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Geoff Tate and daughter Emily
Story by Mike
A third of the way thru the show, when soldier AJ Fratto bounded onto the stage in sleeveless camouflage, bellowing "ON YOUR FEET," the opening of the track "Sliver" off of the band's new album American Soldier, the command was almost a mute point. Most everyone already was.
The Seattle based band Queensrÿche took the stage at the Northern Lights theatre of Potawatomi Casino this past Thursday night and put on a rock concert that is as good as anything you're going to see or hear. Though still very early into this current tour, the band was in top form and showcased exactly why they have arguably music's most loyal fan base.
When guitarist Michael Wilton walked out and began the acoustic intro of "Neue Regel," the electricity was palpable and it had a pavlovian effect on the audience. They went ballistic, rising in enthusiasm to match the songs intense & powerful chord progressions. Their reaction was as much for that particularly fantastic song as for the anticipation of songs to come next.
Along with "American Soldier," the show was made up of two other extended "suites" comprised of songs off of the 1986 release Rage for Order and 1990's Empire. Drummer Scott Rockenfield & bassist Eddie Jackson, are the glue that holds Queensrÿche together. They provide an unrelentingly driving beat & fat rolling bottom end to the sound. Never just a rhythm support, each an artist that makes their respective instruments as important as any other component of the band. Along with new guitarist Parker Lundgren (who played as if a member of the band since inception ) they stormed through selections like "Surgical Strike" & "Walk in the Shadows." Michael Wilton produced brilliantly layered guitar lines that somehow emanated both a crunch rock and orchestral feel at the same time. The vocal harmonies that Jackson and keyboardist Jason Ames sang, lent power & beauty to songs such as "London" which closed out the Rage suite of songs.
Moving into the middle suite, the tracks off of American Soldier, are songs that take a look at war from the soldier's perspective. Their sacrifices, the guilt they feel, and the hope that keeps them going. No preaching or sermonizing, just straight forward personal accounts from the best this country has to offer. What they have endured for the benefit of all. The video screens on either side of the stage, played raw, emotional footage of war and our brave men & women of the services, as a backdrop to the haunting lyrics being sung by Geoff Tate.
Queensrÿche has always been defined by Geoff Tate's soaring, operatic voice. While Tate turned 50 at the start of this year, you would only know that from the gravitas of his songwriting, and the phrasing of lyrics that only comes from infusing personal experience into what you're singing. As an instrument, Tate's voice is a rich, nuanced, powerful and it was amazing during the entire show.
American Soldier was originally inspired by conversations Tate had with his father, a career military man who fought in Korea and Vietnam. He interviewed veterans from conflicts ranging from World War II all the way through to today to tell their stories in their words.
After Tate talked with the crowd about the purpose and process behind the album, the band ripped into the middle suite. Songs like "Hundred Mile Stare," "At 30,000 ft." & "If I Were King," start off deceptively simple and then climb musically & emotionally, peaking and then taking flight when their respective chorus kicks in. Michael Wilton showed great economy in his soloing. Alternating between feverish to tranquil, choosing to give each song what it needs vs. how cool he might look playing it. This is the mark of a true artist and not just a guitar player.
Closing out the American Soldier suite, Tate brought out his daughter Emily to sing with him on "Home Again." This wrenchingly sweet song was composed as letters written between a father & daughter separated due to war. Singing this duet to a star filled backdrop, the pride was evident on Tate's face as he listened to his beautiful daughter sing to him & us. It was one of the most touching performances I have seen.
When the dust had settled (guys claimed it was dust in their eyes) from that song, the band dove head first into the final suite with the thumping and inspirational "Best I Can." The crowd, probably still mulling over various feelings that were invoked during the dramatic songs of American Soldier, were happy to return to familiar songs that they could sing along to and jam. From the friendly hooks/chorus of "Thin Line," "Jet City Woman" & "Another Rainy Night," to the soft/sledge impact felt on "Anybody Listening," if anyone there didn't know the words, they were faking it, because everyone was singing. Nothing changed for the two encores "Empire" and the classic "Take Hold of the Flame." All jammed, all sang and all were sad that it had to end.
While some '80s rock and metal bands are still around, Queensrÿche has set itself apart by continuously growing as musicians and artists and making each new album a reflection of where they are at the time. Not feeling the need to live in the past or reproduce the same sound. Never a band to play to a lowest common denominator, they instead carved out their own territory by being intelligent, challenging, unique and managing to kick as much ass as anybody else on the scene, then or now. They prove that brains & the brawn of metal are not mutually exclusive and when done hand in hand, make the most powerful of all music. American Soldier is not just a great album, it is an important one. When's the last time you could say that about something that rocks this hard? Master Chief R.P. Walters used to say "The best day is always the current one" You could say the same thing about Queensrÿche albums.
When our perils are past, shall our gratitude sleep? Queensrÿche is doing its part to ensure it never will.
Suite One - Rage for Order
The Killing Words
Gonna Get Close to You
Walk in the Shadows
Suite Two - American Soldier
Hundred Mile Stare
At 30,000 Feet
A Dead Man's Words
If I Were King
Suite Three - Empire
Best I Can
The Thin Line
Another Rainy Night
Jet City Woman
Take Hold Of The Flame
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