Words and Pictures: Adrian Hextall \ MindHex Media
After a successful support slot, the final band before Scorpions closed Bloodstock Open Air 2019, Seattle progressive metallers, Queensrÿche, returned to London for a headline show in support of their critically acclaimed latest release ‘The Verdict’. The album sees the band draw out the sound of ‘Queensrÿche’ that the fans have been hoping for over the last twenty years and to hear some of these songs played live was an opportunity not to be missed.
By the time support act Mirrorplain came on stage, the venue was perhaps half full so the band from Germany commenced their set to a decent response and delivered a performance that straddled alternative and power metal styling. It’s a great mix and the range, that still offers a solid metal vibe felt like exactly the right thing to bring to the stage as a warm up for Queensrÿche.
And so to the band, on their 3rd album with Todd La Torre (and their best with him), who have experienced something of a resurgence in recent years. The latest album, The Verdict, delivers exactly what it states on the title. An album that finally gives Queensrÿche fans a band that they can believe in once more. Capturing the essence of the band perfectly, this was a tour that saw them performing in decent sized theatres as the band that once brought us Rage for Order, Operation Mindcrime and Empire, rightfully should be doing.
The room, by the time the band arrived on stage for a full 90 minute set, was comfortably full as was the balcony upstairs and without further ado, the La Torre fronted outfit launched into Blood of The Levant, the opening track from the new album, the band’s intent was clear from the off, make the audience realise that you don’t need to rely upon albums from 30 years ago to enjoy a full Queensrÿche show. Check out the official video for the song to see just what we’re talking about here.
La Torre is quietly spoken, almost respectful of the crowd as much as he is of his fellow musicians. When he sings however, the reason he now fronts one of my favourite bands becomes all too apparent. His voice is liquid gold. Every song we know so well from the band’s back catalogue was delivered note perfect. Every high, every low, every soft, every hard moment captured perfectly. That he can then replicate that with the new material is nothing short of miraculous as it ensured the set flowed as smoothly as one could possibly have hoped for. Of course there’s more than one person on stage and Casey Grillo (Kamelot) on drums, replacing former Rÿchian Scott Rockenfield, Parker Lundgren on guitar and the Rÿchian old guard of Michael Wilton and Eddie Jackson brought the sound and the sound was immense. Wilton effortlessly peeling off solo after solo, almost relegating Lundgren to rhythm duties at times and Jackson with a snarl and a bassline that reinforces his time served with a metal band. Grillo plays drums when the band tour as the studio duties now fall to La Torre. Singer and drummer…? There must be something in the air (but not tonight!)
The classics of course do get a look in and the band wisely focus on tracks from the original e.p. up to and including Promised Land. As such we get the hits, the fan favourites and the opportunity to simply have a great singalong. The encore though was the moment of pure magic for me. Adding Light Years from the new album into the encore was a stroke of genius as it sat perfectly in between possibly some of the greatest tracks the band have ever recorded, Empire and Eyes of A Stranger. Closing the main set with the latter, the band got everyone cheering and singing along before returning for an encore that saw Light Years performed before closing with a rousing Jet City Woman and the epic Empire, the latter a song that still sends shivers down my back such is the power of the track.
There will always be those that bemoan the lack of the band’s former lead singer on stage but for my money, La Torre, like Kelly Hansen with Foreigner, has breathed new life into the band. One only has to look at the swathe of forgettable albums that were issued before Todd joined to realise that the band were heading downhill fast. The last three releases, shows like this one and the slot at Bloodstock are ensuring that Queensrÿche are back in the ranks of metal greats once more, just as it should be!
Blood of the Levant
I Am I
Man the Machine
Walk in the Shadows
Queen of the Reich
Screaming in Digital
Take Hold of the Flame
Eyes of a Stranger
Jet City Woman