An experience 25 years in the making — waiting to hear that one song live…

I remember it pretty clearly. It was my 17th birthday, 1991, there were maybe seven people in my room when two of my friends showed up with their girl friends, handing me their gifts, obviously CDs. One was by a German singer which I kind of wished for, the other one was by a band that spelled their name funny, which I heard little about and which I wasn’t sure how to pronounce. It was Queensryches Empire album, in the first digi pack I ever owned, and I was going to wear the hell out of that pack…

I think I had read a bit about them in Metal Hammer or somewhere like it, a concert review that was applauding the material and at the same time lamenting that the setlist was structured in a way that they were failing against their self-made high standards. It may well be the first concert review I noticed as such and and „understood“, though also understood that it was just one opinion.

During my teens Queensryche never played close to where I lived and when they last came to Hamburg in 2004 I was not that interested in the new material, I love the stuff from Mindcrime to Hear in the Now Frontier, and now the two records with new singer Todd LaTorre, as well as new guitarist Parker Lundgren. On the first post-Geoff Tate album they only toured southern Germany and I had contemplated making the trekk but the dates didn’t align. On the Condition Hüman tour however, just a week shy of exactly 25 years, I finally had the chance to see Queensryche in person.

Now, this could have meant expectations so high that the band might never satisfy them, just like it happened for the reviewer of that Metal Hammer column. Combined with a decent dose of Jazz Police and you have the making of lousy evening, especially considering the fact that I could have had a look at setlist.fm to see that it would be the same songs every night and not a very long show.

Instead I decided to have a fun evening with my friends, have a beer and just enjoy whatever show was put in front of me. After all, it’s about the music, right? And so we had a great night. Support acts Methodica and Archer Nation had warmed up the crown and everybody was ready. Queensryche opened with a track from the new album, Guardian, with great sound from the first note. That’s quite important for me and I was happy that I could hear all instruments clearly, there was no muddiness, FOH engineer was in control. Next came the first sing-along in Operation Mindcrime and Todd LaTorre made it clear that he was in control too. Of the crowd as well as his duties in singing what used to be Geoff Tate’s lines. Which they really aren’t anymore, I guess.

Next up a first highlight for me, Best I Can. The choir intro that took me quite a while to understand rhythmically back then, now a sing along for the crowd. Michael Wilton and Parker Lundgren trading licks, all good. A mix of the hits followed, that indeed could have been longer, yes. 65 minutes is short compared to other acts, but it should be noted it were very sweet 65 minutes. The setlist had no filler material. I personally would have loved to hear something from the first comeback record, like Where Dreams Go to Die, or more from Empire, like Another Rainy Night, or Revolution Calling or I don’t Believe in Love or this or that.

But this format seems to work for the band. It doesn’t destroy Todd LaTorre vocally and keeps the energy level on stage up for the whole show with no valleys of „I can’t wait for this thing to be over“. I’ve seen this in other bands, so: kudos for finding a way to make it work even after 30 years. In addition, I thought that the ticket price was fair in the end with two support acts, and Archer Nation really pulled hard for themselves, putting in the works, lots of energy, lots of smiles — even if the songs where a tad too trash metal for me at times, they did win a new fan easily, and I am sure I wasn’t the only one.

And yes, Queensryche did play that one song, Jet City Woman, my favorite track from Empire, with one of the most perfect drum tracks (as in ‘fitting a song’) I can remember. Every kick, every hit just works perfectly for me. And from Eddie Jackson’s bony bass line intro to the final guitar squeal I just leaned back and enjoyed. Life was good. Thank you!

(Yes, I was obviously also a bit wooed by the fact that I had the opportunity to interview guitarists Michael Wilton and Parker Lundgren in the afternoon but all in all it was just very nice concert evening. )