Many years ago my love for Queensryche forced me into getting my first tattoo, the Pushead Empire Tri-ryche, which I had etched across my back after witnessing the band play another spectacular show on the Promised Land tour. Strangely after that things started to go slowly wrong. The band soon lost an integral part in guitarist-songwriter Chris DeGarmo and while several of the albums still had some great songs, they seemed to get into a rut of plodding repetition, that despite us being told were new and exciting, were often just dull and sometimes nothing short of terrible. Then the unthinkable happened and vocalist Geoff Tate was ousted from the band. That voice, gone.

While this would have been the final nail in the coffin for most bands, Queensryche aren’t most bands, and soon they were back with a new enthusiasm and with a new vocalist, Todd La Torre formally of Crimson Glory, who was more than man enough for the job. After the band’s third release with La Torre (the frankly magnificent ‘The Verdict’), I found myself snapping up tickets for their London show excited to see the band for the first time since 2010 when I left that show unsure if I would ever bother again. Luckily I did.

Kicking off with the opening track from ‘The Verdict’, Blood of Levant, it soon became apparent that the fire was back and despite now having only two original members, the soul of the band was still intact. With a setlist that spanned the years new material such as personal favourite ‘Light Years’ sat very comfortably between tracks as strong as ‘Jet City Woman’ and ‘Eyes of a Stranger’, and more tellingly even had fans singing it back word for word as well. This became more and more apparent throughout the gig with new material like Condition Human, Man the Machine and Propaganda Fashion being received as old favourites and seeing the busy venue head-banging along throughout.

While perhaps not the most active band on stage that you will ever see, Queensryche make up for it in sheer musicianship and Todd La Torre himself is something of a revelation, nailing everything with ease and also coming across warm, friendly and very humble. I found myself pretty much memorised by his performance, so much so when he hit “that note” at the opening of ‘Take hold of The Flame’, not only did I get goosebumps, I had a full lump in the throat and found myself welling up as I never thought I would experience that again.

Finishing with a sixteen song set with a rapturously received ‘Empire’, smiles were plastered across the faces of both band and crowd, and the newly announced UK dates later this year has left me checking to see who doesn’t deserve a Christmas present this year so I can afford another road trip to go and see a band that I can once again call one of my favourites!

Author: Nigel Taylor