On this bitter and chilly lover’s holiday evening, fans turned out respectably for an eclectic night of heavy music in what is a promising old-yet-new McKees Rocks concert hall, the current owners of The Roxian Theater apparently sparing no dollars in making it a truly special place for the live experience to happen once again.
Tough-guy New Yorkers Eve To Adam got things started with a bruising session of groovy, grungy, Godsmacked hard rock, the muscular, streetwise vibe being epitomized with a rousing cover of “No Easy Way Out,” an inspirational film soundtrack chestnut from the 1980’s that has also been remade by Bullet For My Valentine.
John 5 went on second from the top, putting on a fun, darkly whimsical, Tim Burtonesque, and innovatively theatrical display of guitar heroics that ranged from rockabilly to sinister, crunching industrial metal, his stints with Rob Zombie and Marilyn Manson not proving to sufficiently showcase his prodigious talent like his solo work can. Clips from genre films and television shows complimented his set along with a dancing robot, gimmicked instruments and a brief but moving tribute to Rush in the wake of their legendary drummer’s passing.
Queensrÿche, the opulent headliners, were emotionally draining and took me back to my days as an isolated 14-year-old who was obsessed with the sprawling, cloak-and-dagger genius of Operation: Mindcrime and the Quadrophenia-like story held within its songs, an album that was duly represented with the title track, “Breaking The Silence,” show closer “Eyes of a Stranger,” and the gig’s highpoint “The Needle Lies.” Todd La Torre, who honed his craft in Crimson Glory (a band once considered Queensrÿche clones), made us forget about the previous singer, showing us that he is the Chosen One, his blessed pipes, devotion, and desire telling the tale and setting the tone, his notes never missing their intended targets. He even utilized interesting microphone effects on “Screaming In Digital,” and of course allowed his pure, mighty lungs to rob everyone else of their lightning on newer songs such as deep cut “No Sanctuary,” lilting show opener “The Prophecy,” and latter-day compositions “Dark Reverie” and “Man The Machine.” Video screens and holograms gave the entire performance an arena-quality ambience as well in what is a beautifully and meticulously renovated venue that sat unused for far too long.
“Queen of the Reich,” arguably the band’s “Painkiller” was handled with superhuman aplomb, acting as the eye of what was a tornado of a stand.
The Wilton/Jackson/Grillo trio are keeping the Queensrÿche legend alive, but Todd La Torre has only reinvigorated it, exorcising the ghost of Geoff Tate through sheer talent, star power, and will. His piercing, effortless, laser blast vocals left me awestruck as he rode and ruled waves of futuristic, deadly, majestic, erudite prog metal with the exception of choices from controversial, more mainstream albums. Yes, we got the usual selections from Empire, the big hits if you will, but they blended nicely with the heavier, complex sounds of yesteryear and today, Queensrÿche embracing all their eras confidently with eyes on the horizon.