Geoff Tate’s Farewell to Queensryche

Queensryche/The Voodoos

August 8, 2014

Theatre DeVille, Vacaville

The quiet town of Vacaville was where Geoff Tate, former singer of revered hard rock band Queensryche, made his final stand in California under the Queensryche moniker on his Farewell Tour, supported by The Voodoos.

This Farewell Tour was launched following a court settlement made between Geoff and former Queensryche bandmates (Eddie Jackson, Scott Rockenfield, and Michael Wilton), who bought out Tate’s share of the rights to the Queensryche name. Tate retains the rights to Operation Mindcrime (the title of a concept album that Queensryche released in 1988) and Operation Mindcrime II. Since dates had already been booked by Geoff’s newly formed band under the Queensryche name, part of the settlement stipulated that as of Sept. 1, 2014 (Aug. 30, 2014, being the final date booked), Tate would no longer be entitled to use the name Queensryche.

But enough dirty laundry–let’s get back to the music. Following his departure from the original Queensryche members, Geoff assembled his own lineup under the name [Geoff Tate’s] Queensryche. They recorded and released the album Frequency Unknown in April 2013 and have been touring ever since. This lineup includes guitarist Kelly Gray and keyboardist Randy Gane, who date back to Geoff’s pre-Queensryche roots in the band Myth. Alongside them is veteran bassist Rudy Sarzo, whose surname immediately conjures up images of his bass playing prowess with Quiet Riot (the original one, with Randy Rhoads), Ozzy Osbourne, Whitesnake, and Dio. But there’s not just one Sarzo in the lineup–there are two, with Rudy’s brother Robert (Hurricane) on guitar. The cement holding the band together is another familiar name, drummer Simon Wright (AC/DC and Dio).

This Farewell Tour brought a much different performance to the stage, to use Geoff’s terminology–the “organic” version. Gone was the  huge production Queensryche  has been known for in past decades – playing to a “click track” (an electronic metronome for keeping perfect time) and pre-recorded, computer-controlled “triggers” or soundbytes to emulate the huge production on the albums and tons of choreographed staging. Not that there is anything wrong with that, but no longer controlled by the electronics, Geoff and his bandmates just play. And without the constraints of a huge production,  he and band were able to engage the audience on a much more personal level – shaking hands, and saying hello from the stage.

And realness is exactly what they delivered: Queensryche hits without the hype. At one point, Geoff walked off  stage left and reappeared seconds later with a sax and a humorous analogy about the sax and sex. ”Yes, this is a sax. The funny thing about the sax is – and this is a fact – the more you lick the mouthpiece, the better it plays.” And the crowd went wild. He went on to introduce the song: “We’re going to do a song about obsessions –sexual obsessions, like when you forget the ‘safe’ word,” which led to a sax-backed version of “Walk the Thin Line.” “How about a little Operation Mindcrime?” Tate teased. Once again, the crowd went ballistic.

Geoff has always had a very poised, refined yet commanding presence on stage;  his perfect posture, pitch and enunciation are all indicative of his proper classical training as a youth. Bombastic, hard-hitting Simon Wright on drums did a brilliant job of keeping the foundation and structure right in the pocket, along with  fellow rhythm section player, bassist Rudy Sarzo. Rudy is the perfect package of player and performer all rolled into one –fascinating to watch, but down, dirty, and deadly on the strings. The strong musician/ performer gene in the Sarzo family also comes through in brother Robert, who is constantly working the crowd – dropping to his knees periodically at the foot of the stage and laying down leads in the faces of the front audience members. And then there are Kelly and Randy, both very good at their games. Kelly looks like a stand-in for for Billy Gibbons of  ZZ Top, but don’t let your eyes deceive you, he is an undercover shredder, as is Randy and his dexterous digits on the keys. As can be seen in the following video footage of two of the first songs that opened their set, this is a much more casual, relaxed, “organic” version of Queensryche…

Rumors have been circulating that Geoff would continue with this current lineup, to be called Operation Mindcrime. Well, here is your answer. Cie Martin and I had a sit-down with Geoff at the venue, and this is what he had to say about playing with his new band, and what the future holds…

Setlist: Best I Can | Breakdown |Another Rainy Night|Della Brown | Walk the Thin Line | Operation Mindcrime |  The Needle Lies | Breaking The Silence | I Don’t Believe In Love | Silent Lucidity |Empire | Jet City Woman |Eyes of a Stranger

The Voodoos, who opened the show, are a young bunch of lads from Cork, Ireland, whose long-standing friendship with Geoff Tate inspired them to write the song “Facing My Demons,” which they recorded along with Geoff and released on youtube. They also had the distinction of prevailing over 400+ applicants to win Hyundai’s online “1+2 Band Contest” with their song “Yesterday’s Future,” which put them on the bill to perform at MTV’s 2011 EMA Awards (European Music Awards). The Voodoos are young and, at present, they are just a blip on the world’s music market radar, but they are no joke. Their music, unconcerned with genre boundaries, has the energy and drive of a young Led Zeppelin. Having brought their “A game” with them on their flight across the pond, they laid down a rockin’ set, and by the second song, they had the audience rollin’ right along with them and begging for more. If all goes well in this crazy, messed up music industry, the Voodoos will be a force to be reckoned with when they release their first album in  November 2014. Geoff Tate had this to say about them in a phone interview…

Official Music Video for “Don’t Listen”:
Twitter: @Thevoodoos
Facebook: The Voodoo’s
Set list: Nowhere to Run |Dopamine |Laugh Without Smiling |Yesterdays Future |Away From You |Shooting the Moon (Mona Cover) |Torn Apart |Don’t Listen

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