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I wanted to review Mindcrime at the Moore simultaneously with its spiritual predecessor, Operation: Livecrime, since they essentially provide the same service to the Queensrÿche fan, a complete live performance of the group's popular Operation: Mindcrime album in full, separated by the span of about 16 years. The caveat is that this release also features the album's sequel, Operation: Mindcrime II in all its own...err...glory on stage. My original reaction to these albums was like night and day. Loved the original, but almost completely hated its successor, so needless to say I was not much interested in hearing it in the live setting, more curious as to how the older songs would hold up after nearly two decades.
Like Livecrime, this has been released in both audio and video formats, the former a 2 disc spread with each 'chapter' occupying its own, and the latter shows the group prancing around the Moore theater in the band's home territory of Seattle, Washington. If you've watched Livecrime, you'll note that this has a more 'street' feeling to its presentation rather than the arena rock atmosphere there, with purplish bricks in the background and a lot of purple/blue lighting in general. The stage seems a little more tight here, but in both cases the band had plenty of space to move around, so I'd say that their 'presence' was adequate. With the exception of guitarist Mike Stone, this is also the original Queensrÿche lineup, with Pamela Moore once again guesting as Sister Mary, and Ronny James Dio showing up to perform his part as Dr. X on the song "The Chase" from Mindcrime II (which I'm guessing is impetus enough for a lot of folks to check out the record, even those who could care less about the primary band responsible).
I admit, I was expecting this record to suck pretty hard, but the performances of the original Mindcrime material do hold up rather well. The guitarists mete out pretty clean renditions of the rhythms with an added bite to them that differentiates them from the earlier live album, but they still sound rather accurate. Tate is not quite himself from the 80s, and he does seem to shrivel a little when he's attempting his higher pitch, but let's be fair: he's a lot older here, and he still does a pretty bang up job. Moore is still herself, adding a little sass and self-groping to the sausage fest on the stage. However, when Tate lurches into the more narrative bits like the end of "Spreading the Disease", it comes off a little goofier than on the original album, largely due to the gulf in years and relevance. Jackson and Rockenfield sound themselves, which is to say they implement their roles incredibly well, and overall the balance of all rhythm instruments is a little closer than Livecrime, where the leads could lash out rather loudly like the vocals. Ultimately, though, I think I really preferred the production of the original, it just felt larger than life and well suited to its times, where this environment (aural and video) seems more constrained.
Also, since I didn't care about the material much on the sequel album, the second disc did very little to change that fact. It's great to hear Dio and Tate, two of the premiere metal sirens, dueling out their roles in "The Chase", but the music is still pretty bland and the lines not as catchy as I would have hoped. I did like that they included an encore of "Walk In the Shadows" and "Jet City Woman", both superior to any of the Mindcrime II tunes. I have to wonder though...Tate seems pretty enthusiastic through the performance, to the point that I have to question the modern opinion that he's sick of playing all the old material. His pipes might have rusted up a fraction, but he's clearly having a good time with it, and this rubs off on the product as a whole: it seems more like a genuine tribute to the audience more than a shallow attempt at profiteering on nostalgia. Combine this with the substantial amount of material involved, and that Queensrÿche do not fuck up too noticeably in nearly 2 and a half hours of performance, and you've got a solid product. Not as good as Livecrime, but better than anything else the band has put out since the early 90s. I wouldn't advise paying for the audio CDs alone, go for the DVD release, which isn't a shabby addition to your collection.
I consider myself lucky to have been able to see Queensryche on their 2006 tour when they stopped at the Avalon in Boston, MA. Tickets were dirt cheap ($26 for general admission) and I was right up front to see what was perhaps the best metal show I’ve ever witnessed: both Mindcrime albums, in full, back-to-back, complete with elaborate stage sets, props, actors, and a video screen. The band was loud and vibrant, playing every song like it was their last, and the crowd participation couldn’t have been better. We were all packed into that little club like sardines, but we knew a good show when we saw one, and the energy in the building that night was at an apex.
It’s unfortunately curious, then, why Queensryche released a recording of this lackluster performance in Seattle, WA. Clearly there were at least SOME shows they played that were dynamite, and their hometown notwithstanding, it is inexcusable that they chose to package this show as the exemplar of their 2006 tour.
The first thing that pops out when listening to this album is the fact that the band sounds… well… tired. It’s nearly impossible not to compare this album to 1992’s Operation: Livecrime, and that recording blows the first disc of this album out of the water. Where that original live effort took the Operation: Mindcrime tracks to another planet with explosive energy, this one sounds like a lounge band trying to imitate the greatest progressive metal act of all time. The songs roll along like the band members are falling asleep, and Geoff Tate doesn’t even sound like he’s trying to hit the good notes. I understand that Tate’s job was doubly hard on this tour, as he had to both sing and act, but I saw them live nearly a month after this concert was recorded so “He was exhausted” is not a valid excuse. Perhaps the mix has something to do with it, but no matter what the problem was, the instruments sound muted and Tate sounds neutered.
Then there’s the rhythm section. It’s no secret to most fans that Queensryche has got one of the best and more unheralded rhythm sections in metal, with Scott Rockenfield pounding the skins and Eddie Jackson picking the bass perfectly on nearly everything ‘Ryche has ever done. But on this night, they sounded positively uninspired. Jackson’s bass is barely audible on most tracks, and Rockenfield changes many of the drum beats so they either sound awkward or simply far less powerful than the originals. Much of Queensryche’s power comes from these two men, and when they’re off, it throws off the entire set, as it does on most tracks on this recording.
As for the individual songs themselves, few of them are really able to stand toe-to-toe with the original studio recordings. “Suite Sister Mary” and “Anarchy-X” are probably the best of the bunch on the first disc, while “Signs Say Go” and “All The Promises” are the comparable ones on the second disc. As for the others, you’re probably better off listening to the original albums (which you should do anyway instead of listening to this one).
The biggest surprise, though, is the encores. After two lackluster performances played back-to-back, the band out of nowhere kicks into a blistering version of “Walk In The Shadows” with a fantastic intro and high energy not seen up until that point. They follow it up with a pretty good rendition of “Jet City Woman,” which benefits from excellent audience participation, and Tate makes it even more special by stating that the song usually makes them feel homesick for Seattle, which is why it’s great to play it at home. This gives the already emotional song additional poignancy and makes it a surprisingly powerful end to an otherwise boring concert.
In short, completists will want this one, and this will likely be the first and last time that many of the O:M2 songs will be available on a live disc. But the casual fan should look elsewhere (like Operation: Livecrime) and skip this mostly bland offering.