Operation: Mindcrime - Live in Wichta, Kansas!

Operation: Mindcrime
The Cotillion Ballroom
Wichita, Kansas 03/13/16

By Jeb Wright
Photo by Mark Schierholz

Set List:
Neue Regel | Screaming in Digital | I Am I | One More Time | I Don't Believe in Love |sp00L |At 30,000 ft. |Jet City Woman | Take Hold of the Flame |Silent Lucidity | The Weight of the World | Re-Inventing the Future | The Stranger |Burn |The Fall |Damaged |Walk in the Shadows |Eyes of a Stranger

Breaking the Silence |Empire

Geoff Tate [v] | Simon Wright [d] | Kelly Gray [g] | Randy Gane [k] | Scott Moughton [g] |Tim Fernley [b]

What a difference a name makes!

Last year, in the same venue under the moniker ‘Queensryche’ the arena was at near capacity.  On this night, under the name ‘Operation: Mindcrime’ there may have been three hundred people. 

Still, Tate and company are professionals.  They sucked it up and did a true ‘the show must go on’ performance, and delivered a solid two-hour set full of tunes from both Queensryche and Operation: Mindcrime.  Tate, vocally, sounded amazing, visually looked stunning and enjoyed himself with in-between song banter.

The highlight of the evening for the Prog Metal act was surprisingly an acoustic three-song set consisting of a trio of Queensryche’ s biggest hits.  “Jet City Woman” kicked-off the unplugged set.  At first, this seemed an odd choice, as this is a powerful rock song usually put at the end of the set.  Within seconds, however, the tune took on a new life.  The acoustic version was well done and got the crowd to pay attention.  “Take Hold of the Flame” went down great too, as did the massive hit “Silent Lucidity.” 

Tate was enjoying the crowd getting into the acoustic set and told a story of three women in the front row crying at a previous show during the acoustic song.  He asked why they were crying and they said that was ‘their song’ (sorry Elton)… only there used to be four of the gals, and one was gone...  He was visibly moved recounting the emotional tale.

The band was on fire.  Guitarist Kelly Gray and Scott Moughton were most impressive when trotting out classic harmonious runs while drummer Simon Wright pounded the skins like his life depended on it.  The former AC/DC and DIO drummer is a special talent.  He plays fierce but doesn’t hog the limelight in the least.  He is a solid drummer who does his job well from the opening number to the last note of the encore.  Randy Gane also hides in the background, but provides a lot of sonic flavor with his keyboards.  He sets the stage and provides light and color for the show.  Bassist Tim Fernley brings a ‘this generation’ attitude to the low end.  He plays powerfully as well, and is quick with both a smile and scowl. 

The star of the show is Geoff Tate, a role he has earned.  He is an intelligent songwriter/lyricist as well as a formidable front man.  His vocals are just this side of Halford with a more chilling lower register.  He still has the ‘it factor’ on stage.  One can’t take their eyes off him. 

That said, this is his assembled band and not Queensryche.  He mixes up the set between the bands’ biggest selling albums and some that many in the audience probably didn’t know.  Hardcore fans were delighted that the evening began with back-to-back songs from Rage for Order in “Neue Regel” and “Screaming in Digital.”  That was followed up by “I Am I” and “One More Time” from 1994’s Promised Land.  “I Don’t Believe in Love” from 1988’s massive Operation: Mindcrime was the first huge cheer, however.  Rightly so, as this is just one pure bad-ass heavy rock song. 

The set then took a two-song detour into the rare tunes with “spOOL” from 1997’s Here in the Now Frontier and “At 30,000 ft.” from 2009’s highly underrated American Soldier.  After the aforementioned three-song acoustic set, Tate & Company came back strong with “Weight of the World” from 2013’s Frequency Unknown

Next came a side step into the music of today’s Geoff Tate and Operation: Mindcrime’s first album The Key. This is fine collection of tunes with “Re-Inventing the Future” and “The Stranger” being the strongest of the four songs performed. Once this tangent was over, the band returned to the ‘good old days’ with “Damaged,” a rocking song from Promised Lang

The main set ended with “Walk in the Shadows” from Rage and the massive hit from Operation: Mindcrime “Eyes of a Stranger.” The band took a short break before returning to the stage to crank out two more songs in “Breaking the Silence” and “Empire.”

This was a Geoff Tate show, as many songs in the set won’t be played by that ‘other band.’  This was a much more diverse concert, which even saw Geoff play saxophone.  The energy was low at times, and other times energetic.  It should be noted that many classics were not played, including the amazing song “Revolution Calling”… that one was really missing, but, it was still a well performed show.  The mood ebbed and flowed, controlled by the set list as well as Tate’s mood.  He orchestrated the show using the songs themselves to create a tapestry of sound that brought with it highs and lows.  It was as much of an artistic musical progression as it was a rock concert. 

There were no big bells and whistles, no explosions and no lights. The focus was on the music, which is just fine with me.