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REVIEW: The Return of Queensrÿche On “The Verdict” World Tour at Marquee Theater (3-26-19)

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Tempe, AZ — There are very few rock bands that are truly unique, but Queensrÿche has blazed their own trail since their inception in 1980. The media has tried to pigeon-hole their signature style as progressive, hard rock, or even lump them into the derogatory hair-metal category from the 80’s. They stayed true to their sound, and legions of fans showed loyalty even after the heyday of MTV airing the videos that delivered their music to the masses. Fair-weather fans started to fade away once the radio stopped playing their songs, and even some of those who passionately believed that Operation: Mindcrime was one of the greatest albums of all time may not have “checked-in” since the Empire CD was released.

This month, Queensrÿche released their new fifteenth studio album entitled The Verdict and brought the world tour to the Marquee Theatre to show both the die-hard fans and the fans who have been on hiatus that although they never really left, they are back!

Openers

The evening started early with two local bands. It’s very commendable for a headliner to pay-it-forward and give new and upcoming acts such an opportunity.

Shadow Guilt - Photo Credit: Rodrigo Izquierdo
Shadow Guilt
| Photography:
Rodrigo Izquierdo © All Rights Reserved
Photo Gallery

Shadow Guilt

First up was Shadow Guilt, a four-piece band from Gilbert, Arizona. The crowd may not have expected a local act to amount to much, but they immediately commanded the stage and proved that they could hang. The songs were reminiscent of early Metallica and singer/guitarist Bryan Reid had a professional presence with a voice that soared from thrash to screamo.

Shadow Guilt - Photo Credit: Mark Greenawalt
Bryan Reid (Guitarist, Vocalist), Shadow Guilt
| Photography:
Mark Greenawalt © All Rights Reserved
Photo Gallery

Shadow Guilt Photo Gallery

Sectas

The second Arizona band was Sectas, a three-piece that again surprised everyone with a big wall of sound and driving songs. Christian Lee is a weapon on guitar and sings with controlled mayhem while shredding.

Sectas - Photo Credit: Rodrigo Izquierdo
Christian Lee (Guitarist, Vocalist), Sectas
| Photography:
Rodrigo Izquierdo © All Rights Reserved
Photo Gallery

Drummer Brian Regalado was entertaining to watch and seemed to have had the most fun out of any of the musicians all night. He poured his heart into each song until the last one, which was unfortunately cut short due to time constraints.

Sectas - Photo Credit: Mark Greenawalt
Brian Regalado (Drummer), Sectas
| Photography:
Mark Greenawalt © All Rights Reserved
Photo Gallery

Sectas Photo Gallery

Fates Warning

The third opening act was no stranger to Queensrÿche fans. Fates Warning also launched into progressive rock in the early 80’s and followed a similar trajectory. Their set began with “From the Rooftops” from their latest album, Theories of Flight — released in 2016.

Fates Warning - Photo Credit: Rodrigo Izquierdo
Ray Alder ( Vocalist), Fates Warning
| Photography:
Rodrigo Izquierdo © All Rights Reserved
Photo Gallery

The stage lights had apparently tripped a breaker, and singer Ray Adler said, “How about a little light up here?” into the dark crowd as the band continued to play. An unanticipated moment occurred when a sea of cellphones rose and illuminated the stage until the stage lights reengaged.

Marquee Theatre Crowd - Photo Credit: Rodrigo Izquierdo
Crowd at Marquee Theatre lights up the room for Fates Warning | Photography: Rodrigo Izquierdo © All Rights Reserved

Original guitarist Jim Matheos was joined by the new guitar virtuoso Michael Abdow as they dove back in time to 1991’s “Life In Still Water” from the Parallels album and rekindled the audience participation. The band was rounded out with the longtime rhythm section of Joey Vera (bass) and Bobby Jarzombek (drums). One of the highlights of the 10-song set was watching Vera’s emphatic expressions and stage antics in contrast to the somber delivery from the other band members who poured the energy into surgically precise musicianship.

Fates Warning - Photo Credit: Rodrigo Izquierdo
Joey Vera ( Bassist), Fates Warning
| Photography:
Rodrigo Izquierdo © All Rights Reserved
Photo Gallery

Fates Warning played two more from the new album (“Seven Stars” and “The Light And Shade Of Things”), but went back to the classic Parallels album again to close the set with “The Eleventh Hour,” followed by “Point Of View”. It was a solid outing and they thanked Queensrÿche for the opportunity and Arizona for the support.

Fates Warning Photo Gallery

Queensrÿche

It’s only been a couple of months since Queensrÿche was in town in an opening role on the Scorpions “Crazy World Tour”, and Burning Hot Events was there to review that show as well (click here). That night, they performed a 9-song set with the reduced light show and sound afforded to all opening acts, but this night would be different. This time they were the headliner.

Queensryche - Photo Credit: Rodrigo Izquierdo
Queensrÿche
| Photography
: Rodrigo Izquierdo © All Rights Reserved

Cast for the Evening

  • Michael Wilton – lead guitar (1980–present)
  • Eddie Jackson – bass, backing vocals (1980–present)
  • Parker Lundgren – rhythm guitar, backing vocals (2009–present)
  • Todd La Torre – lead vocals (2012–present), drums (2018 in studio)
  • Casey Grillo – drums (2017–present)

Before getting into the blow-by-blow, we might as well address the elephant in the room which is the band lineup. This is Queensrÿche led by frontman Todd La Torre, who has firmly planted his flag in the history of the band since 2012 and has now sang on three studio albums. He isn’t Geoff Tate, but he convincingly sings the entire Queensrÿche catalog with respect and command. Fans who can’t accept this change should give a listen to The Verdict to find out that they might be missing out. Guitarist Parker Lundgren, replacing the original guitarist and creative songwriter Chris DeGarmo, seems to be an easier pill to swallow since DeGarmo left willfully around the turn of the century, but this has also upset some purists. The one that may be the strangest now is that original drummer Scott Rockenfield is still the official drummer in the band, but he has been M.I.A. since the 2017 birth of his son. To add further confusion to this story, singer Todd La Torre played drums on the new album and kicked ass capturing the Queensrÿche sound and feel. Casey Grillo, the drummer from the band Kamelot, is the touring drummer, but not the official drummer for the band. It may sound like a dysfunctional family, but original guitarist Michael Wilton and bassist Eddie Jackson are the patriarch glue that is holding it all together to build a strong new regime.

OK, can we move on into the review finally?…

As the house lights were extinguished, the video screens on stage were ignited. Death, wearing a crimson hooded robe, was bidding the crowd to come forward. He was the “life”-size animation of the character on the new album cover. The anticipation continued to rise with more animated video while the intro music was playing the instrumental soundscape of “Launder the Conscience”. As the song faded, the video screens ushered in the spinning Tri-Ryche logo, and the fans were instantly connected to the hive mind.

Grillo was firmly planted on the drum throne when the band floated in from the wings to center stage. The cheers from the crowd had topped out, and then they were drowned out after a single hit to the snare drum took the night from zero-to-60 in seconds flat with the opening riff for “Blood of the Levant”. The guitarists took to their perches on opposite sides of the stage: Lundgren on the left wearing sleeves of tattoos and a leather vest, playing the white Orbit FX; Wilton on the right wearing a black leather jacket and playing the skull and crossbones limited edition ESP. Jackson joined Lundgen on the left wearing an unassuming black tee and playing a black custom 5-string Mike Lull bass. The sound was full of energy but the expressions and lack of stage antics announced that this band was here to deliver the perfect sonic backdrop for the main event and the freak of nature known as Todd La Torre.

Queensryche - Photo Credit: Mark Greenawalt
Todd La Torre (Vocalist), Queensrÿche
| Photography
: Mark Greenawalt © All Rights Reserved

Out of the gate, La Torre was like a raging bull exploring the stage, bracing for attack, and then allowing that Queensrÿche sound to emanate from his soul. If there was any doubt when you walked in, there was no doubt now that this band has reached a new pinnacle and the chemistry was working. This was a strong opening song and there was no need for comparisons… This was the lineup that played the song on the album (well, except for Grillo, since La Torre did the drums on the album). La Torre even took a few moments during the middle-8 to play some percussion and give a glimpse of his prowess with drumsticks.

Queensryche - Photo Credit: Mark Greenawalt
Michael Wilton (Lead Guitarist), Queensrÿche
Photography
: Mark Greenawalt © All Rights Reserved

The setlist was an interesting mix of songs from all eras of the band’s history, but there was some emphasis on songs from The Verdict. “You can’t create new classics,” said La Torre, “if you don’t play the new shit, right?

Their second song from The Verdict was “Man the Machine” but before that they inserted two songs for the die-hard fans with “I Am I” from Promised Land and way back to 1984 for “NM 156” from The Warning. “Condition Hüman” is a beautifully crafted song and the performance was moving, but a look around the crowd told the story that very few knew the songs from this 2015 album.

Before the wind could completely leave the crowd’s sails, Michael “Whip” Wilton took center stage and laid into “Queen of the Reich,” and suddenly the fists were in the air.  (Author’s Note – I still have my vinyl copy of this EP and this song still gives me chills.) This would be the proving grounds for La Torre with the elder statesman in the Queensrÿche army. Can he hit that note, hold it, turn on the vibrato, and own it? Yes, he did.

Queensryche - Photo Credit: Mark Greenawalt
Todd La Torre (Vocalist), Queensrÿche
| Photography
: Mark Greenawalt © All Rights Reserved

The follow up song was something completely different, and one that everyone knew from the first three notes. It was the iconic ballad “Silent Lucidity,” written by founding member Chris DeGarmo. This was one of the few songs that didn’t shy away from using backing tracks in lieu of bringing an orchestral ensemble.

The next set of four songs seemed like the breath in before the big finale.  All good songs, but lesser known to the masses. La Torre introduced “Open Road” as one of the first songs he wrote with the band, and that was followed by two more from The Verdict; “Propaganda Fashion” and “Light-Years.” Then it was back to 1986 for “Screaming in Digital” from Rage For Order.

Queensryche - Photo Credit: Rodrigo Izquierdo
Parker Lundgren (Guitarist, Vocalist), Queensrÿche
| Photography
: Rodrigo Izquierdo © All Rights Reserved

Those old enough to remember the song “Take Hold of the Flame” when it was in rotation can probably remember where they were when they first heard it. It’s that kind of song. The best way to hear the flanged guitars on the intro is to listen with headphones, but a close second way is to hear the duo of Wilton and Lundgren play it live.  Journey found the needle in a haystack when Arnel Pineda replaced the “irreplaceable” Steve Perry, and Queensrÿche followed suit when they found Todd La Torre to replace Geoff Tate.

Setlist

  1. (Intro Tape) Launder the Conscience (The Verdict, 2019, Wilton/La Torre/Lundgren)
  2. Blood of the Levant (The Verdict, 2019, Wilton/La Torre/Jackson)
  3. I Am I (Promised Land, 1994, DeGarmo/Tate)
  4. NM 156 (The Warning, 1984, DeGarmo/Tate/Wilton)
  5. Man the Machine (The Verdict, 2019, Wilton/La Torre/Jackson)
  6. Condition Hüman (Condition Hüman, 2015, Wilton/Jackson/Lundgren/
    LaTorre)
  7. Queen of the Reich (Queensrÿche EP, 1984, DeGarmo)
  8. Silent Lucidity (Empire, 1990, DeGarmo)
  9. Open Road (Queensrÿche, 2013, Rockenfield/La Torre/Wilton)
  10. Propaganda Fashion (The Verdict, 2019, Jackson)
  11. Light-years (The Verdict, 2019, Jackson)
  12. Screaming in Digital (Rage For Order, 1986, DeGarmo/Tate/Wilton)
  13. Take Hold of the Flame (The Warning, 1984, DeGarmo/Tate)
  14. Eyes of a Stranger (with Anarchy-X outro) (Operation: Mindcrime, 1988, DeGarmo/Tate)

    – Encore –
  15. Jet City Woman (Empire, 1990, DeGarmo/Tate)
  16. Empire (Empire, 1990, Tate/Wilton)

It’s important to mention the incredible songwriting talent that DeGarmo and Tate contributed to the legacy of Queensrÿche. “Take Hold of the Flame” is a perfect example, but perhaps some of their best collaborations can be heard on the Operation: Mindcrime album. Tate is now the only one that can perform this album in its entirety after the legal battle, but it is surprising that the the setlist only included one song from this album. They ended the set with the classic that brings back memories of the music video that documented the album’s concept – “Eyes of a Stranger”. It. Was. Awesome.

Queensryche - Photo Credit: Mark Greenawalt
Eddie Jackson (Bassist), Queensrÿche
Photography
: Mark Greenawalt © All Rights Reserved

Eddie Jackson was flawless all evening, but it seemed he quite often slipped into the shadows and let the limelight fall on his bandmates. However, as the band returned to the stage for the encore, Jackson laid claim to center stage and delivered the legendary bass intro to “Jet City Woman” from the 1990 Empire album and the crowd went nuts (another gift from the DeGarmo and Tate songwriting team). La Torre returned to the stage sporting sunglasses and led the audience in the sing-along to this song which is ingrained in our collective memory.

Alas, it was time for the final song of the evening which would be the title track from the Empire album. This song featured Wilton on lead guitar and left fans satiated.  The music industry has changed so much but through the years Queensrÿche has followed their muse and continued creating great music. The night was not only a trip down memory lane to get reacquainted with the songs of our youth, but also an invitation to reconnect with an old “friend” who is thriving with a new album and an incredibly talented line up. Check out The Verdict and find out what your verdict is!

Cast for the Evening

  • Michael Wilton – lead guitar (1980–present)
  • Eddie Jackson – bass, backing vocals (1980–present)
  • Parker Lundgren – rhythm guitar, backing vocals (2009–present)
  • Todd La Torre – lead vocals (2012–present), drums (2018 in studio)
  • Casey Grillo – drums (2017–present)

Setlist

  1. (Intro Tape) Launder the Conscience (The Verdict, 2019, Wilton/La Torre/Lundgren)
  2. Blood of the Levant (The Verdict, 2019, Wilton/La Torre/Jackson)
  3. I Am I (Promised Land, 1994, DeGarmo/Tate)
  4. NM 156 (The Warning, 1984, DeGarmo/Tate/Wilton)
  5. Man the Machine (The Verdict, 2019, Wilton/La Torre/Jackson)
  6. Condition Hüman (Condition Hüman, 2015, Wilton/Jackson/Lundgren/LaTorre)
  7. Queen of the Reich (Queensrÿche EP, 1984, DeGarmo)
  8. Silent Lucidity (Empire, 1990, DeGarmo)
  9. Open Road (Queensrÿche, 2013, Rockenfield/La Torre/Wilton)
  10. Propaganda Fashion (The Verdict, 2019, Jackson)
  11. Light-years (The Verdict, 2019, Jackson)
  12. Screaming in Digital (Rage For Order, 1986, DeGarmo/Tate/Wilton)
  13. Take Hold of the Flame (The Warning, 1984, DeGarmo/Tate)
  14. Eyes of a Stranger (with Anarchy-X outro) (Operation: Mindcrime, 1988, DeGarmo/Tate)

    – Encore –
  15. Jet City Woman (Empire, 1990, DeGarmo/Tate)
  16. Empire (Empire, 1990, Tate/Wilton)

Photo Galleries

Photographers: Mark Greenawalt & Rodrigo Izquierdo (Reagle Photography)

Openers: Shadow Guilt | Sectas | Fates Warning

Queensrÿche – Marquee Theatre 3-26-19

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Photography © Mark Greenawalt & Reagle Photography, Respectively.
All Rights Reserved

Featured (top) photo by Mark Greenawalt