Monday, March 18, 2013

Queensrÿche - Halfway Jam

It would be surprising that there isn't some time in our lives that we didn't have that "know where you were" moments.  The attacks of September 11th, the Challenger explosion, the shooting of President Reagan, my high school graduation (trust me that one was touch and go) all are potential moments.  In 2012 I was really starting to hit my stride with this very blog and I had one of those moments.  Why am I telling you?  Why do you care?  Keep reading...

While making preparations for Halfway Jam (Royalton, MN) I heard on Sirius / XM that Geoff Tate had departed from the band Queensrÿche (departed might not be the best description).  It wasn't because I was a giant Geoff Tate fan, it was merely economic.  Yes it was economic, I had purchased tickets and I thought there would have never been time to find another act to fill their slot.  Was I being shallow or was I being fiscally responsible?  Well...  I'm not sure if either applies but what I do know is I was curious to how the situation would be rectified.

At no time did I think this situation would detract from Halfway Jam but it was confusing none the less.  When I heard that the band had brought in a new lead singer, Todd LaTorre, I thought, almost out loud, would the band be able to get this new singer ready in time.  Lets advance forward to mere days before Halfway and yet another Sirius / XM report where I heard that LaTorre "should be ready for the upcoming show in Minnesota".  Trepidation being what it is I must admit I was worried as to how ready the band would be but I firmly held to my position of "wait and see".

As the darkness began to replace the daytime sun that warm Minnesota evening, there was concern from within the crowd that was palpable.  I suppose they too were trying to figure out what we would see but within the first few moments we all realized that we were part of the history of the band, honest to goodness history.  When it was announced that this was indeed the first show that LaTorre had done with the band, well that just became cool.

The history of the band is storied, often times difficult for the casual fan but it was the music that made its impression with the hardcore fans.  I was told one time that the thing about Queensrÿche was that there music was "thinking man's metal" and despite that rather innocuous comment there was some truth behind it.  I suppose looking back a better definition would be "cerebral metal" because it had the feel of intelligence, it never felt contrite.  Perhaps that was part of the trepidation on my part, would the music still hold that "cerebral" feeling.  I understand that the addition of a new lead singer shouldn't affect the "cerebral" qualities but would a new singer be able to mix his vocal styling with the lyrics that Geoff Tate made famous.

© - 2012
With mic in hand LaTorre made that leap into his own bit of Queensrÿche's history and it seemed like he owned the music as if it was his own.  The qualities of LaTorre's voice really takes command of the lyrics and the music does the rest.  Its extraordinary when you think about the catalog of music this band has created and the depths in which this young man had to go within it was mind-boggling.  What LaTorre has done is remarkable and he will quickly be the face of a band full of veteran members and extremely accomplished musicians.

© - 2012
When Michael Wilton started the band "Joker" in 1978 I doubt he thought that he would be as successful as the band would become.  By 1984 Wilton and his band mates had a firm grip upon the rock scene.  From the humble beginnings of a "garage band" to the powerhouse that became Queensrÿche Wilton had formed the sound and the power of the band.  It was fun watching Wilton play just for the simple reason he makes it look effortless.  As a musician and a songwriter Wilton is one of the best and most important figures in the world of metal.  Wilton is a master of his trade.

I'm a visual type person, meaning I remember things I see sometimes more than I hear.  Its actually a good thing because when I talk about Eddie Jackson I can associate him by the simplest thing; his goatee.  Okay, okay that's not the only thing I can associate him with, its his bass playing that I remember.

© 2012
Eddie Jackson is the quintessential bassist.  He looks the part of a "metal" bass player whilst many in the same genre can barely look like his roadie.  Its funny when I think back to his performance, he seemed stoic, almost stationary but at the same time he really showed me what plain skill really is.  What else could one expect however from a man that is the in the formation of the band as well as a massive part of the backbone of said band?  As I harp on incessantly, bass and drums are indeed that backbone it becomes interesting when you think back that Jackson and Scott Rockenfield met in high school and then became bandmates when Jackson joined Rockenfield's band "Cross+Fire".

© 2012
Who is Scott Rockenfield you ask?  Rockenfield is the drummer of Queensrÿche silly!  It would be hard to not believe that Jackson, Rockenfield and Wilton probably could write songs in three different corners of the earth and all three would be the same.  What Rockenfield brings is skill as well as an affinity for the brand of music that fits neatly into the category of "progressive metal."  I didn't coin that term and that makes me happy because that sounds stupid but I do agree with "thinking mans metal" and I think that Rockenfield is a large part of the reason.  When people think of a "metal" drummer one may think of the campy, theatrical drummer, the heavy handed skin beater but Rockenfield is different.  The norm for this band is highly skilled, exceptionally gifted performers and unfortunately some bands don't have one let alone five.  Five, huh?

© 2012
Yes I said five and no I'm not drunk and yes I can count to five and despite all of those mean hurtful things you said about me not being able to count I'll be happy to tell you about number five.  Mr. Number Five is also known as Parker Lundgren (I like that better anyway).  Parker Lundgren is the perfect man for this band.  Cerebral, gifted and one heck of blast to watch on stage, the man makes his job look effortless.  How does one do that?  The sheer fact that the band has Lundgren in their lineup is a testament to his talent.  Assuming that I could ever try out for a band, and throw in that the tryout would be for Queensrÿche probably would be enough for me to wet my drawers.  In all honesty I doubt Lundgren would have ever had that problem because he is that gifted but he fits this band to the nth degree.

Its extraordinary to think that in the world of music most bands stay together for a few years but these three have been together since the early '80's.  Obviously chemistry has much to do with but talent cannot be discounted nor can the fact that this is a band of survivors.  It cannot be ignored that these gentlemen are playing at the level in which they do as if they weren't some type of survivors.  For any band longevity is based on the previously mentioned intangibles (chemistry, talent, luck, etc.) but it should never be assumed that this is a band that needs luck.

Talent will always trump luck and unfortunately for bands everywhere often their talent is merely an illusion of one or two albums.  Queensrÿche is the standard in which every band should look to for success.  Should any of us assume that we are the standard we might want to take a look into the mirror.  Vampires cannot see their reflections in a mirror and often those with an overinflated ego cannot look into the mirror without looking at shame.  Queensrÿche is neither.  We should all hope to have the ability to remain in any relationship as several members of this band have and we should look into that mirror to figure out how we should see ourselves.  The boys in Queensrÿche haven't that problem.  Great job!

© 2012

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