"Hang on a minute, they've missed out Speak," I cried as Queensryche played to a packed out Manchester Academy. I looked at my ticket and it says, 'Queensryche: Operation Mindcrime 1 & 2. To me, my friends, and probably many of the people who had made the effort to see the Seattle rockers, it meant that Queensryche were going to play both Mindcrimes in their entirety. A mouth watering prospect for any 'ryche fan, and certainly the reason I booked my ticket. So to hear an unrelated intro tape followed by 'Revolution Calling' missing out 'I remember now' and 'Anarchy X' was a little unsettling. I can live with Operation Mindcrime without it's innovative storytelling, but to leave out 'Speak', 'The Mission' and then 'Breaking the Silence' is unforgivable especially as the impression given is that they were going to play the whole thing.
I've seen Queensryche several times, most notably on the 'Empire' tour when they were on top of their game (Possibly one of the best shows I've ever seen). That was at the Manchester Apollo, sadly they've been relegated to the Manchester Academy 1, but it was still full of Queensryche devotees. Maybe it's Queensryche themselves who were longing for the heady days of stadiums and large theatres because this was a disinterested, shoddy and slightly amateurish performance from a once great band.
Without Chris DeGarmo in the band the question of backing vocals comes to the fore. The band have opted, quite sensibly in my opinion, for the talents of Pamela Moore who plays Sister Mary on the Mindcrime albums and also toured with them on already mentioned Empire tour. Sadly Pamela detracts from the show dressed in an evening dress and dancing like a drunken mother at a party. Her cavorting with Geoff Tate and his middle aged spread looked uncomfortable, embarrassing and contradictory to the overall story. The times when she was stood at the back as a haunted figure dressed in white, her performance excelled and the balance on the stage looked correct. Forgetting the words didn't really help matters but this is forgivable.
Geoff Tate gave a truly godlike performance. His voice and enthusiasm is extremely infectious and is worth a 13/13 just on that alone. However his miscues and singing from the wings because he can't get back on stage fast enough looked amateurish and something that would plague a local battle of the bands contest, not an experienced act such as Queensryche. The band fell out of time during 'Suite Sister Mary.' A shot of silence befell the room before drummer Scott Rockenfield counted the band in, but at least they managed to cover it well and finish altogether. New guitarist Mike Stone added perhaps one of the worst solos I've ever heard to the end of 'Suite Sister Mary.' It was poorly played and bared no resemblance to the song as a whole. Sadly Stone never tried emulate any of Chris Degarmo's solos and seemed a little bored by the whole event.
The sound was a little flat but it was chunky enough to bring out the best in the New Mindcrime material. The dreadful production on their latest album was forgotten as tracks such as 'Hands' and 'Hostage' were given a new lease of life in the live environment. Like part one, part two was also abridged missing out great cuts such as 'The Chase' and 'Re-arrange me'. Part two did see the band settle down slightly. Perhaps it was the enjoyment of chocking out the new material rather than going through the motions of the older songs that brought about this new lease of life. 'I'm American' sounded anthemic as did 'Murderer', but it was all over too soon because 'Eyes of a Stranger' interrupted the proceedings to signify it was the end of the set.
'Empire' and 'Jet City Woman' were greeted with rapture, and I have to admit they sounded excellent, however this was all the hungry crowd were given. The band went off at 10:20pm and never came back. The house lights never came on and the lights on the stage were still lit suggesting the band were going to come back out. "They can't finish a show on Jet City Woman," I told my friend, but they can and they did. Over 20 years in the industry and the Queensryche could only play two encores? It gave the impression that the band only tagged on the encores to push the set up to 90 minutes. The crowd stayed waiting for Queensryche to come back on, they were Queenryche's for the taking but they never appeared. After six minutes the house lights finally came on to booing from the frustrated crowd, and we all trudged out a little dissatisfied.
Having seen Queensryche at their best it was sad to see them look amateurish and, dare I say, going through the motions. If it wasn't for Geoff Tate's star quality, awesome voice and the brilliant songs, this gig would have been a lot worse. Had the band played both Mindcrimes in their entirety, had video screens and all the great linking tracks then it could have mind blowing. Queensryche have had the chance to make huge leaps up the rock ladder with the concept of Operation Mindcrime 2, but with a dreadful production on the album and now an unprofessional and unsatisfying show that doesn't really give you value for money, I fear they may have missed one of the greatest opportunities in rock. I hope this show is a blip and that the once great Queensryche will regroup, rethink and come back to us soon.