while the ructions were being contained below the surface, there was a painful vibe from the band that just couldn’t be hidden.

When I read all the details following the split, it all seemed to fit together, and I will close with the thought that I sincerely hope that Geoff Tate finds his place in the music industry – he is one amazingly talented vocalist – however the animosity and vitriol that continues to leak out to the press isn’t helping his case (at least for me) and trying to ‘compete’ the two versions of Queensryche is just sour grapes.

So, we turn to Todd La Torre. What I knew about Todd prior to him joining QR could have been written in one sentence: “Current vocalist for Crimson Glory”. End. So, clearly he was an entity unknown, but when I heard about the Rising West project (which was essentially Queensryche without Tate), and that they were playing only material from the first five QR records, I started a little digging. Given that a lot of Crimson Glory material has similar underpinnings to QR, it wasn’t surprising to me that Todd could handle the QR vocals, but the question was how well? That question was answered emphatically in the first YouTube video I saw – he NAILED IT! Life was back in the QR ranks… What has happened in the past 10 months or so, and the transition from Rising West into the full-time position of Queensryche vocalist continues to be a bit of a roller-coaster ride, but it is great to see the members of Queensryche bind together and move forward, no matter what Geoff Tate might get up to.

So, back to The Longbranch and as Widow cleared the stage we get the first glimpse of the new QR. The stage backdrop was cool with a new skull logo covering both sides of the stage, and anticipation grew as the stage crew knocked off a quick sound check. You could feel the audience was charged with energy and it seemed these few minutes took far longer to pass. I managed to snap a picture of the set list taped to the stage and what a great list it was – see the photo of the signed list below (along with other goodies the band signed…).

So, the wait was over and the night opened with “Queen Of The Reich”, and immediately two things struck me; the first was how comfortable Todd La Torre was, and the second how relaxed the band was – wait a minute? They almost look as if they are enjoying this! In the past this was one of my biggest gripes, particularly in the last 10 years, where I can’t honestly recall anyone except perhaps Geoff Tate smiling. It was all so serious. But tonight there was a different vide altogether. Todd took command of the center stage and just nailed the song and it was hard not find myself drawn back to that first concert, back in 1984 and that feeling of experiencing something very special.

Next up was “Speak” from Mindcrime and at this point the ride was off and running, and it was clear the band were energized and firing on all cylinders, no holds barred. Anyone that had reservations about just how well Todd La Torre could fill Geoff Tate’s shoes should have just forgotten the question at this point since it is a question of no value. Todd is the real deal and the band in front of us is the Queensryche no questions asked.

Over the course of the following 15 songs we were treated to a showcase exclusively from the first five releases of the band that in total broke down as follows: EP 1 track, Rage for Order 2 tracks, The Warning 6 tracks, Mindcrime 5 tracks and 3 from Empire. Despite the new record being “in the can” and listed for a June release we’re going to have to wait for those to debut live. Overall I would say this was a very unique set list since in the future it is inevitable that fewer of the oldies will make it to the stage, so I for one feel privileged to have experienced this.

A few notes on the performances from the band. Scott Rockenfield has always been an exceptional drummer, but I think this show was the best I have ever seen him. There was an energy and dynamic that seemed to bring a particular snap to his snare drum and punch to the kicks. I’m going to lump Eddie Jackson and Michael Wilton together and say one thing – I saw them both SMILE. Not something I could have ever written from any previous QR concert, but they were clearly enjoying the new spirit of the band and what they were feeling from the audience. Nice.

And, last, but not least, for those with instruments on stage, Parker Lundgren. Now, I have to admit, previously I have not really been 100% convinced with regards to Parker in the band. The story regarding how he ended up in the band seemed to be more of the Geoff Tate shenanigans, having something to do with dating and subsequently marrying (and then later divorcing) Tate’s step-daughter, and lo, behold, Parker is in the band… but I was converted at The Longbranch. In the past, he seemed to operate in his own little space over on the left side of the stage, but for this show he was far more integrated into the show and his playing was spot on, perfectly complementing Michael Wilton.

So, this leaves Todd La Torre. Basically there is little to say. He already has become and integral part of Queensryche and I would attribute the energy and passion that the band is now displaying almost entirely to Todd and what he has brought to the band. Revitalized is the word I would use. His vocals were spot on all night and he never missed a note. Check out the video below – my wife was down at the very front of the stage and had the trusty iPhone out and was videoing as the band started “Eye’s Of A Stranger”. Todd noticed her, checked the camera was running and took it for a walk around the stage before carefully returning it to her. What a priceless moment.

At the end of the evening all I could think was this was by far the best I had ever seen the band since that very first time in 1984. Back then everything was new and the energy running through the band was brought about by the discovery that the music the band was bringing was being soaked up by the fans – a young band that was about to make it big. This time around we had that same energy back, with the band rediscovering that the music that launched them was still as vital and enthralling as it was nearly 30 years ago, but with the added bonus that nearly everyone in the audience knew almost every word of every song!

I will go and see the Geoff Tate band in a couple of months when they make it through the D.C. area, because to judge without witnessing would be hypocritical, but it will be an incredibly tall order to get anywhere near what Queensryche managed to bring last weekend. I do wish Geoff Tate the best of luck, but Queensryche are back, they are on fire and I anticipate the new record with great expectation. My score for the show 10/10.

QR_Swag

Swag signed by the band after the show

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25 Responses to “Queensryche – Live Review – The Longbranch, Raleigh, NC – 3/23/13”

  1. Great review…I’m like a metalhead in high school again, but with access to Youtube. One brand new song has given me faith that the Metal Gods are still smiling on Queensryche. I WILL see them live on their tour for the new album. As for Tate, I have never heard Chaos, American Soldier, or anything else. The last Ryche album I heard was Mindcrime 2 and I was VERY disappointed. I bought Hear and the Now Frontier, and never bought another album until Mindcrime 2. It goes without saying that I will buy the new Ryche album as soon as it is released in June. Queensryche is back!

    • “The last Ryche album I heard was Mindcrime 2 and I was VERY disappointed.”

      Same here. For me, even the ‘Empire” was a dissapointment it its time (i think it was ’90), but now i think it’s pretty good compared to later albums. Still listening to it sometimes.
      Who knows how the creative energies work? One day you make the absolutely fuckin masterpiece, the Album of all metal albums, then the miracle is gone somehow. I still think they are geniuses, all of them, incl. Tate.

  2. Stop it…I LOVE Queensryche! But, Queensryche is not Queensryche without TATE and DeGarmo! They were Queensryche. PERIOD.

    • Thanks for the comment John, but a question for you: Have you seen the new line-up live? Until you do I think you’re living in the past, which is fine, but a little limiting. Open your ears and mind and take a listen.

      • I agree with Nova, I saw them in Long Island 3 weeks ago, and I’m definitely looking forward to their new album with Todd. I hear you regarding the loyalty towards Tate and DeGarmo, i think DeGarmo was the soul of the band with his writing abilities. But Tate has DEFINITELY lost a step with his voice and his mind, the guy chain smoked and did not care much about his voice, thus his range went downhill…Not for nothing, but the guy has more interest in selling his wine than writing music, also there are no FEDORA’s in Metal..I saw him wearing one in one of the promo pics that he took..ridiculous. Also, looking at the roster of his band and musicians that he had on his album, interesting…I’ll give him some kudos for KK and Brad Gillis, but he’s going to add a drummer like Bobby Blitzer and Simon Wright playing old Queensryche?? thats crazy..can’t even compare those 2 to Scott.

  3. David Mosley Says:

    O.K. I understand that you had fun. I understand you saw a(what) appears to give an impression Of QUEENSRYCHE. You know that you can’t. replace vocals, & yes Geoff Tate is original cause’ they were not known when G.T. came into the studio in the 1st place… What you call the 3 original members, is actually only 1… So, who has the better band??? I gotta say, is gonna be the original vocals… When you change singers, you change the sound, & all the rest is nothing but a Tribute Band…

    • So Iron Maiden are what? A tribute band? Sabbath with Dio? AC/DC…? Genesis? Warrant? Shall we go on? Deep Purple? Have you heard the band with Todd out front? Did you hear the shambles that was QR 12 months ago – I did. It was a sad hollow effigy of what QR was at their peak. The band I saw last week was a powerhouse, back firing with energy and life.

      • Dead on. There is an energy that has been missing for years. Everything changes and evolves. As for QR, the evolution has come full circle and the band I see in front of me now, has my attention again. Is that not the goal of the band in the first place?

      • David Mosley Says:

        Well, from the footage & audio I have
        seen, (it) wasn’t there… The vocals were not there, & the (sound) was not there… the music did not match-up to what they sounded like when I saw them On Tour with Dream Theater… Geoff. Tate’s family fired, without his knowledge was wrong… What would you do??? Queensryche with new members is not going to work… New LP & new sound, is a new band with an established name, bottom line… You say I am wrong, but I am telling the truth… Ask Skid Row, Great White, L.A. Gunz, Guns & Roses, etc.etc.etc. You pay good $$$ for tix: You deserve to see the (band) you paid to see, not just the name… Ya’ll need to go back to the LP’s & look at the bandmates names on the LP. I am not saying G.Tate is going to be better, but what would you say if C. DeGarmo joined him? You can’!t call Q.R. the QR of originals, & better band, when it just isn’t so…

  4. I have been a long time QR fan..I was really wondering how Todd La Torre was going to work out as a vocalist .But I have to say that from watching a few youtube vids of him singing the old QR songs I am very impressed !!.. If I ever have another chance to see them in concert again I am going to do so……I hate to see that Tate and the other members butting heads,as a unit they were one of the best bands out there for many years ….Queensryche as far as myself goes are back and Ryching once again !! I will be getting their upcoming CD….To Todd and the other members of Queensryche it is good to see you guys back and doing what you do best !!

  5. What a great review this is !! Thanks for sharing and I have to agree with you when someone says this is not Queensryche they are so wrong and until they see them live they have no right to judge .We saw them here in Arizona in December and the show was amazing ,Best it has been in years the energy and chemistry is back and they are better then ever !!

  6. “… Tate was not an ‘original’ member and basically was brought in as a session singer for the self-funded/self-titled EP that broke the band. It was only after the EP had sold a significant number of copies and received worldwide praise that Tate would leave his band “Myth” and join Queensryche as a full member. Shortly after this the band were signed to a 15-year/7-album deal with EMI. My point here is that Queensryche were never the “Geoff Tate band” which the impression you get from some people when they discuss the current situation.”

    “However you view it, the first five albums put out in the period 1984 through 1994 are classic metal albums that should have a home in every rock fans collection.”

    What is ironic here is that from what “Lexx Luthor” has said here, while pointing out that “technically” Tate is not the original singer–it is clear that Tate was in the band from the point they did their successful demo and offered their deal with EMI. So, for all practical purposes, he is an “original member” to the majority of the rock and roll audience since he has been in the band since they hit the national scene–and was with the band from the beginning and throughout the “classic period.” 99.9% of fans had no idea who Queensryche was before Tate joined and the only Queensryche they ever knew was the one with Tate. They made it big after he joined. It really is ridiculous to try and argue that he wasn’t an original member. Hey, Ringo Starr wasn’t the original drummer for the Beatles. Michael Anthony wasn’t the original bass player for Van Halen and David Lee Roth didn’t join until 2 years after the band was founed. Rob Halford was NOT the original signer for Judas Priest–Al Atkins was. Steve Perry wasn’t the original signer for Journey. Of the 80’s lineup, Stephen Pearcy is the only original member of Ratt. None of the other members that everyone knows from the 80s, were not founders of the band–but who cares? The Ratt the people know is the one with Demartini, Blozter, etc. and it’s the lineup that everyone knows and considers “original.”

    • View it how you wish – Tate did not join the band until it was clear that the original 4 members had created a sound and songs that were way beyond what was the norm for the scene they were in and the EP that the original four PAID FOR was going to break them. Queensryche was NOT formed around the voice of Geoff Tate – he was one part of a group, and not one of the founding members. You make my point very well in fact – this refusal to consider QR as a valid band without Tate borders on fanaticism. Is AC/DC a valid band or a tribute/cover band?

  7. Queensryche was Queensryche up until DeGarmo left…The song writing after he left was not even close to what it was…And yes I have seen the new lineup live,,and they sound more like a cover band on a bad night!!!!

    • Each to his own. Let’s see what the new album brings, eh? For me, QR are back. Having seen them so many times over the years, the last 5-6 years have been painful to say the least, but what I saw last week was a different and revitalized band. I much prefer what I saw last week, than any performance from the past few years.

  8. To all the Geoff Tate lovers out there, my question is this…If he sang from the very beginning the way he does now would you ever have given this band a second listen?…The bottom line is he’s been short-changing his fans for numerous years now with lackluster vocals and in doing so lost all support from me…He takes the easy way out every time a high note situation arises and pretends nobody even noticed…Meanwhile you criticize Todd La Torre for doing what GT can’t do or just simply refuses to do anymore, and that’s nail those classics the way they were meant to be performed …No Geoff Tate no Queensryche?…Not from where I’m standing!

  9. mitch evans(uk) Says:

    having seen QR a number of times here in the uk,i have to say that for years they were one of my all time fave bands ,as Brian Q said,when degarmo left so did the song writing strength,that said,i saw the mindcrime 1 and 2 tour and found it rather embarassing to watch and this was largely down to tates dreadful attempt at roleplay.Tates voice is not what it was and that is for certain and given whats gone on with the band,whoever is to blame(something im sure we will never know)Tate has definately got a screw loose in his head,his behaviour on stage(youtube clips ive seen)has been a joke and so much disrespect to fans and band members alike,this move is long overdue.Good luck to Todd,sounds great,head screwed on and as much as i loved tates vocals,his attitude stinks and for me he is no longer on my list of must see bands,QR however will be and im quite looking forward to it aswell

  10. Vince was not the first or only singer in Crue, Bruce was not the first and only singer in Maiden, Sammy to Van halen, That dude from Extreme to Foriner, that dude to Journey……ECT. I agree! Band can have new singers and still sound like or be better than the first band. Fans are cool with it…..When the NEW band is PROMOTED like the old band. Your not fighting the fans, your fighting the machine……

  11. Eyes is my favorite song by Queensryche and that started out so so but went to hell quick,and yes I know Geoff wasn’t 1st QR singer ,but was the one that took them to top.

    • The question is (or was) could Tate continue to “take them to the top?”, with the (very apparent) answer: “No”. May be you hadn’t seen QR in the last few years, but I did and it wasn’t pretty. What I saw last week was a revitalized QR, with passion and energy. I’ll take that over anything I saw in the past 10 years from QR.

  12. I have been a Queensryche fan since the beginning. But (I think) they have gone downhill since DeGarmo left. And I am soooo tired of EVERY tour being Operation Mindcrime. Enough already. Obviously the song writing is not the same which is why Tate cant get over Operation Mindcrime. Its time to move on. I did not know about the court stuff but I am glad the other 3 are moving on!! Great review! Thank you!

  13. It certainly is a shame when people become so closed minded and are blasting you for such a phenomenal review. When you do the research of what happened between everyone and see exactly what Geoff did, ie: spitting on Scott in front of a crowd during a concert and then pulling a knife on him back stage….it is something that I don’t want to focus on right now . As you see, QR with Todd is absolutely amazing. Yes, I am biased because I am a friend of Todd’s but still . I say, g o see them live and feel the energy that is around the band. At each concert, Todd goes and does take someone’s phone or camera and takes pictures, etc. I hope instead of the fighting that I see between the two groups, that people will just go and see QR with Todd

    • Thanks! I have no problem with people commenting, especially since the exact same syndrome was evident in the run up to the gig – there were those that had an open mind and wanted to find out, and there were those that refused to even consider a non-Tate QR. I never loved “Tate, it was “Queensryche” meaning the band, never one individual. As an update, go look at the complete screw up Tate is making of his “Queensryche” CD release… The F.U. is on Tate me thinks.

  14. DAVID STAPLES Says:

    no jeff tate but love the dio shirt

  15. drjanetneal@gmail Says:

    Todd all the way!!! I have been a #queensryche from the beginning but am excited over the new lineup! This band fronted by Todd is amazing! It’s like the whole band has been set on fire! Todd has to be one of the best frontmen I’ve ever seen and one of the best vocalists I’ve ever heard! The new chemistry they now all seem to have has electrified the band. I love this incarnation of this band! It’s something truly special.

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