Considering that replacing a prominent frontman is the biggest gamble a band can take, it’s fitting that Queensrÿche’s Sin City performance takes place inside a casino theatre. While a string of disappointing albums and occasionally awkward live performances with original singer Geoff Tate made his 2012 firing seem obvious in retrospect, it was still a huge risk to bring in the comparatively unknown Todd La Torre. Four years and two albums in, however, the group’s roll of the dice continues to pay off.
Tonight, two large video screens flank the drum riser of Scott Rockenfield, who takes the stage first and begins the percussive intro to Guardian, a competent track from 2015’s Condition Hüman. One by one, he’s joined by his bandmates, with La Torre entering last, wasting no time in hitting impressive stratospheric highs.
Vintage animation then introduces the doomy title track of Operation: Mindcrime. While La Torre might lack Tate’s compelling stage presence, his dramatic vocals do the song justice, which is presumably exactly what the band hired him to do.
A trifecta from …Mindcrime follow-up Empire follows, with the hooky and anthemic Best I Can setting the stage for the driving riff of the epic title track. The strip-club imagery projected during Jet City Woman cheapens the song somewhat, but its chugging bassline and irresistible chorus make it just as hard now to get out of your head as when you first heard it a quarter of a century ago.
“This is for the old schoolers,” La Torre says during his introduction of Queen Of The Reich, as the band’s original logo adorns the video walls. When the infectious galloping riff and glass-piercing scream come in, it’s impossible to avoid getting goosebumps. The song’s rapid pace and fantasy themes helped create the template for progressive power metal, yet instead of seeming like a relic, it sounds as potent and vital as ever tonight.
During Take Hold Of The Flame, which La Torre calls “a message of hope”, he shows he’s more than just a vocal stunt double. While his upper range is undeniably powerful, he’s also blessed with a rich midrange. It’s hard to imagine a better live vocalist in the genre at present.
With only a 45-minute set tonight, it’s awkward that the band waste even a moment taking an encore break. But following a second animated video showing yet another hospital hallway, the group return to close with the riveting Eyes Of A Stranger. Based on the ovation they receive afterwards, it’s clear the group have taken another step back toward the promised land.