There's one thing that is fairly certain about veteran progressive hard rock band Queensryche: they love playing Arizona.
After all, their show at Tempe's Marquee Theatre on Tuesday Jan. 28 marks the second time in under a year that they've visited us on their current tour supporting their latest album, 2019's The Verdict.
"We've been touring this album since March of last year", said lead guitarist and Queensryche founding member Michael Wilton a few hours before showtime.
"We've worked hard over the past few years successfully rebuilding the band with our current lineup", which also includes original bassist Eddie Jackson, guitarist Parker Lundgren (since 2009), lead vocalist Todd La Torre (since 2012), and touring drummer Casey Grillo (since 2017).
When Queensryche hit the Marquee stage with Prophecy for a 90-minute, 17-song set, there was no stopping them. They meant business, and their loyal Arizona fans couldn't have been more welcoming.
Although the band utilizes video to enhance the music onstage, it's never a distraction. With Queensryche, the music always does the talking.
Fun fact: Prophecy was originally written during sessions for their 1984 album The Warning.
However, it wasn't recorded until 1986 during the Rage For Ordersessions. It was eventually released as a bonus track on their self-titled 1983 EP that was re-issued on compact disc for the first time in late 1988. Confusing, isn't it?
Next up was the title track from 1988's landmark album Operation: mindcrime, widely considered Queensryche's finest creative achievement on record. Walk In The Shadows followed, while deep cut Resistance (from Empire, 1990) returned to their live set after a lengthy hiatus.
Speaking of deep cuts, the undisputed surprise of the night had to be No Sanctuary off The Warning. Truth be told, it hadn't been played at any Phoenix-area show since the Rage tour in Oct. 1986. That was also the first time they headlined here in the Valley of the Sun.
With momentum building onstage, it wasn't until the seventh song in the set when the current lineup was represented. Man The Machine, from The Verdict received respectable applause. La Torre was in fine form vocally, especially on new songs Bent and Dark Reverie.
Interestingly, on this night there were no songs represented from the band's two previous albums, 2013's Queensryche and 2015's Condition Human.
I asked Wilton if he could ever envison an entire live set with "La Torre-era" material, especially considering the demand from many fans online to feature more of it live. Not to mention they're already looking forward to writing the next album later this year.
Would a Queensryche show be the same without any material from the original lineup that also included guitarist Chris DeGarmo, drummer Scott Rockenfield, and vocalist Geoff Tate? I'll let "Whip" tell you.
"Ummm....no", Wilton said after a brief pause.
"The albums (from the original lineup) are the band's legacy", he continued. "We wouldn't want to stop playing those songs, no matter how many more albums we do in the future", Wilton stated proudly.
"Having said that, we wouldn't mind splitting new and old material 50-50 eventually. It's very gratifying that people are enjoying what we're doing today, so that would be the ideal scenario."
If there's one criticism I have of the current lineup live, it would have to be the length of their set. Considering the amount of albums they have, it would be nice if they would play 20 songs minimum.
As strong as the current lineup is, I know they could pull it off with ease.
Back onstage, Queensryche winds down the main set with a blistering version of Screaming In Digital. By all appearances, that's one song where one can tell they have a blast playing, and rightly so. It's nothing less than quintessential Queensryche.
Next, La Torre asks the crowd if they're ready to "go old school"? They immediately tear into Queen Of The Reich (which concluded the main set), from the aforementioned debut EP.
The crowd wasn't quite ready to head home yet, so the band happily obliged with a three-song encore of Light years (the fourth new song played from The Verdict), Empire, and the mandatory Eyes Of A Stranger to close out the night.
I couldn't help but notice that Wilton seemed to be the proud papa onstage. When it comes to delivering the goods onstage, there's no question that Queensryche intend to continue doing just that for the forseeable future. Don't miss them when they pass through town.
Author's note: On Jan. 10, 2020 the music world received the sad and shocking news that Rush drummer and lyricist Neil Peart had passed away on Tues. Jan. 7 after a three-year long battle with brain cancer.
Knowing that Rush was a prime influence on Queensryche in their formative years, I asked Wilton to share his thoughts on this.
"Yeah, we definitely lost one of the greats in Neil", Wilton said somberly. "The music of Rush is just so amazing, it's so hard to picka favorite memory."
"I will say that I really loved Clockwork Angelsthough. I missed that tour unfortunately, which I really regret now", Wilton continued.
"They truly went out at the top of their game. He'll definitely be missed."