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Live Reviews : Queensrÿche, LORD & Hemina @ Manning Bar, Sydney 15/10/2016

By on October 18, 2016

Since launching their substantial career in 1983 with the promising Queensrÿche E.P., and solidifying that a year later with the Maiden-esque stylings of the impressive The Warning album, Queensrÿche have consistently delivered quality, skillful, exceptionally well played progressive heavy metal.

With a back catalogue that includes the defining metal/concept album Operation Mindcrime and the crossover, chartbusting smash Empire, they are a metal monolith that over the years have reached a massive audience that has seen them sell upwards of thirty million albums in an enduring thirty-five year career. Throughout the ’90s and onwards they blazed a trail as a thinking man’s metal band that appealed broadly to the burgeoning metal crowds of the time, and importantly, also saw them as an ideal package for the rockier end with the onset of the impending MTV generation. Their material, presentation, and timing was perfect. They became a regular fixture on the box at the time and were met with great acclaim, to the extent that they topped charts worldwide and the Floydian refrain of Silent Lucidity saw them be recipients of multiple Grammy nominations.

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They are great players, and in Geoff Tate they had one of the greatest singers our beloved genre has ever produced. A hybrid somewhere between Iron Maiden’s Bruce Dickinson and Judas Priest‘s Rob Halford, Tate displayed a spine chilling mastery, whether fulfilling the roles of Mindcrime or doing the best he can on Jet City Woman. He and band encapsulated all that was good about classy, proggressive metal from the time and their influence has been further reaching than many would realise.

Since ending the increasingly fractious relationship with the brilliant, if self-empowered, Tate, they have left behind what became a bit of a creative soft patch that saw diminishing returns during the late 2000’s and they have relaunched lately with a couple of kick ass albums, now led by vocalist Todd La Torre; surely one of very few men on the planet able to do justice to the material, the band, and Tate’s substantial legacy. Tonight they are on fucking fire!

Able support for this evenings festivities comes from opening acts Hemina and LORD. Hemina kick things off virtually the moment doors open and there is a rush of punters to get in to check these guys out. They are a class act on the move. Their ambitious and challenging compositions are delivered with considerable zeal and ability, and with a run of upcoming shows to support the imminent release of their Venus album, they are one to watch out for. The ever reliable LORD have long been a fixture of quality on the Sydney metal scene, and as such, are a perfect warm up for tonight’s main event. Lord Tim and the boys have been one of the flag-bearers for Oz metal for what seems like decades, and continue to plant that flag internationally while maintaining a strong local following. Tonight they are blooding a stand-in member as one of their pillars – Andy Dowling – misses his first show in over ten years while on honeymoon duty. They nail a short-but-sweet set with their typical grit and vigour, and by the time they reach sets end with a grunty cover of “Creeping Death”, the Manning Bar is comfortably full and all is set for the headliners first Sydney show in close to a decade.

New album, Condition Human, is a superbly solid record so it is no surprise when they kick off proceedings with “Guardian” as one it’s stronger tracks. Nods and smiles are flashing around the entire room and as they bound straight into the thumping “Operation Mindcrime”, and super hooky riffage of “Best I Can”, it is clearly evident that all the mastery and experience that these guys have gained over their long career has been brought to the table tonight and our expectations of a killer show are in safe hands. The sound is utterly flawless, not sure I’ve ever heard this room sound so good and when a band has the chops that these guys display it is a joy to behold. Singer La Torre is in particularly fine form, he exudes a casual confidence in his obvious abilities and as his notes reach the heavens our jaws hit the floor. Talk among the punters is that this performance slams anything they’ve seen on youtube from his predecessor but regardless of any comparisons this is a blinding example of vocal ability.

“The Killing Words” is the first track tonight to reach back to the very early years, being from ’86’s Rage For Order album and signals that tonight’s set will be a well balanced blend that touches on all the key periods of the band’s career. “The Mission”, “Silent Lucidity” and “Empire” get a rousing reception. This is an educated crowd (there are many mature heads), and given the lineage of the material, a lot of these people have been in and around metal for upwards of 30 years, and so watching their appreciation of such a quality act is a big part of tonight’s fun. New track “Eye9” has all the hallmarks of classic ‘Ryche and oh shit, it’s “Queen Of The Reich” and I find myself recalling teenage stories of selling my soul to find and collect the E.P. and other rare bits of black plastic and again La Torre raises the roof. “Jet City Woman” is an obvious sing along favourite for the assembled and when “Take Hold Of The Flame” recalls ’84’s The Warning album, it is hard not to take pause and consider what a monumental career of highlights this band has achieved and although reality dictates that along the way there may have needed to be one or two inevitable personnel changes it is great to see the flame still held aloft with such passion and panache. Scott Rockenfield is metronomic from the back, with Jackson solid in support, and with Michael Wilton‘s searing, melodic lead work adding great colour, the quality of this band can not be overstated.

“Screaming In Digital” brings them back for a much deserved encore and when a pre-recorded familiar voice calls for doctors Davis & Blair we are brought back to the drama of one of Operation Mindcrime‘s many highlights with the concept ending coda of “Eyes Of A Stranger”. The set draws to a close to a rapturous response from the appreciative crowd, and as the band leave the stage and thank us for coming out to see the real Queensrÿche, there is not a soul in the room that would have it any other way. I for one hope that at some point along this tour the band choose to capture a performance for release so we can get to appreciate their powers all over again.

Stirring stuff indeed and a great pleasure to witness a band so obviously still possessed of such passion and dynamic ability. Come back soon!

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