The system we learn says we're equal under law. But the streets are reality, the weak and poor will fall. Let's tip the power balance and tear down the crown. Educate the masses; we'll burn the White House down. Speak to me the pain you feel. Speak the word [revolution], the word is all of us." ---Queensryche, Speak
The problem with making an album as amazing as Operation: Mindcrime, the sheer genius of which still blows me away almost a dozen years after its release, is that it's incredibly difficult to top it. The album appeals to me so much because of its symphonic and intricate musical underpinnings and strong anarchistic lyrics (see my album review for more). And Queensryche haven't managed to do so, but they must look back at this album and really revel in its creativity and complexity. And that was evidenced by the set list of their live show at the San Jose State Event Center.
I stopped following Queensryche after 1988's Operation: Mindcrime, but the followup album, Empire, catapulted them to stardom with the MTV video hit Silent Lucidity. While that made it hard to ignore them, Queensryche's new music simply didn't interest me that much. I kept comparing every album to Operation: Mindcrime, and I longed for the aggressiveness and passion and the deep conceptualisation that was present, both lyrically and musically, in that epic release. To this date, Queensryche haven't satisfied me in the studio, but the live show pretty much made me an extremely happy person.
They opened with Revolution Calling and followed it up with Speak, which, for lack of better term, was simply orgasmic. A vast portion of their set consisted of tunes from Operation: Mindcrime, and much as I am fan of their earlier work, I think they made the right decision. These songs were: Spreading the Disease (which had a bit of Electric Requiem in it), The Needle Lies, Breaking the Silence, I Don't Believe in Love, and Eyes of a Stranger (encore). From Empire, they played the title track, Jet City Woman, and Silent Lucidity (encore). From Promised Land, the selection was Damaged and from Here in the Now Frontier, the selection was Reach. They also played a significant amount of tunes from their latest release, Q2k, in including Falling Down, When the Rain Comes, Wot Kinda Man, One Life, Breakdown, Sacred Ground, Liquid Sky, Right Side of My Mind, and Burning Man (encore). I don't think their new material is of the same calibre as the material on Operation: Mindcrime. A surprising addition was a cover of U2's Bullet the Blue Sky. The icing on the cake was Walk in the Shadows from 1986's Rage for Order. Songs I'd have liked to see include Queen of the Reich, NM 156, and Operation: Mindcrime.
Geoff Tate's voice was great as ever (I guess all that opera training is paying off) and he hit the high notes whenever he wanted and was in perfect control. It is rare to see a band with a "screaming" vocalist match the screaming done in the studio during a live performance. While I missed Chris DeGarmo, Kelly Gray did a fine job on the guitar, and the rest of the band was solid and on the mark. Some of their more "mellow" songs (i.e., stuff after Empire) were performed more harshly. One of the amusing things to me about Queensryche is that Geoff Tate doesn't fit in exactly with the rest of the band. This is partially because of his clean-cut good looks and he took full advantage of it by taking his glasses off near the end of the show and blowing kisses to the audience.
Double Drive opened. They were pretty and energetic, playing solid hard rock with an aggressive edge to it. They provided a nice opener for Queensryche, though again, it really bothered me that the vocalist would play the air guitar every once in a while. Once again, the show was executed flawlessly: I arrived at the Event Center about five minutes before the show started, got a 10th row seat in the center, and Queensryche played a full energetic, intense and virtuoso set for a whole two hours. Can't ask for more.