Hours after revealing that his future performances will be billed as ‘Operation: Mindcrime’, Geoff Tate kicks off his final tour using the Queensrÿche moniker at a sweltering, 290-capacity beach bar, that’s surely one of the smaller venues he’s played under any name.
The announcement’s timing is perplexing, as knowing that the band will carry on in almost the same form completely undercuts the ‘farewell tour’ billing. Accordingly, it seems tonight’s crowd is saying farewell only to guitarist Robert Sarzo, who won’t continue with Operation: Mindcrime.
Semantics aside, the set begins on a good note with the powerful Empire opener Best I Can. Dressed to the nines in a dress shirt, tie, sunglasses and fedora (and subsequently resembling a cross between a mob boss and a Big Band bandleader), Tate impresses with his crisp baritone, its timbre and signature vibrato as distinctive as ever.
When the plodding Breakdown from the forgettable Q2K and the Hear In The Now Frontier dud spOOL follow, though, you begin to miss the consistency of his front-to-back performances of _Operation: Mindcrime _(the album, not the band).
After Cold leaves the audience just that, Tate tells a funny story about shooting three versions of the Anybody Listening? promo clip, but his choice of words is peculiar. “1990 was
a very good year for us. We had an album out called Empire,” he says, using the royal plural pronoun, as if his current bandmates were in fact members of Queensrÿche at the time.
Semantics aside (again), the snake-charming riff of I Am I and the pulse-quickening The Needle Lies tease momentum, but the half-hour or so that follows falls completely flat. Tate even plays saxophone for two songs - including Middle Of Hell, a fitting title for such drop-tuned plod - which prompts flashbacks to the ill-advised Queensrÿche Cabaret. You don’t know whether to pity Tate’s obliviousness or begrudgingly admire him for stubbornly sticking to his guns, even when they continually misfire.
Cheers of relief greet the introduction of …Mindcrime anthems Breaking The Silence and I Don’t Believe In Love, which – unlike some of the snoozers played earlier – have genuine hooks, as well as instrumentation that actually pushes the songs forward. The encore is also filler-free, as a run of hit singles from Empire plus Mindcrime finale Eyes Of A Stranger reward those with the stamina to reach the finish line.
Tellingly, there’s no acknowledgment of the farewell tour or impending name change at any point during the two-hour show, just a workmanlike “See you again” at the end.
A goodbye, this clearly isn’t.
Always a dynamic live performer, Geoff Tate has been blessed with one of hard rock’s most riveting voices. Shame he’s wasting its power nowadays singing so many songs no one wants to hear.