Queensryche – M3 Festival 2014 – Live Review (Merriweather Post Pavillion 4/26/14)

Normally I wouldn’t write a single artist review for a particular performance at any given festival, generally preferring to keep the flow of the day in context, but in this case I am driven to make a very worthy exception. The on-the-day performance from Queensryche at this years M3 Festival in Maryland at the Merriweather Post Pavillion was head-and-shoulders the hands-down performance of the day, so I am compelled to put my thoughts down in an individual review piece. And, you will notice quite unlike my normal crafty keep the ‘score’ for the review to the end – not today – this was a perfect 10/10 performance. Now let me justify that!

For those looking for a review of the whole M3 Festival end-to-end will have to wait a day or two while I get those written, but for now I am focusing on Queensryche. The last time Queensryche appeared at M3 was back in 2012, and that was the second-to-last performance before Geoff Tate was fired from the band and the lid was lifted off the freak-show that Tate seems to drag around with him these days. I don’t want to dwell too much on this rather painful part of the band’s history, but some points need making.

The first point that is entirely relevant to M3, was that previous 2012 performance was decidedly lackluster and flat, with Tate stalking the front of the stage more like a caged wildcat than a lead singer, at one point throwing a mic stand across the stage narrowly missing the front row of the audience, while the remainder of the band seemed nailed to a spot at the back of the stage. This was definitely the weakest performance out of the 5 or 6 times I’ve seen them, and at the time we remarked it was a strange and limp performance.

Geoff Tate was fired immediately following the show that followed M3, and Todd La Torre, formerly of Crimson Glory, was brought into the band, while Tate went off and formed his own version of Queensryche, which left many fans confused and split. To this day many refuse to accept a non-Tate fronted band can be Queensryche, however I take huge issue with this – Queensryche was NEVER Tate’s band, and those that know the original history will know that Tate only agreed to join the band as a member after the original ground-breaking EP was released independently to great success and the band were looking at a large multi-album contract. While Tate had written the lyrics to one of the tracks on the EP (actually in the studio while the recording progressed), the original quartet of Wilton, DeGarmo, Jackson and Rockenfield spent over a year working on getting the EP released while Tate continued other projects. At the time the EP was recorded Tate was not a member of the band, and essentially was brought in a session musician. I’m not going to say that Tate is a creature of opportunity, but it wasn’t his hard work that broke the band, and while integral in the signature sound that followed, those that claim he was a founding member have their facts wrong.

The legal “battle” that followed the firing of Tate and the tale of two Queensryche’s is now over (as of 4/27/14) with the original triplet, Wilton, Jackson and Rockenfield, retaining ownership of the name (since Chris DeGarmo has long been out of the band). Therefore the 2014 M3 performance was the last of the dual-Queensryche era.

So, let’s get back to the matter of the moment, the 2014 M3 performance. Queensryche were scheduled exactly in the middle slot of the day on the main stage, due to start at 4.10PM, and as that time approached, it was clear the pavilion area was less than packed, and while some of that might be attributed to Jake E. Lee appearing on the Festival Stage at the other end of the venue, I suspect there were a significant number of people that were playing the “Todd La Torre isn’t Queensryche” game.

After a short intro roll, the band burst onto the stage headlong into “Nightrider”, from the debut EP, which is back in the set after a hiatus of 26 years. Todd La Torre has taken these early Queensryche songs, dusted them off with the band, and given them a new lease of life that, unfortunately, Tate would have no part of previously. The fact that these early songs have sat un-played in a live setting for so long is a travesty in my opinion. These were the songs that brought so many fans to the band, and the EP certainly remains one of my favorite Queensryche records. I was fortunate to see QR last year with Todd in Raleigh, NC (see my review here: http://wp.me/p2hj3p-2G), so I was fully prepared for a great performance from him, but it was immediately apparent the whole Queensryche machine was in top gear, with the sound mix being nigh on perfect from the very beginning (not something I can say for some bands at M3 by the way).

Next up we were treated to “Breaking The Silence” from Mindcrime, followed by “Walk In The Shadows” from Rage To Order. At this point it was clear the audience had woken up and there was special vibe in the venue. Seats were filling rapidly. “Warning” was up next and this classic had Todd with a vice-grip hold on the song and totally made it his own, no question. He totally nailed this and the crowd was in full voice singing along with every chorus. At this point the crowd was just electrified and there was a tangible buzz, with people looking at their neighbors with the sort of look you can only get from seeing something special taking place in front of you. It was the look that says “Wow! These guys are on fire!”

Least I come over as a total Todd-fan-boy, the entire band was on par with him, with Michael “Whip” Wilton and Parker Lundgren ripping some great harmony guitar, Eddie Jackson locking down the bottom end on bass, and of course the intense and awesomely good Scott Rockenfield on drums. I particularly liked the interplay between La Torre and Rockenfield in the instrumental sections of several songs with Todd taking charge of Scott’s left front china cymbal, and subsequently sent several drum sticks flying into the depths of the crowd.

The most recent Queensryche CD is a great record and next up we were treated to cracking version of “Where Dreams Go To Die” which was the first single released from the CD. Live it came across even better than it does on the record, with a heavy yet soulfully melodic vibe, and of course Todd La Torre is able to really sit back and let rip without the concern of comparison.

For me the next track was a transcendental moment, with a just perfect version of “Eyes Of A Stranger” from Mindcrime. Queensyche will always have a particularly special place in my musical heart because it was a joint love of the band that brought my wife and I together many years ago, in a place quite frankly I wasn’t expecting to find a hardcore Queensryche fan at all, let alone that special person to share my life with. That is a piece of history that will forever tie my life to the band. A very special moment passed between me and my wife this past Saturday during this song – sometimes music can be truly magical. Fortunately I videoed this particular song so you can experience this here > https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SvD9FBrezSY

The whole venue was literally electrified at this point and there was no holding back with a crushing version of “Empire” followed by a perfect “Queen Of The Reich” which has been a backbone of the set since Todd arrived and all the better for it. The set was closed out with “Jet City Woman” and a triumphant version of “Take Hold Of The Flame”. I managed to grab video of the last 3 minutes of the set here > http://youtu.be/lR2BLWsH1Jo

There is absolutely no doubt in my mind that anyone who was in the audience who was on the fence regarding Todd being in the band would have to cry defeat following this performance; it was simply outstanding, a tour-de-force and a perfectly structured set to boot. The point has been made. Given the announcement the following day closing the dual-personality existence of the variants of the band, leaving the one-true-Queensryche to move forward, we are now in a new era. There have been many, many bands that have moved forward with new singers – Deep Purple, Sabbath, Rainbow, Van Halen, AC/DC – and now we have Queensryche.

We were fortunate to be able to speak to Eddie Jackson, Michael Wilton, Todd La Torre and briefly to Parker Lundgren, and all of them were clearly excited and empowered by the show. It is clear there is a new energy running in the Queensryche veins these days and that spark is exciting to see. Personally I would love to see a live album consisting of much of the older material currently being played in the live shows – I think it would close the chapter very nicely to have Todd place his stamp of authority on the older material, but whatever comes next, this show was pivotal in getting the new line-up in the faces of so many people in a great venue, with great sound. Again – no question – this was 10/10 performance.

– Neil Waterman

 

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11 Responses to “Queensryche – M3 Festival 2014 – Live Review (Merriweather Post Pavillion 4/26/14)”

  1. While I have no doubt that the major legwork was done by the four musicians at the outset, it is pretty hard to say Queensryche would have been anything other than an 80’s afterthought without the Mindcrime album, which was Tate’s idea. And the fact that they are ignoring all material post 1991 is a bit of a knock to fans who followed them all along, not just when they were most popular.

    I saw QR twice in the 90s, and the first of those shows, on the Promised Land tour, was the best live performance I’ve ever seen. Tate’s theatricality had a place on the bigger stage. But on later tours, when they were back to clubs, it didn’t work. Also, I don’t think they dropped those early songs as a conscious decision, I think Tate’s voice has suffered with age just like Geddy Lee’s has.

    All that said, I saw Tate solo (before his new QR debuted) in Seattle and he was off his game. Way off. His band botched classic QR songs, and his stage presence was, as you suggested, creepy. I’ll be seeing the Todd-fronted band in a couple of months, and though the first three albums are not my favorites, I’ll be interested to see what they do with them.

    I am sad though that I will likely never hear anything from Promised Land again live.

    • The band is clearly the sum of all the parts and of course Mindcrime is a pivotal release, but we can’t tell what would have happened had Tate not been around. Unfortunately, I think you might have missed the mark regarding the early material; Geoff stated more than once that he wouldn’t play that material, basically because it was “heavy metal” and that wasn’t what he wanted to do. I have every Queensryche recording, with the exception of Tribe, which somehow I still haven’t picked up. Saw them on their first ever tour of the UK and have seem them repeatedly over the years since, but the last 2 times with Tate were painful… Todd is new blood in a way that could never have happened. The last Tate QR record FU is an insult to the legacy let’s be honest, and the band he assembled was another poke in the eye. I’m glad it’s over and “real” Queensryche can continue, to deliver great music. P.S. I also hold Promised Land in high regard and hope some of that material comes into the live set. \m/

      • I have no doubt Geoff said that, but consider how his voice couldn’t hold up to the HitNF songs on tour, I don’t think he had much choice either. 🙂

        Agree – FU was awful. I didn’t make it through a full listen. I don’t think his heart was in it, I think he was just trying to beat the other guys to market with the name, hoping that would mean something.

        Given what he’s chosen to do with his time now though, I’m glad they’ve both chosen their own paths forward and agree this new incarnation has more potential. Rock on.

    • I totally agree with you. Gems such as Lady Jane, Damaged, Out Of Mind may never again be played live…. However, they do play much off of Empire… and we’ll see what they play going forward…

    • Charles Harden Jr. Says:

      I’m sure they’ll eventually pull out an I AM I or DAMAGED.

  2. authordjdavis Says:

    Very, very awesome. They deserve the name and I’m so happy to see one of my old favorite bands get a new life. You can literally feel the energy in the live videos. I hope they come closer to Columbus, Ohio soon. I’d love to see ’em again. I haven’t seen ’em since the Hear in the Now Frontier era. And then only briefly because of a health issue from Tate and they had to cancel two songs into the set. These guys rock and they deserve new life.

  3. robert vona Says:

    I just saw them @ The Riveria Theater in N. Tonawanda, N.Y. and I agree with your review totally…Awesome show,and the last time I saw them with Tate in 2012 was lame in comparison…..Oh and that moment with your wife is pretty kool too…peace, Queensryche rocks on ….

  4. Was there, 3rd row-center. Great set yes, but, thought they would (should have) played 3 ‘new’ ones. Cheers.

    • I guess, given the time limit, the set choice is always going to be a tricky one. Given the nature of M3 I think it was close to perfect – but I would also love to hear more from the new material. \m/

  5. I am a fan of chili , I followed what happened with this one of my favorite bands and not just because I pleasing songs but because I love the talent in music and I think this band is one of the most spectacular in the world and unfortunately not considered in the rightful place in part because in the last years it showed empty. tate was a brilliant talent in music and not only for her voice but by its very similiar to the maiden of Dickinson in theater building; but man is giving false steps and does not know what he wants , has earned many detractors ; yet all who are followers of this band know that tate at his best is one of the most spectacular rock voices circus . I’m glad first because this band is back with its star formation and admire todd for daring to continue on this project with the shadow of a big as tate, but I have miss other : glad secondly because the talent is of back ; Big Queensryche and now regain their rightful place of honor , greetings from chile

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