Live Reviews : Queensrÿche (Melbourne) – 30/08/2009
w/ Eyefear and Darker Half
Billboard The Venue – 30th August 2009
I hope I never have to visit the HiFi Bar again. Having never been to Billboard before, I loved it the moment I walked in and I can definitely see why so many live bands are heading there instead in recent times. The view was fantastic from pretty much anywhere because of the multi-level layout, the TV screens may be average quality but are a welcome touch nonetheless, the lighting was great and it’s not a week-long hike to the bar. As far as I’m concerned, the HiFi can burn to the ground because every time I see a band announced as playing there instead of Billboard, I’ll be disappointed. But anyway, onto the bands.
Opening the night, all the way down from Sydney, was Darker Half. The guys are a fairly straightforward blend of traditional heavy metal and the lighter side of thrash, and having seen them before, I’m still not overly impressed. There are a few well written, memorable choruses here and there but as a whole it’s just lacking something. The vocalist doesn’t have a huge amount of power behind his voice, and neither did the music (although that’s also partly due to the average sound mix). But, despite several sound problems and instruments dropping out, they did seem to get a good response from the already quite large crowd.
Next up, a band that’s definitely not new to supporting internationals, was Melbourne’s own Eyefear. Starting off with the title track of their new album “The Unseen”, it was obvious a lot of the crowd was already very familiar with them. The band’s new-found heavier sound translates well to the live scene with the music having that bit more balls that their previous albums were lacking. The heavier sound also backs Danny up, one of the most powerful vocalists around, he sounds even stronger soaring over the top of this new material. Again, there were a couple of sound problems but it wasn’t enough to take away from the music. There were a couple of long breaks between songs while they tried to stop the drums from ‘going walkabout’, but they put on a great show nonetheless. An all-too-common problem amongst metal bands is keyboards being mixed too low, but the clarity of the keys here was spot-on, always a nice change. On top of all that, the song selection was superb with “A World Full of Grey”, “Always Reasons”, “Confessions” all making me a very happy audience member.
The always-too-long break seemed even longer than usual, but to a huge reception the band finally hit the stage with “Neue Regel” beginning the ‘Rage For Order’ suite. For those who haven’t heard (“or weren’t paying attention” to quote Geoff Tate himself), the set was broken into three suites. The first being ‘Rage For Order’, the second being their newie ‘American Soldier’, and the final their incredible ‘Empire’. While “Walk in the Shadows” and “I Dream in Infrared” were easily the highlights of the first part, and by the sounds of it most of the crowd are with me there, the whole section was fantastic. Tate still sounds fantastic after all these years, not backing down from the higher notes, and walking around like he owned the stage. A true rock star personality, with his sunglasses on for the first few songs, he knows how to command the crowd and is easily one of the most confident frontmen I have witnessed.
While “American Soldier” is a big improvement over their last few albums, it still has absolutely nothing on their classics, and the crowds lowered-enthusiasm really showed through here. Thankfully they kept this suite short with only four songs and a reasonably long speech explaining how the new album came to be. With the groovier and, umm, bouncier, nature of their new album, Tate’s movements seemed a tad silly in parts as he moved with the beat, being closer with what you would expect from a modern hip-hop artist. But, the band still sounded fantastic and they were simply enjoyable to watch, regardless of what they were playing at the time. Highlight of the American Soldier suite? Actually not a song at all, but Tate’s response to someone yelling out during his quite serious speech was more than humorous. His “Oh sorry, what were you saying?” and “Who’s show is this?” comments got a good laugh.
Within the opening seconds of “Best I Can”, the crowd went nuts. Clearly I wasn’t the only one waiting for this suite in particular. Hands went into the air all over the place, and the crowd sung along to every single word for the first few songs. It sounded phenomenal. Holding the mic out, the ‘I won’t let go’ parts were left to the crowd and the response was enormous, putting a genuinely impressed smile on Tate’s face. An overly lengthy speech about obsessions lead into one of my personal favourite tracks, “The Thin Line”, and while it was fantastic, Tate’s saxophone was barely audible for the most part. A tad annoying, but nothing could ruin the shows momentum by this stage. “Silent Lucidity” was even more beautiful live than recorded, and songs like that are one of the very few moments that I wish more people still smoked; only a couple of lighters swayed in the air. “Jet City Woman” and “Anybody Listening?” sounded spectacular with the crowd still singing along to the choruses. A short break followed with a few drum sticks being thrown into the crowd, and drummer Scott Rockenfield keeping the crowd entertained before they blasted into “Empire”, the final track of the night.
While it was a bit surprising there was no encore with a couple of ‘Operation: Mindcrime’ songs, it was good to see the band stick to their guns and not throw in the popular hits at the end for the sake of it. If you missed this gig, you poor bugger. The whole band were great, and not a single song sounded below par. Tate’s ‘music speaks to the heart’ speeches were a bit cheesy, but I suppose in a way they matched his on-stage persona. And some of the backdrop imagery was questionable, with the psychedelic butterfly flying back and forth during “Jet City Woman” confusing me a bit. But, I’m not about to complain, because that was a killer night. Fingers and toes crossed they visit again soon.
Rage For Order suite
Screaming in Digital
I Dream in Infrared
I Will Remember
Walk in the Shadows
American Soldier suite
If I Were King
Best I can
The Thin Line
One and Only
Jet City Woman
Reviewed by Mitch Booth (Mean Machine)
Photos by Anwar Rizk