Photo by Joe Johnson, Crossroad Images. Click here to check out Joe’s entire photo gallery of shots from the show.
Almost a decade ago, Queensryche was a band struggling to find its way amidst inner turmoil and struggling for relevance in a shifting musical landscape that quite frankly seemed to leave them behind.
Flash forward to Sunday night’s headline show at Delmar Hall: it was nice to see the band proving that lineup changes partnered with a dedication to the power-metal ferocity of their early albums have given them a new lease on life. Queensryche’s demographic seems to mirror that of Rush, another band that never settled on playing to the least common denominator, always pushing the envelope on their melodic rock-meets-prog song structures coupled with lyrics that automatically assume their fans have read a book or two.
After an appropriately ominous taped intro, video screens blinked to life and the band immediately launched into “The Prophecy” from 1983’s self-titled EP. The inspired kickoff seemed to galvanize both longtime fans who hungered for a return to the band’s crushing early material as well as newcomers who were too young to experience it the first time.
Original members—guitarist Michael Wilton and bassist Eddie Jackson—were as impressive as they’ve always been, but Queensryche’s engine is clearly running on the talent and charisma of vocalist Todd La Torre. La Torre, who incidentally played drums on the latest long player The Verdict, was up to the challenge of expressing the full vocal range and dynamics that the band’s catalogue requires. From the baritone asides in “Empire” (the title track from the 1990 album), to the screaming upper registers of “Queen of the Ryche,” La Torre hit all the right notes in a way that many fans have never had the opportunity to hear live. Even his between-song chats were fun, as he tended to sound a bit like a smooth late-night DJ about to spin some Barry White for “all you lovers out there.” It’s no easy feat being the “new guy” even eight years down the road, but songs such as the rarely played “Resistance” (from Empire) and the surprising “No Sanctuary” (from the band’s classic 1984 full-length debut The Warning) were all the better with him at the microphone.
Though longtime drummer Scott Rockenfield appears to be on an open-ended leave of absence, Casey Grillo locked in nice and tight with Jackson on “Breaking the Silence” (also from Empire) and “Take Hold of the Flame” (from The Warning). It wasn’t just about spotlighting the bygone years, though. Tracks from their latest LP were not ignored and those songs, particularly the one-two punch of “Bent” and “Dark Reverie,” put a spotlight on the chemistry between Wilton and guitarist Parker Lundgren that quite frequently elevated much of the material to near-euphoric heights.
Can we talk about opener John 5? Rob Zombie’s guitar maestro proved to be a next-level, sonic-shifting, out-of-body experience for the gathered throng of rockers. Flanked by screens playing scenes from horror films, the white-faced guitarist nimbly churned out an endless array of dazzling riffs, melodies, and rhythms, all while looking like a midnight-movie version of Johnny Winter’s spawn after a joyride through hell. His band, appropriately called The Creatures, took fans on a funhouse excursion of tracks from his impressive solo career that not only touched on the dizzying groove aerobics of “Crank It – Living With Ghosts” and “Six Hundred and Sixty Six Pickers in Hell, CA,” but also forays into old-school country music like the gorgeous and surprisingly moving ballad “Cactus Flower.” By the time John 5 played the dance-floor rocker the humbly-titled “I Am John 5,” most if not all were converted. Bassist Ian Ross and drummer Logan Miles Nix were as musically adventurous as their fearless leader, effortlessly pushing the music forward with expert precision. I should also mention there was a dancing robot, a giant monster with big hair, and a banjo solo. See him next time he possesses our city. Trust me.
Opening the show was Eve to Adam who brought enough energy to heat up the stage for the evening to come. The band’s short set included a cover of “No Easy Way Out” from the Rocky IV soundtrack which initially had the crowd scratching its collective head before ultimately embracing it. | Jim Ousley