the loud bassoon concert scene

Queensrÿche @ House of Blues, Chicago, USA
25 March 2000

In my standard long-winded fashion, this review requires some serious back history before it can be enjoyed. You know, kinda like Tristan and Isolde.

While I skulked through my pubescent years, Queensrÿche were my favorite band. Though a fan since their debut EP and subsequent LP The Warning, I had truly fallen madly in love with their weirdly progressive Rage for Order LP (an album I still find to be radically avant-garde) in grade school. Then nearly two years later I nearly slit my wrists with joy at their far-reaching concept album Operation: Mindcrime. I even managed to argue some Queensrÿche discs into then-heavy-metal-skeptic, now-Loud-Bassoon-editor La Fée's almighty CD collection.

After High School, Queensrÿche released the mega-selling Empire album. This disc, though charting a top ten single in the form of "Silent Lucidity," continued their style of 'Progressive Metal' and actually gave the band worldwide fame.

The headlining 'Building Empires' tour was one of those legendary arena metal shows that made tons of money and sold out stadiums everywhere. To catch this one, a goodfellow and I drove all the way from Chicago to Springfield (we found out, incidentally, that it takes about 2 hours to get there and about 10 minutes to get back … another story entirely). It was one of the best concerts I have seen.

After that things kinda went downhill for Queensrÿche. They waited almost three years to release the follow up to Empire: Promised Land, decidedly good, but not great – solid, but sounded strictly behind the times. Grunge was in full swing, and few were interested in cerebral heavy metal. Even I was unimpressed.

Three years later came Hear in The Now Frontier, an even less successful and much less metal oriented disc. Though still good, it was only a half-solid album. The following attempt at a stadium tour consisted of appropiately half-full venues. When I saw them at the World Music Theater, most people left mid-set after they played "Silent Lucidity." Very sad.

After this only marginally successful album and tour, creative svengali Chris DeGarmo gave up and left the band. Sad this, as I always considered him to be the driving force behind the group. He wrote at least 60% of Queensrÿche's most important songs and was a fantastic guitarist.

When your main songwriter leaves, most bands call it quits. Queensrÿche have always been about dedication however, so they decided to press on. Grabbing a new guitarist, they put out a new album, Q2K, and hit the road on a club/theatre tour.

Ok, now that we're all up to date. Here's the review:

I listened to the new Q2K album twice. It bored the crap out of me both times. Perhaps I should give it another try, but that's doubtful. When I bought it, I did not know that Chris DeGarmo had left Queensrÿche. I was driving home from Rolling Stones Records (where I buy all of my heavy metal) and curiously flipping through the CD booklet when I saw some guitarist called Kelly something-or-other in the band photo. I nearly spun out into a lamppost on Harlem Ave, killing three teenaged boys, their 62 year old mother, and their dog Dingo.

I loved DeGarmo. I felt cheated that the band could continue without him. Harumph!

This set the tone for the evening at the House of Blues. Despite a recent resurgence in interest and three sold out shows in Chicago, I was skeptical. I left only somewhat less skeptical. I was fully ready to hurl nailballs at the new guitarist, and only through great restraint did I manage to hold back.

Opening with a slightly altered "Anarchy X" and "Revolution Calling," they played the obvious trump card and launched into a multi-song excerpt from Operation: Mindcrime. It's disturbing when a band relies almost completely on ten year old material, no matter how good it is.

I was also concerned that the guitar riffs sounded a bit different, but attributed that to perhaps a strange sound mix at first. This was not the case.

The new guitarist, whatever-his-name-is, didn't learn the freakin' parts! This was most readily apparent on two songs that I used to perform during my Los Angeles days, "Walk in the Shadows" and "I Don't Believe In Love." I know each and every guitar lick for both remaining guitarist Michael Wilton and the departed Chris DeGarmo. While Wilton performed his parts with aplomb, he new guy simply did not play DeGarmo's parts correctly!!!

What a disappointment. It sounded ok, but totally different. I can't believe that anyone could choose to walk into a band with such a devoted following and simply not play the correct riffs.

Everything else was great. Vocalist Geoff Tate has not lost a smidgeon of charisma or talent over the years. He still has a fantastic voice and dramatic stage presence. Bassist Eddie Jackson and drummer Scott Rockenfeld could still pound out exciting things while guitarist Michael Wilton is also at top form. Too bad Wilton has such a sloppy guitarist for a partner.

The setlist consisted of nearly the entire Mindcrime album with "Jet City Woman" and "Empire" thrown in from the Empire disc, and "Damaged" from the Promised Land disc. "Silent Lucidity" made an appearance with Wilton playing DeGarmo's acoustic parts on an electric. Kinda strange.

The rest of the set was from Q2K and was decent, if not overtly enthralling. The main set ended with an unsettling version of U2's "Bullet the Blue Sky." Unsettling in that it is unclear as to why Queensrÿche would attempt to cover it.

Was it good? Yeah, the band were still at top form. Was it as good as they used to be? Nope, all of the symptoms of a great band were in place, but the heart was gone. Too bad, really.

Review by Dr. Martin Absinthe