Seattle, being known as the birthplace of grunge, has spawned a few notable musical artists who hit the scene prior to the advent of the flannel shirt craze. One of the last groups to emanate from the Emerald City prior to the 1990’s when Nirvana basically changed the rules of rock is Queensryche. With a 35 year recording career, the group has continued to press on in the face of challenges that might have undone many bands. Founding member and guitarist Chris DeGarmo left the band. Founding member and drummer Scott Rockenfield, who is technically a member, has been inactive for around two years and is being replaced on the road by Casey Grillo. What may be the most trying and daunting hurdle is the contentious split with original vocalist Geoff Tate in 2012, as well as the subsequent legal case that resulted. Since that time, Todd La Torre has been the band’s lead vocalist. Touring in support of their latest release, The Verdict, Queensryche played to a full house at the Fonda Theater on Thursday, March 28th.
The evening begins, 45 minutes delayed from the publicized start time. Fates Warning, the quintet originally formed in Hartford, CT in 1982, and regarded as one of the original progressive metal bands, plays a ten song set to get the crowd prepared for the headliner. Led by vocalist Ray Alder, Fates Warning starts with a number from their last release, 2016’s Theories of Flight. From The Rooftops starts off slowly and erupts in the middle and has a catchy groove. Founding member Jim Matheos shares guitar duties with touring member Mike Abdow. Drummer Bobby Jarzombek pounds out strong rhythms throughout the set. The most entertaining member of the band is bassist Joey Vera. He rambles about the stage exuding facial and body convulsions, and provoking the crowd. Most of the first half of Fates Warning’s set is made up of barely distinguishable tunes. The last four numbers, starting with Pieces of Me, are a bit more melodic and intriguing. The band rounds out their set with a finale of Point of View, to which the crowd responds very enthusiastically.
It’s almost 10:00 pm when the curtain rises for the headliner. After a brief recorded intro, a cloaked and hooded character bounces around between the four led screens around the stage seemingly announcing the entrance of the main attraction. Blood of the Levant breaks the seal on the performance, just as it does on the latest record, and is a nod back to more straight ahead hard rock of their early days. The selection of songs for the evening are primarily picked from the band’s first five albums, as well as their breakout song from the 1984 EP, Queen of the Reich. La Torre renders a faithful representation of the Tate-led classics, while bringing them forth with a very personal interpretation. There is a genuineness to his presentation which elevates it above that of a tribute act and solidifies his place as the vocalist of Queensryche.
The performance picks up steam as it nears completion. The final three numbers commence with Screaming In Digital followed by Take Hold The Flame. Founding member and bassist Eddie Jackson along with the nine years tenure Parker Lundgren, on rhythm guitar, brandish classic Queensryche backing vocals, which tend to be comprised less of full choruses and more of shotgun blasts to accentuate the operatic lead vocals. The main production is capped off with the Operation: Mindcrime hit Eyes of a Stranger.
As the band returns to the stage for a three tune encore, the crowd shows a warm appreciation for them. Founder and lead guitarist Michael Wilton throughout the presentation shows his appreciation, and seems to really be enjoying his role as the patriarch of the matriarchal monarchy. He plays with a relaxed enthusiasm, with no pretense, and interacts with the audience with his eyes–when they are not covered up by his curly mane, which is about half the time. The encore begins with Light Years, off of The Verdict. Jackson readies the next one for takeoff with his signature opening bass line for Jet City Woman. Wilton picks out the squealing guitar intro to the Empire radio hit, and by the time the rest of the band kicks in, the crowd is in a frenzy. Rounding off the evening with the title track of the 1990 landmark record, the band high steps through the march-cadenced Empire. At the songs conclusion, La Torre offers up a very sincere thank you to those in attendance.
Although the trials are not evident while the band is on the stage, they are presumably always lurking. After 90 minutes of testimony in the court of public opinion, the band exits the stage. The jury of a thousand or so, impaneled in the box that is the Fonda Theater, are ready to render a verdict. GUILTY! Guilty of surviving and thriving in the world of rock n’ roll.
CLICK HERE to view more QUEENSRYCHE pics from the show.
CLICK HERE to view more FATES WARNING pics from the show.