Mohegan Sun Never Knew What Hit Them As Queensryche Rocked The Wolf Den
A funny thing happened on the way to the Wolf Den…. Ever since the brief stint as Rising West and then the subsequent departure of Geoff Tate, I’ve taken back to Queensryche like white on rice. It was hearing “Rage For Order” in some of my earliest days as a metal fan and being blown away at the song writing and (at the time) daring approach of the band that lured me in. I was hooked. Going back to “The Warning” and the first EP made that even better. The anticipation of “Operation: Mindcrime” reached a fever pitch as I waited for the record store to open on the day of its release. “Empire” continued the greatness and it seemed as though nothing could stop them. “Promised Land” was solid, but then Chris DeGarmo departed after the lackluster “Hear In The Now Frontier” and from that point on it seemed to free fall all the way to the “thing” that was “Dedicated to Chaos.”
Sure, I can spout off for hours as to my personal opinions on Geoff Tate for the 15 years that came after DeGarmo left…all the way to his eventual ousting and “media firefight” that came over the last year. However, that would only give more publicity to his version of the band, which I glowingly call “FakeRyche.” The good news is that with the hiring of Todd La Torre (who I was following on Facebook with his string of covers of Queensryche and old Crimson Glory material) and release of the new song, aptly entitled “Redemption,” the band is back on track and I am proud to be “that fan” once again.
The show at the Mohegan Sun was announced months ago. It would take place at the Wolf Den, an open bar type venue that is located right in the middle of a heavily trafficked slot machine and table game area of the famous casino. The Wolf Den is open and free, though you need to get there pretty early to get in. It seats about 150 people “inside” and if you didn’t make it – you can view from the slots and can certainly hear it throughout the casino. I arrived at 2pm for the 8pm show and there was no line. Within minutes, a small line of about ten people formed and a guard at the end told me that it continued about 20 feet at a corner from where the “older” portion of the casino formed a circle (back when it was first constructed, this was the main part – which has given way to the much larger “Casino of the Sky”).
I situated myself about 10th in line from that point and dug in for the five hour wait, laughing at the conversations of people within earshot thinking Tate was there. The line moved at about 6:50pm and when I approached the entrance for the free show, the gentleman said “do you have tickets?” Now, suffice to say that what followed involved an hour of fighting with four different staff members, who clearly had no clue what they were doing or what they were in for. One of the more rude ones indicated that I was “this close” to being turned over to the “tribal police.”
Naturally, when a venue creates a “free show” and decides to hand out “tickets” to only the beginning portion of the line, neglecting the second part completely (which was created only to keep the area clear for the gamblers there to blow the family nest egg for Easter), and then claim they “went down the whole line” to cover their asses….clearly that represents "my fault." I did hear the greatest excuse ever heard from a venue: “We never anticipated this kind of response.” Dumbfounded, I thought: ‘the people who booked this didn’t know’? However, a guardian angel named Michelle showed up (as I was denied entry for the tenth time) and got me in with her “plus one” and suddenly all the tension of the encounter melted away.
Oddly, in all the times I’ve been to Mohegan Sun, I was never in the Wolf Den, which is usually reserved for smaller bands. The chairs and tables littered the tiny floor area, and as much as I felt they were an imposition for a metal show, they worked to my advantage as people were only one line deep at certain points on the stage. I was able to secure a perfect position just left of center where I was able to place my camera lens swap out just before the monitor.
Now, I don’t know whether some people were just ignorant of Todd’s ability or what, but just after opener “Queen of the Reich,” I heard a ton of people say “wow….” I laughed and said “Isn’t it great to finally hear Queensryche with a singer that can hit a note?” The band was tight and perfect….and with Todd at the helm, you can just see that rigid “obedience” and automaton “soldiering” of the past couple of years just melt away into smiles on the faces and all around fun from Michael Wilton, Eddie Jackson and Parker Lundgren. The older album that received the majority of the attention was 1984's “Warning," as the band blasted through “En Force,” “Child of Fire,” “Warning,” “Roads to Madness,” and “Take Hold of the Flame,” in what had to be the single greatest Queensryche performance in the times I have seen them (twice before). The band was back with force as a metal band of old and seeing them shine in this tiny venue instead of yards away at an arena was pretty special.
As Todd finished his perfect rendition of “The Needle Lies,” he stared out into the crowd (which built up well beyond the “confines” of the Wolf Den) and said “Wow, this has to be the strangest place we ever played. People cannot hear themselves winning [referring to the slots].” However, it was the crowd watching Queenryche winning for two hours straight! Both Todd and drummer Scott Rockenfield mentioned how grateful they were for all the support. I couldn’t help but admire the way this REAL version of Queensryche has conducted business since Tate left and the lawsuits began. Amid confusion over the “two Queensryches,” the real one has been exuding class, choosing to not engage in a battle they already won. Talk of Tate pulling his "TateRyche" "FU" album to be remixed, true or not, is just another desperate attempt at “one upping,” but you wouldn’t even know it from this performance. There was no trash talking…just business as usual. The only trash talking was my own “fuck Geoff Tate” chant…but as a fan, I can voice that opinion (“classless” or not).
The band did not play “Redemption,” or any other new stuff – keeping all the material safely within the realm of 1982-1990, with the encores of “Jet City Woman,” “Silent Lucidity” and “Empire” as the “newest” material presented. It couldn’t have been a better set…though I would have loved a little more from “Rage for Order” than merely “Walk in the Shadows” and "The Whisper." It was pretty special that they pulled out “Prophecy” (originally on the “Live in Tokyo” release in 1985 and later added as a bonus track on “Empire”).
Queensryche is back…stronger…and better than ever. “Don’t Believe in Love”? Well, just make sure you catch them live now and make the decision on your own that you agree with me. All Hall La Torre!
Carl Frederick is a staff writer for Metal Underground.com. From the early to mid-90's, Carl published his own fanzine called C.R.O.M. In 1997, he released a compilation entitled "CROM: The Resurrection of True Metal," which featured songs from bands from around the world, including the first U.S. release of any kind for bands like Italy's Rhapsody (n/k/a Rhapsody of Fire) and Brazil's Angra. Follow Carl on Facebook and Twitter: @CROMCarl.
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