After a year of opening for Judas Priest, Queensryche has begun the headlining portion of the Digital Noise Alliance tour. Joining them on this leg are Bay Area thrashers Trauma and former Megadeth guitarist Marty Friedman.
The origins of Trauma go back to 1981 when its initial lineup featured future Metallica bassist Cliff Burton. Drummer Kris Gustofson is all that remains from that lineup but the current members certainly channel those early days when they hit the stage. Five of the six songs in the set came from the current release Awakening, with the remaining track coming from 2018’s As The World Dies. While the crowd may not have been familiar with the band at the start, nearly everyone was a fan by the end of the set.
Up next was the return of former Megadeth guitarist Marty Friedman. Friedman has been based in Japan for decades and rarely tours the US, so the chance to see him live is certainly a treat. Friedman makes playing his complicated material look effortless and the crowd responded. His band was just as into the performance as he was and raised the energy to maximum levels. Friedman recently reunited with his former Megadeth bandmates for three songs at their recent stop in Japan. He gave a nod to that band with an instrumental version of the Rust In Peace standout “Tornado of Souls”.
Queensryche has always been one of my favorite bands. While I grew up with and still love the original, Geoff Tate-led version of the band, I also love the current Todd LaTorre-fronted lineup. Queensryche has always been a band with many facets. From the heaviness of the EP and The Warning, to the prog leanings of Rage for Order, the mainstream success of Operation: Mindcrime and Empire, and beyond, Queensryche is a band that continually evolves. With Digital Noise Alliance, as with The Verdict before it, Queensryche seems to have returned to the heavy sound of the band’s early days and the current set reflects that.
Queensryche seems to understand and appreciate not only the loyalty of their fans but the willingness of the fans to embrace the Todd LaTorre releases. The new record is well represented in the current set, including the set opening “Behind The Walls”. Of the four releases with LaTorre, only 2015’s Condition Human is not represented in the current live show. Early on, LaTorre announced that it would be a night of surprises and deep cuts, he and the band certainly kept that promise.
The current set is definitely not geared toward the casual Queensryche fan. The multi-platinum Empire only had 2 tracks, “Jet City Woman” and “Empire”, while the legendary Operation: Mindcrime had 3 in the set, “Spreading The Disease”, “My Empty Room”, and “Eyes of a Stranger”. While Digital Noise Alliance made up the bulk of the set, the diehard fans were rewarded with a staggering run of songs from the 1984 full-length debut The Warning.
The packed theater rewarded the band’s faith in them by singing along, not only to the classic tracks but also to the new material like the single “In Extremis”. One of the evening’s highlights was LaTorre’s emotional introduction to the new track “Forest”, written about the loss of a parent.
The band itself is at the top of its game. Guitarists Michael Wilton and Mike Stone traded blazing solos all night, while the rock-solid rhythm section of bassist Eddie Jackson and drummer Casey Grillo provided a thundering bottom end.
This may not be the Queensryche you grew up with, but make no mistake, this is certainly Queensryche. I’ve had the opportunity to interview both Michal Wilton and Todd LaTorre in the past few years and have seen the commitment they have to keep this band great. When opening for Judas Priest for the past year, the band knew it was time to play the hits as they were the direct support band. Now that they are on their own, I love seeing them open up the set and include something like “Deliverance” which hasn’t been performed live since 1985. While many of their peers are content with nostalgia, Queensryche continues to blaze a path forward.