2018 sees the 30th anniversary of Queensrÿche’s masterpiece, ‘Operation: Mindcrime’. The concept album/rock opera regularly features on numerous “albums to hear before you die” lists and “top 100 rock albums of all time” polls. A constant hot topic that causes many heated debates at the bar, or on that bastion of wisdom – the internet. Prog or not? Metal or not? Best concept album ever? Worth the accolades? In short, who cares which genre you put it in, its a rock album, first and foremost, and anything else is up to the individual. The best concept album ever is ‘The Wall’, so I would place ‘Operation: Mindcrime’ in a very admirable runners up spot. Worth the accolades? For once, the lists and polls are correct, this is truly a spectacular album. Original Queensrÿche vocalist Geoff Tate performing it in its entirety, with his band Operation: Mindcrime, was too good an offer to refuse. The good people of Glasgow obviously agreed, as the size of venue was upgraded due to demand. Word had got out – miss this at your peril.
The job of opening up the show fell to Till Death Do Us Part, a fledgling transatlantic band that play a dark and hypnotic brand of alt-rock. Geoff’s daughter Emily Tate provides the vocals, alongside three homegrown talents; Kieran Robertson on guitars and vocals, bassist Jack Ross and drummer Lee Reston. Emily is a very theatrical vocalist. Not satisfied with merely singing these songs, you can tell that she lives them with every performance. She also has a sharp, wry sense of humour, that raises a laugh or two, as she tells the tale of how giddy the boys in the band were when they crossed the border back into Scotland – “It’s only been like six days! Jeez, chill!”. Likewise, when she introduces ‘Monster’ by telling everyone that it was inspired “…by dating as asshole”, she gets a fair few cheers from the ladies in the crowd. The use of electronics and samples, mixed with full on electric guitar, hint at acts such as Depeche Mode or early Garbage. ‘Blue Boy’, in particular, is a stunning few minutes that echo Shirley Manson at her finest. While Emily displays a sense of fragility through her vocals, the same steel that makes Ms Manson such a formidable force is evident within her. Robertson looks like he is fighting off the lurgy, but still puts on a decent enough show to highlight why Tate Sr. thinks so highly of him. By the time both Robertson and Jack Ross reappear later, as part of Operation: Mindcrime, the Lemsip has kicked in, and the snot is flowing less freely. Well, it is January, and it is Glasgow, you know. A short impressive set that saw the money put aside for a kebab on the way home spent on the debut album ‘Detached’. Check out Till Death Do Us Part here.
After Doctor Davis answers the phone, Doctor Blair and Doctor J Hamilton get paged, after the nurse gives Nikki his shot and calls him a bastard, after Nikki starts to remember, Operation: Mindcrime the band take to the stage and prepare for drummer Josh Watts to shepherd them into ‘Anarchy – X’. As intros go, those few moments before Geoff Tate takes to the stage are as potent as you’re likely to see. The look of sheer elation on the faces of everyone who remembers that first shot of ‘Operation: Mindcrime’ (the album) from back in the day, is a joy to behold. A very dapper looking Tate saunters on and utters the immortal opening lines to ‘Revolution Calling’ – “For a price I’d do about anything except pull the trigger, for that I’d need a pretty good cause…”. Boom! All eyes are on Tate, as he proves that he still has a voice capable of stopping you in your tracks. Running him a close second is the incredible band that he has pulled together from all over the world. Apart from locals Robertson and Ross, powerhouse drummer Watts hails from Sheffield, guitarist Scott Moughton is Canadian, and “travelling the furthest” is Bruno Sa from Brazil. Vastly experienced keyboardist Sa is battering the life out of a keyboard that spins 360 degrees on its stand. When he comes out from behind it, he straps on a guitar to provide a three pronged axe attack. So full of life, it’s impossible not to smile as Sa goes for it full throttle.
Even though you know exactly what you are going to hear, and in what order, it is still a thrill when old friends such as ‘Speak’, ‘Spreading The Disease’ and the bass heavy ‘The Mission’ are all aired. Tate stays in character for most of the set. Dialogue is kept to a minimum as he acts out the tale, which although it was written thirty years ago, could easily be set in present times. As ‘The Mission’ is unfolding, the figure of Emily Tate can be seen standing off stage, wearing a long blonde wig ready for her appearance as Sister Mary. The ten minute opus, ‘Suite Sister Mary’ is sublime, each tortured segment creeping into the next until Mary makes her appearance. Watching both Tates go toe to toe as they trade vocals is spine-tingling, and it’s easy to see where Emily gets her theatrics from. She leaves the stage for the choral section where the band take over, and Watts pounds away on the skins. A mass of hair and flailing arms, he is mesmerising to watch. His fast intro to ‘The Needle Lies’ has those with hair in the crowd windmilling, while those of us a bit more ‘follically challenged’ can only look on with envy. Although ‘Operation: Mindcrime’ is an incredible concept album, some of the tracks work just well as stand alone tracks. ‘I Don’t Believe In Love’ is one such moment, and has the crowd bellowing out the chorus as Geoff Tate acts as ringmaster. ‘Eyes Of A Stranger’ is another. The way that ‘My Empty Room’ blends into the pulsating album closer is stunning, and has the crowd on the balls of their feet ready to bounce as the guitars kick in. Again, it has a chorus tailor made for audience participation, and Tate is happy to stand back as the crowd scream “And I raise my head and stare… into the eyes of a stranger” at him. It’s a cult-like thing, you had to be there. This, of course, signals the end of ‘Operation: Mindcrime’, and the band leave the stage with ringing ears.
The encore saw Geoff Tate escaping the character of Nikki and he became much more chatty. Again it was pretty obvious what the encore would be, but ‘Best I Can’ came out of the left field for me, at least. It was totally unexpected, and I had forgotten just how good it is. Part of the reason I had forgotten about it is that it comes from the ‘Empire’ album, which features so many hits that other tracks often get overlooked. The follow up to ‘Operation: Mindcrime’, ‘Empire’ was an entirely different album, but one of equal stature. I know that I’m going to hear the title track, ‘Jet City Woman’ and of course, ‘Silent Lucidity’… and like Tate mentioned, he would get slaughtered if he didn’t play ‘Silent Lucidity’. No matter how many times you hear this triptych, they never get tiring. ‘Empire’ was the album that sent Queensrÿche into the stratosphere, and these tracks offer up three different sides. Tate and Operation: Mindcrime play the shit out of them, and bring a truly magical evening to a stunning end. Two days later, and I’m still hoarse. Says it all really.
Geoff Tate and Operation: Mindcrime are touring Europe until mid February. You would be mad to miss them. All tour dates here.
Review: Dave Stott
Images: Callum Scott