By Adam Waldman
Nostalgia has a way of making us all long for days gone by. The passage of time tends to enhance memories in such a way that the present has an almost impossibly high standard to compete against. Like dominant athletes, Geoff Tate set the bar so high for himself years ago, that today, he is often times judged against unrealistic standards (at least in the eyes of the nostalgia crowd).
It certainly doesn’t help matters that his parting with Queensryche ended up in a public battle that, sadly, left fans choosing sides between the two factions as if they were children of divorce choosing between parents.
Those who cling to nostalgic memories of the Queensryche of yesteryear, tend to mistakenly dismiss Tate because he no longer spends most of his time in the upper register that left jaws dropping back in the day.
At a recent show at The Chance in Poughkeepsie, NY, Tate proved that the voice that mesmerized a generation of fans still exists, especially with the songs from the Rage For Order and Operation: Mindcrime albums. However, as is the case with every dominant athlete, Tate has evolved through the years, writing and performing songs that play to his strengths. To put it in baseball terms, Tate doesn’t rely upon blowing people away with a 95 mph fastball these days, but he is still one of the best in the game. And, he has surrounded himself with some outstanding teammates (his band), which only served to make the live experience of Operation: Mindcrime something to behold.
Anchored by longtime lead guitarist Kelly Gray, Operation: Mindcrime’s touring band is a powerful unit. Featuring Scott Moughton (rhythm guitar), Randy Gane (keyboards), Tim Fernley (bass) and drummer Simon Wright (AC/DC, DIO), the band captures the essence of classic Queensryche…and beyond.
Those who think of Operation: Mindcrime as a “poor man’s Queensryche,” would be dead wrong in their assessment. This band is a force to be reckoned with, and more unique than you might expect. Their distinctive style was particularly evident during the acoustic portion of the show, and during the original songs that were performed from The Key (Operation: Mindcrime’s debut album).
It’s understandable why the crowd favorites were the Queensryche hits, but there was something special going on when Operation: Mindcrime played original songs, because they stood on their own with no basis for comparison. You could almost sense the freedom of expression coming from the band, and of course, from Tate as well.
Truth be told, as much as I love hearing Tate perform Queensryche songs, I’m actually looking forward to a time when there are more Operation: Mindcrime songs in the set. If you had somehow never heard of Queensryche, and just witnessed the songs from The Key, you would be left raving about this new band that you got to see in a club. In fact, you’d probably be wondering how a band with a sound this big wasn’t playing larger venues.
My history with Tate goes back to 1984 when I saw Queensryche open for Kiss in support of The Warning. Having seen him perform several times since then, it’s hard to think of a show when he looked to be enjoying himself as much as he did with his new band. With no elaborate stage show to adhere to, there was more of a freeform feeling to the experience. Whereas the Tate of old was mostly known for dazzling audiences with the high notes, one of the most notable elements of his performance this time around was his ability to do the same with charismatic low notes, and lighthearted banter between songs.
For those who are still stuck in the ‘80s, seeing Operation: Mindcrime in a live setting does not specifically cater to your nostalgic memories. But for those who believe that there is more to Tate’s brilliance than vocal gymnastics, you will be in for a treat from an amazing band that is inexplicably underrated.