Queensrÿche @Newcastle Riverside, December 1 2019

The perfect setlist for the perfect show?

Quite possibly.

Not for Queensrÿche an elongated gig punctuated by back catalogue obscurities.

No unnecessary chat, no drum solo and no flashy encore. No kidding.

This was all killer and no filler. 

Handpicking key cuts from their classic albums might seem like a no-brainer.

But how many bands take their eye off the ball and take liberties with their fans?

Founding members Michael Wilton and Eddie Jackson were having none of it.

This was gold-plated progressive metal from start to finish.

Underpinned by pin-sharp sound and the passion of frontman Todd La Torre, a truly memorable night flew by.

Wilton reinforced his reputation as a wizard of the fretboard.

And much of that magic rubbed off on fellow six-stringer Parker Lundgren as the Port Townsend native excelled.

Jackson and the band’s touring drummer, former Kamelot favourite Casey Grillo, were rock solid as the beating heart of a quite brilliant band.

And La Torre sounds more like Geoff Tate than the man himself!

Seven years down the line and how fortunate are the Rÿche that they happened upon the ideal stand-in for their estranged former frontman?

Like the show itself, La Torre was both unfussy and on fire. Powerful yet subtle.

And never more so than on mega-ballad Silent Lucidity.

The band’s highest charting hit, from 1990’s classy Empire, had the Riverside masses rapt: Wilton and Lundgren owning the Billboard Top 10 smash.

But La Torre, of course, is just as confident blasting out the heavier hitters in a 14-song set.

His take on Screaming In Digital was devastating in its depth.

And La Torre let rip on Queen Of The Reich – the Iron Maiden-esque anthem that launched Washington’s finest 36 years ago.

To many Queensrÿche without Tate isn’t Queensrÿche at all.

But to those in the know there’s still no better metal band.

And new tunes Blood Of The Levant and Man The Machine, from 2019’s The Verdict, stood toe-to-toe with the band’s back catalogue favourites.

Tate visited Newcastle twice in the space of 12 months to celebrate the glorious legacy that is Operation: Mindcrime.

And on both occasions he breathed new life into a timeless classic.

But old buddies Wilton and Jackson remain just as relevant when it comes to keeping the flame burning.

And visceral versions of The Mission and The Needle Lies represented standout moments that will live long in the memory.

The best of the rest?

I Am I, from the often-overlooked Promised Land, punched well above its weight.

And the joyous Jet City Woman allowed La Torre to soar.

Queensrÿche could do no wrong. Then again, they rarely do.

Special guests Firewind delivered the power metal kick to the headliners’ progressive rock cocktail. 

And in Gus G, the Greek gods boast a guitarist who has always belonged in a league of his own.

The former Ozzy Osbourne favourite might have failed to convince large swathes of the Riverside crowd.

And Firewind frontman Henning Basse appeared frustrated at the lack of interaction from fans patiently awaiting the main men.

But World On Fire and The Fire And The Fury proved to be perfect mid-set bangers.

And Firewind’s long-awaited Newcastle debut reached a rousing crescendo – sublime set closer Falling To Pieces picking things up in the nick of time.

Images By Gordon Armstrong