For the 3 1/2 decades Queensryche and Fates Warning have been playing in the Alamo City, one thing has remained constant perhaps more than any other: San Antonians don’t care as much about personnel changes as they do having a rockin’ good time hearing classic favorites.
And while Queensryche delivered a fair share of those songs once again while headlining the Aztec Theatre on Friday night with Fates Warning and local openers Gandhi’s Gun, it delved deeper into its six-year run with vocalist Todd La Torre than it ever had live in the city in which it played its third show as a band in 1983. On the strength of The Verdict, which dropped March 1, Queensryche provided a healthy mix of new and old tunes, no longer relying mostly on Operation: Mindcrime and Empire favorites to carry its performance. And for a rare change, San Antonio reacted favorably to a change in what its ears were hearing (setlist in 48-photo slideshow below).
Not only did Queensryche show plenty of confidence in opening with new rocker “Blood of the Levant” and including The Verdict’s “Man the Machine,” “Light Years'“ and “Propaganda Fashion,” but it played the closing tracks from its 2013 self-titled debut with La Torre in “Open Road” (ATM Facebook Live footage here) and the title track to 2015 follow-up Condition Human (ATM footage below). Unlike the 30th anniversary show Sept. 20, 2011, at the Majestic Theatre in which Queensryche opened with a then-new track from the forgettable Dedicated to Chaos, then played 15 consecutive classics before a second new track yet still had a fan yell out his objection to hearing something fresh, the nearly sold-out throng at the Aztec took in this version of Queensryche’s foray into a new time with open-minded optimism.
With bassist Eddie Jackson and guitarist Michael Wilton, who spoke with ATM for AXS during the 2015 visit (watch here), as the lone remaining original members joined by guitarist Parker Lundgren and touring drummer Casey Grillo, the Seattle rockers now fronted by a Floridian who reportedly also played drums on The Verdict delivered the goods once again. Although second tune “I Am I’ from 1994’s Promised Land came off as a bit forced to quickly include an older song, Queensryche did a respectable job using the extra time allotted as a 90-minute headliner when compared to half that time frame opening for Scorpions last Sept. 7 at Freeman Coliseum (coverage here). La Torre banged on a miniature drum kit perfectly in sync with Grillo at times. His vocals were top notch and, though he nor anyone else probably wants to hear it, showed remarkable resemblance to original singer and predecessor Geoff Tate on occasion, particularly on “Screaming in Digital” (ATM footage below). And that’s not a bad thing, though La Torre certainly carries his own style more often than not.
If you had come into the evening taking the over on an over of 1 regarding the number of Operation: Mindcrime tunes Queensryche would play as a headliner, that would’ve been a sure bet on paper. Surprise! Queensryche only offered up “Eyes of a Stranger” and is to be commended for doing so even though that album will always be regarded as the group’s best by this and many other minds. The fact that “Queen of the Reich,” “Take Hold of the Flame” and the usual Empire favorites were included were apparently enough to make the fans not mind that, for the second consecutive visit, original drummer Scott Rockenfield was missing in action, reportedly on an indefinite hiatus.
Fates Warning had no such issues. The latest homecoming show for 12-year Fates drummer Bobby Jarzombek and native vocalist son Ray Alder, who currently lives in Spain, saw the progressive metal veterans in the same direct support chair Queensryche was in six months ago. As such, Fates Warning continues to tour on 2016 release Theories of Flight, a record the two San Antonians discussed with ATM for AXS just prior to its release (watch here). With original guitarist Jim Matheos, longtime bassist Joey Vera and guitarist Mike Abdow lending their talents to usual mainstays “A Pleasant Shade of Gray” and more recent tunes “The Light and Shade of Things” and “Seven Stars,” Alder and Co. delighted an always welcoming audience for a band that helped open the gates of progressive metal to the likes of Dream Theater in the early to mid ‘80s. Watch ATM footage of 2013’s “Firefly” below.
Along with Saxon, the two bands most San Antonians would see live if they were here 365 days a year arguably would be Queensryche and Fates Warning. Their influence on the local scene, in large part to the disc jockeying days of the late Joe Anthony, is virtually immeasurable. It was good to see fans’ former reluctance of their favorite bands’ changing of the guard both musically and personnel wise turn into acceptance. Such reaction reflects well on the scene and helps ensure these artists continue to progress with newer music.
In turn, that gives them extra incentive to keep returning. Perhaps till they can’t scream in digital anymore.