As a journalist I try to keep reviews from being personal but I am going to say up front when I saw Queensryche open for Judas Priest on Monday March 7, 2022 at the Maverik Center in West Valley City, Utah there was a flood of emotions unleashed.
Normally I would include an opening act in a review of a headliner but in this case I felt the performance warranted a stand alone review.
Seeing a band like Queensryche is always a treat and on this night they did not disappoint. I had not seen the band without former singer Geoff Tate on vocals, in fact the last time I saw them was right before they broke up. When they brought in Todd La Torre I was skeptical at and best pissed off at worst. After hearing his vocals on the post Tate albums I began to realize the band was still Queensryche. That being said I never had an opportunity to see them live until now. In 2021 La Torre had released a solo release called Rejoice in the Suffering. I reviewed that album and it was amazing. Things turned personal on July 26, 2021 when good friend and Metal Church singer Mike Howe took his own life. Todd had sung with Mike on a version of “Fake Healer.” Todd also had a song on his solo album called “Apology.” The song was a very personal song about a time in his life and that song became a tool for healing for the loss of my friend.
Back to Monday night in West Valley City. We were informed by the venue that the trucks did not arrive until late because of a snowstorm so Queensryche was cutting their set short and the doors were opening late. Ten minutes before the show began, the photographers were escorted to the stage to prepare to shoot the set. As we walked out I heard the haunting voice of Mike Howe playing over the arena. It was “Badlands.” followed by “Fake Healer,” the newer version with Todd. At this moment I felt my body go flush. Memories of a friend raced through my mind. Then out of nowhere the lights dimmed and Queensryche took the stage. They opened up with the Operation Mindcrime classic “The Needle Lies.” As first verse started, Todd belted out the first lines flawlessly. The familiar frantic beat of the song’s drum line beat as Casey Grillo swung sticks everywhere. Up next was “Warning,” from 1984’s The Warning followed by “En Force” from the same album. “Queen of the Reich” came screaming next with its signature Iron Maiden like bass line by Eddie Jackson. Todd sang the song as if he owned it and hit every note seemingly in effortless fashion. “Operation Mindcrime” slowed the beat momentarily and saw many fans singing the lyrics religiously. “The Whisper” took the set back to the Rage for Order era, when Queensryche first garnered notoriety. “NM156” provided the perfect opportunity for guitarist Mike Stone and Michael Wilton to sync perfectly during the solo. “Empire” was the newest song played on the set and arguably the most popular based on the crowd response. One of my favorite songs was up next, “Take Hold of the Flame,” which sounded amazing live. Each member recounting every note perfectly. “Screaming in Digital” induced chills as I stood at the soundboard watching Todd scream like an eagle center stage. The set wrapped up with “Eyes of a Stranger,” and the crowd showed their appreciation by raising their horns to the sky.
Judas Priest finished the evening with a blazing set but that moment with Queensryche not only amazed the crowd but provided some solace for my hurting heart. I am not a religious man by any means, but I felt like Mike Howe was looking down on the evening and smiling, knowing that his legacy remained intact with that simple gesture.
As far a Queensryche’s set, the legacy of the band will carry on strong with La Torre at the helm. Their short but powerful set was proof positive. Be sure to catch Queensryche as they continue to tour with Judas Priest throughout the spring.