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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.