Geoff Tate’s Operation: Mindcrime at Empire Music Hall, Belfast (January 13, 2018)

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For people reading this there’s probably no need to tell the story… Operation: Mindcrime was the album, perhaps more than any other ,that lit the touch paper for so much of what progressive-rock fans today take for granted. It’s blend of classic prog touches, with heavier rock elements, together with a back story that was more gritty and realistic, while retaining some fantasy elements, set a template that many, knowing or unknowingly, followed. Add in some radio hits and videos that the MTV era loved, and Queensrÿche obtained worldwide success.

Much has happened since then but tonight, in its 30th anniversary year, Operation: Mindcrime, the album and the band hit the stage, fronted by singer Geoff Tate. Belfast’s Empire Music Hall, a delightful building with a notoriously small stage (memories of Scottish giant, Fish shuffling across it many years ago), hosts the second tour stop and it’s a packed house in this often Prog-deprived city. Mindcrime is of course an album that works best when played in full and that’s the set list tonight. Tate’s touring band retain the OM name but vary from continent to continent and aren’t the same band who, for example, recorded the recent “The New Reality” album, with the exception of guitarist Scott Moughton. This time the band is made up of: Glasgow’s Kieran Robertson and Jack Ross (also members of support band Til Death Do Us Part, who are fronted by Tate’s daughter Emily) take up guitar and bass; Moughton and Bruno Sa make up the 3 guitar line up with Bruno covering keys; and at the back, Josh Watts on drums.

In keeping with the celebration of this album the musicianship is flawless. No animations and missing the “drama” elements of the original tour version, this performance lets the album stand on its own, with Tate driving the narrative as well as injecting the character of Nikki into his performance. The Empire’s tiny stage doesn’t leave much room for grandstanding but that doesn’t matter one bit to the crowd. In true Belfast tradition they take the role of the choir from the kick off and the band feed off the energy that Irish crowds are well known for. A popular critique of singers in this genre when they tackle their older material is that they struggle to match the original vocals. By the time O:M Tate’s style had developed beyond some of the ear piercing pitches of the early Queensrÿche recordings and he is in fine voice tonight. With term collaborator Scott Moughton leading the front line of the band and the twin (and sometimes triple) guitars are note perfect throughout. Rhythm section, Ross and Watts shine on moments such as the opening “Anarchy-X”.

When playing a classic album, It’s the right thing to “play it straight” and so apart from a few greetings, Tate lets the album talk. The original album is honored in its reproduction with the right amount of respect and occasional improvisations by the guitar players. The show has many highlights but it’s hard to match the singalong chorus of “I Don’t Believe In Love”. Emily Tate takes the role of Sister Mary and shows that the vocal tradition flows down the Tate family line. “Eyes of a Stranger” brings the story and the album to a close and it’s clear that this show has brought a lot of joy to the audience.

For the encores it was a selection of sure fire tracks from the “Empire” album: “Silent Lucidity”, “Empire” and “Jet City Woman”. Clearly fan favorites, the crowd joined in at all of the key moments. This was my first experience of seeing Geoff Tate with any band –  he is a great front man, is very clearly enjoying this format for performing and is still “delivering the goods” as a singer.

Set List:

  1. I Remember Now
  2. Revolution Calling
  3. Operation: Mindcrime
  4. Speak
  5. Spreading the Disease
  6. The Mission
  7. Suite Sister Mary
  8. The Needle Lies
  9. Electric Requiem
  10. Breaking the Silence
  11. I Don’t Believe In Love
  12. My Empty Room
  13. Eyes Of A Stranger

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