Queensrÿche Shows Off New Lineup And Old Classics In Hollywood

By Avinash Mittur

November 24th 2012, House of Blues, Hollywood CA: Only less than a year ago, Queensrÿche were a lost cause for me and so many other metalheads. The idea of making a sequel to one of progressive metal’s greatest treasures, Operation: Mindcrime, was ludicrous enough. The Cabaret Tour was an abomination (there was no ‘raison d’etre’ as a certain singer once declared) and the awful Dedicated to Chaos was the final nail in the coffin for what was one of the greatest progressive metal bands ever. It’s amazing then that I just witnessed the total resurrection of that band in Hollywood last Saturday night. Sure I saw Queensryche rise like a phoenix from the ashes, but more importantly I saw 90 minutes of genuine heavy metal from a band that actually looked like they loved what they do.

Before that awesome hour and a half though, the House of Blues was treated to an opening set from local hard rock act Heaven Below. Heaven Below’s style of sleazy hard rock seemed better fit for a Buckcherry or Guns ‘n Roses show rather than a progressive metal act like Queensrÿche. The band played with a good level of vigor however, and guitarist Jesse Billson’s rapid soloing was a highlight of their otherwise standard ‘80s glam-inflected rock. The crowd offered their warmest reception for the band’s aggressive cover of Pat Benatar’s “Heartbreaker,” and were ultimately won over by the end of the set. Though I wasn’t a big fan of the music, the older audience’s large cheers indicated their satisfaction with Heaven Below’s set.

The wait for Queensrÿche to go on felt like ages, but at 10:18 the lights dimmed and the curtain rose as the sold out House of Blues raised a good level of noise. That good level of noise turned into fanatical cheers when we heard the opening chords to “Queen of the Reich,” and those fanatical cheers turned into a deafening roar when singer Todd La Torre nailed the song’s opening scream. Todd was as engaging and active a frontman as one could ask for, constantly prowling the stage and having fun with his bandmates. He even jumped from the stage a couple of times to high-five fans on the barrier when he wasn’t busy singing his ass off on the classic Queensrÿche songs.

As far as those classic songs were concerned, Queensrÿche couldn’t have put together a cooler collection of tracks to cover in the span of an hour and a half. The first half of the set focused on long-lost fan favorites like the aforementioned “Queen of the Reich” and “En Force,” while the last half was a tour-de-force of Queensryche’s most well known and famous songs. Even the non-album track “Prophecy” made an appearance- a true treat for the hardcore fans in the crowd. Though Todd’s voice was the medium in those awesome songs were delivered, the true hero of the show was guitarist Michael “Whip” Wilton. The man could always be seen either headbanging, lifting his guitar for a solo, stomping his feet or wearing a big smile on face. One couldn’t help but feel the joy and happiness that Whip exuded throughout the entire show. It’s hard to believe that the same stoic, scowling figure on the Mindcrime at the Moore DVD was the same guitar hero I just saw in Hollywood. He and his fellow axemen Parker Lundgren and Eddie Jackson turned in ace performances, though they noticeably flubbed the last verse of “The Needle Lies.” Eddie’s bass anchored the massive groove that “En Force” offered, and his playing proved to be the driving force behind “I Don’t Believe in Love.” Though Scott Rockenfield drummed to a click at this show, his playing sounded amazingly alive and fluid and he nailed literally every single fill he recorded over twenty years ago (yes, even that one fill at the end of “I Don’t Believe in Love” that sounds like an avalanche of tom-toms).

While Scott was confined to his drum set for most of the show, he managed to give the audience his thanks during a quick monologue after the encore break. This was ultimately the calm before the storm though, the storm being a titanic performance from Todd La Torre on “Take Hold of the Flame.” After pulling off the song’s iconic scream, Todd sung the rest of the song like there was no tomorrow  (this was generally the trend throughout the night). After giving dedicated fans nearly a full set of deep cuts, forgotten classics and colossal epics, Queensrÿche finished their show off with three of their most popular songs from Empire. The audience gave their loudest applause for these three tracks, especially “Silent Lucidity,” though I found myself having more fun during the heavier moments of the show. Luckily the band found a fair compromise by ending the show with the title track to Empire, a song that contains a great balance between commercial appeal and sheer heaviness.

Queensrÿche Set List:
1. Queen of the Reich
2. Speak
3. Walk in the Shadows
4. The Whisper
5. En Force
6. Child of Fire
7. Warning
8. The Needle Lies
9. Prophecy
10. Roads to Madness
11. I Don’t Believe in Love
12. My Empty Room
13. Eyes of a Stranger
14. Take Hold of the Flame
15. Jet City Woman
16. Silent Lucidity
17. Empire

I want to write about every single phenomenal moment of this show, but there were just way too many for a mere gig report to cover. Todd’s epic ‘looking back at me’ wail during “Eyes of a Stranger,” Whip’s magnificent “Empire” guitar solo and Eddie breaking his normally laidback stage persona to yell ‘come on you motherfuckers!’ during “The Needle Lies” were just a couple of the many astounding moments in this show. The reborn Queensryche is a heavy metal band, and they proved it by playing heavy metal songs at this show. Every single song deserved its place in the set, and everyone from casual fans to old-school Queensrÿche die-hards would find something to love. The band that used to never play one of their greatest songs opened their show with it last Saturday night, and proceeded to play a full set of nothing but actual no-frills heavy music. Only less than a year ago, I would have never thought that I would say the following words- I saw Queensrÿche play an actual heavy metal concert, and every minute of it kicked ass.

Queensrÿche is dead. Long live Queensrÿche!

Related: Interview | LA Photo Gallery