Legendary Queensrÿche still sets the storyline
November 7, 2009
The Seattle band that predated grunge and reintroduced the idea of uniting an album by theme is still playing loud, complex metal some three decades later.
What a concept.
“There’s not a lot of bands that started nearly 30 years ago still standing,” Queensrÿche lead singer Geoff Tate told Lake Tahoe Action last year.
The band returns to Harrah’s the weekend after Halloween, but Tate, guitarist Michael Wilton, bassist Eddie Jackson and drummer Scott Rockenfield might not have packed away the costumes just yet: The band is notable not only for its longevity and unique take on metal but also its storytelling, which sometimes involves getting in costume and becoming a character from one of its concept albums.
“It’s strictly a form of communication, and I do a lot of storytelling,” Tate said. “We play around with both quite a bit in our shows.”
Queensrÿche’s first notable concept album was “Operation: Mindcrime” in 1988, bridging the gap between the Who’s “Tommy” and the likes of “American Idiot” a decade and a half later. “Operation: Mindcrime II” followed in 2004. Both revolve around the same set of characters in two different stories: The original follows a junkie torn over his manipulation by an underground movement that turned him into an assassin. “Operation: Mindcrime II” picks up the story years later with Ronnie James Dio voicing the villainous Dr. X and vocalist Pamela Moore reprising her role as Mary.
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“Mindcrime at the Moore” captures an October 2006 performance of the second opus at the band’s hometown Moore Theater, with special guests including the entire Seattle Seahawks drumline, according to Wikipedia. Queensrÿche followed the live album with a pair of best-of collections and a disc of covers before releasing a new concept album earlier this year. Tate spent a few years interviewing U.S. veterans, including his father, and collecting their stories for “American Soldier.”
“It’s a story album, sort of a social commentary focused on events that are going on in America right now,” Tate said last year. “It’s meant to be presented in a theatrical presentation, which we will do when we tour on it next year.”
While Queensrÿche reached its commercial peak with “Empire” in 1990, the band has high marks for artistry with its concept albums, which continue the legacy of “Tommy” and Pink Floyd’s “Dark Side of the Moon” with a heavier metal edge.
“That was very instrumental in our musical development,” Tate said. “I think every generation should have an artist or a group of artists that explore that medium. That’s great, and hats off to them for creating that, or pursuing it.”
Queensrÿche traces its roots to a covers band called the Mob, with Jackson, Rockenfield and guitarists Wilton and Chris DeGarmo. Tate, from another Seattle band named Myth, completed the lineup and recorded a demo. Queensrÿche secured a deal with EMI records without playing a live show before debuting at the Country Club in Los Angeles.
“The Warning” was the band’s full-length debut in 1984. “Rage for Order” followed two years later, and the original “Mindcrime” cemented the band’s status as an intelligent alternative to hair metal, hard rock’s dominant subgenre in the ’80s, culminating in a Grammy nomination. “Empire” ushered Queensrÿche into a new decade, and two albums later, “Q2K” closed the 1990s. DeGarmo left the band after “Hear in the Now Frontier” in 1997. Kelly Gray and Mike Stone replaced the guitarist, but Wilton recorded all the guitar parts for “American Soldier,” according to Wikipedia.
The band has attracted an enthusiastic cult following in addition to widespread popularity and critical acclaim.
“You get to be a certain age, around a certain amount of time, you’ve affected so many people, you start approaching legend status – nothing wrong with that,” Tate said. “All of us in the band are pretty proud of that fact.”
Who: Queensrÿche with Lita Ford
Where: Harrah’s Lake Tahoe, Stateline
When: Saturday, Nov. 7