Venue: Train, Aarhus, Denmark
Date: 7th of September, 2016
There are bands and there are bands. In my world, there are few bands like Queensrÿche. With especially the three albums ‘Operation: Mindcrime’ (1988), ‘Empire’ (1990) and ‘Promised Land’ (1994), the Seattle combo landed themselves a big, big place in my heart, each of those albums taking on a different meaning and having quite different connotations for me. The earlier albums were also impressive, although not quite to the same extent as the three I’ve mentioned, and during the late nineties and into the 00’s, things honestly weren’t coming together too well artistically in the Q-rÿche camp. At some stage, things got too cramped up in the relationship internally in the band, and Geoff Tate finally left/was asked to leave the band, which, I reckon, saved the band. The addition of Todd La Torre, then singer of Crimson Glory, proved to be a fresh breath of air for the dying dinosaur, allowing Queensrÿche to release ‘Queensrÿche’ in 2014, an album that was, quite frankly, a relief for many a fan of the band. Last year’s follow-up, ‘Condition Hüman’, was no less dynamic and fresh, thanks to a big step back to the roots of the band and La Torre’s amazing voice.
The 2015 Wacken Open Air was the first time I actually, at last, saw Queensrÿche live. Impressive was La Torre’s performance on that day, and a relief finally to hear some of those songs I’ve loved for so long. But a festival gig is one, an indoor club gig is another, and I usually prefer the latter. Tonight, it is time to see these old heroes of mine in a club – at long last!
But before Queensrÿche hit the stage, Danish MALRUN have the honour of opening the evening. Although they’ve been around since 2005 and have released three albums, I haven’t stumbled across Malrun before. Some will recognise the name of the singer, Nicklas Sonne, who also fronts the rising power metal stars Defecto. Sonne has been part of Malrun since 2014.
The band showcase a decent dose of power metal/heavy metal. Although Sonne as always displays his remarkable vocal talent, the songs aren’t quite there. Only with the last two tunes where Sonne offers a bit more of a grunt, Malrun really throw in their good punches. All in all a fine support gig, but certainly not truly amazing. And now the approximately 250 individuals who’ve showed up on this Wednesday evening are ready for the main attraction!
This is the last date of the Condition Hüman World Tour, and the set very appropriately opens with the tune Guardian from the latest album. The band look focused and relaxed. The sound is near perfect. For me, Guardian has already worked its way into the canon of great Queensrÿche songs. All is good. It becomes even better.
Queensrÿche launch directly into the title track of ‘Operation:Mindcrime’. I’m very close to an orgasm in the photo pit where I stay for the duration of the three first songs. Operation:Mindcriiiiiiime! We’re an underground revolution working overtime! La Torre is unbelievable, something he is going to prove several times during the next hour and fifteen minutes.
Guitarist Parker Lundgren and La Torre are the most active on the stage, constantly moving about, whereas the two original members, bassist Eddie Jackson and guitarist Michael Wilton, are less physically active – but of course they contribute with their rock solid musical performances. The third original member of the band, Scott Rockenfield, is nested behind his kit, sporting sunglasses throughout the entire gig. My old mate, Hans, who’s been a drummer the better part of his life, has a slight complaint about Rockenfield’s performance tonight after the concert, but to be honest, it’s not something that I notice at all.
What I see and hear is a top professional unit who have gelled perfectly and deliver something which is simply first class. The setlist is impeccable, with songs from all of my three favourite albums, plus two of the fine, new tunes and the classic tracks Take Hold of the Flame, The Killing Words and naturally Queen of the Reich.
One of the things that characterises a great concert is when there are surprises. The biggest surprise, for me at least, is the inclusion of the ‘Rage for Order’ track Screaming in Digital. Not one of the most accessible Queensrÿche songs. I like when bands don’t always play it safe, even if they have the songs to do that. Sadly, the sound quality for some reason goes down a bit during Screaming in Digital.
In terms of being less accessible, the other tune that stands out slightly in that sense is Eye 9 from ‘Condition Hüman’. It occurs to me as I stand there and listen that this song is actually also a tad more complex than the other material, something I haven’t really noticed whilst listening to the album.
A small surprise, or at least something I hadn’t really expected, is that Silent Lucidity also gets airtime. As ballads go, this is one of the greatest of all time in my humble opinion. The execution of it tonight is right on target, again accentuating the grandeur of Todd La Torre’s voice and the fact that the arrangement of backing vocals is one of Queensrÿche’s strenghts compared to other bands. Jackson and Lundgren provide a fantastic vocal backdrop for La Torre throughout the concert.
As Take Hold of the Flame is introduced, we are made aware that today is the 31st birthday of ‘The Warning’. Crazy stuff. No matter how old it is – tonight, it sounds fresh and new and, again, La Torre kicks vocal arse.
After the hammer hit Eyes of a Stranger from ‘Mindcrime’, Queensrÿche thank the audience and call it a day. Although I could easily have taken in another hour, I feel I have banked a superb concert in the memory chest. Queensrÿche may not be as commercially successful as they were twenty years ago, but to me, they are indeed superstars.
Best I Can
The Killing Words
Queen of the Reich
Jet City Woman
Take Hold of the Flame
Screaming in Digital
Eyes of a Stranger