Review & Photography by Manny Manson for MPM
When you hear that ‘THE’ voice of a band that you followed in their early days is playing close by, it’s an event that makes you sit up and take notice, a bit like a Meerkat.
So, on hearing that the mighty Geoff Tate was playing the impressive Queens Hall in Nuneaton, it was something I did not to miss. Sadly, Waldorf is sitting this one out as we have a few more to cover during want it’s down to ‘Statler’ to photo and pen this epic night.
Having been a Queensrÿche fan in their early years it’ll be great to see Geoff smash these songs live once more, after 30years. Having seen him perform the Operation:Mindcrime album a few years back at the awesome Stonedead festival, the man has proven that he has still got the pipes to make you stand back and take notice.
To hell with what happened with regards to the band and the way it went about the unpleasant break up, tonight is not about any of that, but a celebration of the album ‘Empire’, and if that’s not good enough we’re also getting ‘Rage For Order’ thrown in as well. Oh goodie!
Heading off to Nuneaton I try to negotiate the rush hour traffic as best I can. A few years ago, I’d have been caught up in this travelling home from work, god, how I don’t miss this daily grind! Eventually getting to Nuneaton, relatively easily, I head for the ‘Crew’, the rock memorabilia bar beneath the venue. Here I grab a coke and peruse the plethora of signed trinkets that line the walls and ceilings. Even after my many visits there’s always something new to see besides the Slash and Schenker signed guitars.
I’m privileged as I get into the hall early so I manage to ‘blag’ a spot centre stage. There is no pit so getting in early is needed to get a decent spot. I’ve taken a small collapsible stool that’ll help me get some shots later on, over the heads of the crowd.
First up tonight we have Mark Daly. A singer songwriter from Southern Ireland, Cork in-fact, the second largest city in Eire. Tonight, we catch him with the ‘Ravens’ which just happens to be made up from Geoff Tate’s touring band, consisting of James Brown – Lead Guitar, Alex Hart – Guitar, Jack Ross – Bass Guitar and Drummer – Danny Laverde. Having been a part of the ‘Operation:Mindcrime’ line up, it’s obvious that these guys know each other well and are well up with supporting Mark on the tour.
Starting off with ‘Piece of Mind’, acoustic guitar wearing Daly is straight on it delivering a fine husky vocal. This grand piece of work is from his Solo album ‘When Stars Align’ released in 2018. Standing at the microphone, eyes closed he sings about our inner demons, especially the monster under the bed. A great start to this short set, it continues with ‘Without You’ which starts off with a nice acoustic picking, and a gentle vocal. This picks up as the band join in giving the song a bit more urgency. Again, this is from the first album and tells of heart ache and not accepting that the other half as moved on.
A young voice shouts from the crowd. Play the ‘fart song’ ? well that’s what it sounded like. ‘Addicted to the Throne’ follows, acoustic driven it has James Brown on lead guitar scowling a lick that wraps around this dark lyric. Putting the guitar aside we then have Mark Daly, the frontman with only the mic to hide behind, as the band go into ‘Gotta Run’.
This is a harder hitting pacier number. Daly paces the stage delivering a gritty vocal. The band are bouncing along as this song shows a slightly different side. Bent over, face screwed up and eyes closed as this almost pop punk style tune gets the beans. With a look at Danny Laverde on drums the band go into the pacey cover ‘Lydia’.
The young voice is heckling still, ‘Well done daddy’, Its Marks son Noah. The next song is introduced as a biker’s song, ‘Don’t look Back’. Following the previous format of acoustic guitar leading off, a steady kick drum joins in as Mark throws some shapes before getting on with the vocal, again its full of grit and determination as the band help push this hard hitter forward. with his brothers by his side’” the song punches a hole as he puts his head down and Brown jumps in with a great solo on stage right, his peach coloured Charvel guitar sounding stunning. The song finishes with a salvo from the drums and a great response from the crowd gathered to support the undercard.
The band walk off except Daly, who introduces the final song as one he wrote several years ago. It went on to be a huge fund-raising song for Autism in Ireland, it’s called ‘Your World’, and was written for his son Noah, who has joined him on the tour as he wasn’t coping to well with Mark being away. Daly tells us about Noah giving Geoff Tate singing lessons back stage, much to the crowd’s amusement.
This song is delivered from the heart and resonates strongly with any parent, let alone one coping with life’s difficulties. A beautiful song. Mark then gets Noah on stage, “he’s been filming the whole night”, Mark tells us “he’ll have some great stories when he goes back to school”. We all pose for the gig selfie with Noah front and central.
With a brief pause as Mark’s guitarist James rushes around and sorts out the stage, he’s now dropped into the guitar tech role so is making sure it’s all ready. I grab a brief word with him and he sets me straight with names and song titles. He’s a top fella, and I appreciate the time spent with me even if it was only a couple of minutes.
With a central drum riser surrounded by banners with Geoff Tate emblazoned on them above a Tri-ryche entwined with Ravens. As the crowd cheer the band walk on, back lit. Tate is front and central, sporting a fetching fedora and the obligatory glasses, he opens, with arms outstretched into ‘Walk in The Shadows’.
The band are solid as an animated Tate prowls the stage as both Alex Hart and Kieran Robertson provide backing vocals during this powerhouse of an opener. Tate explains he’s going to play the entire Rage for Order album and if that’s not enough he’s going to play Empire too.
Standing to the side the band get stuck into ‘I Dream in Infra-Red’ the lights flash and pulse as Laverde beats the drums, hard! Red and white spots play across the stage as Tate’s vocal smacks you firmly in the face, arms outstretched he conducts the band as Hart jumps on a riser and delivers a lick under Tate’s watchful gaze. With a purposeful mopping of the brow the song is brought to a close.
‘The Whisper is up next. I’m glad to see the set is following in chronological order. This opens with the familiar guitars of Robertson and Hart, as Tate waits for his queue to join in, and when he does his voice its stratospheric, having lost none of its power he hangs on the notes as the guitars take over, Robertson is on it with face pulling and shouting “come on” as he plays to the crowd.
Canadian singer song writer, Lisa Dal Bello’ (Dalbello) is up next, well her song ‘Gonna Get Close to You’. This cover being chosen as the first single from Rage of Order. Tate simply destroys it with his powerhouse of a vocal.
Arms animated as he ‘acts’ out the song, his antics well-rehearsed over the years as he poses with Robertson, a snatch of the microphone and he’s off across the stage. The lights are pulsing around as the sound is brought to its sudden ‘gonna get close’ full stop.
Before we go into ‘The Killing Words’ he thanks the crowd for allowing him to indulge himself as it’s something he always wanted to do. He puts it down to a bucket list tick. He then goes on to ask about “who remembers 1986? Here we are in 2022, raise your hand if you’re still alive”. Looking around the room, the average age, I would say is mid to late 50’s, I remember it well being a mere 22year old. This rock ballad goes down a storm as the Queens Hall join in the singing, as yet again, Tate’s voice swoops and soars around this great tune.
The Ukraine gets a brief mention in the intro to ‘Surgical Strike’, this being a song about the fat cats getting rich on dropping bombs on foreign countries. It’s a fast-paced drum that kicks it off, the distorted guitars join in as Tate parades like a game show host from the 80’s. The lights strobe and we’re at war as the guitars crush the senses, the bass and kick drum are thudding into your chest as the lights pulse and swirl, Tate’s vocal, with its air raid siren qualities fit this song perfectly.
An acoustic sounding guitar starts off as the drums crash, Robertson on white flying V takes over front and centre as he rocks out the intro to ‘Neue Regel’. Tate’s dynamic vocal slices through the air as he acknowledges both the guitars with raised arms. Robertson is smiling away charismatically as they both play the harmony effortlessly. Tate is smiling between his deliveries of epic proportions. The lights are stunning, The Queens hall has done a great job tonight, as the drums are smothered in pulsating white spots.
‘Chemical Youth (We Are Rebellion)’ has the crowd bouncing as the fast feet of drummer Danny Laverde thump out the opening to this fan favourite, the crowd are cheering as Tate drives a great vocal across the room. Robertson encourages the crowd to clap along as smoke fills the stage, dispersing the lights dramatically as it glows purple then green.
The galloping riff aids the crowd as they sing “We are rebellion”. Robertson and Hart face each other as they riff back and forth, Tate wipes his head with a red handkerchief and exits the stage leaving the band to bring this crushing tune to a finale of galloping drums, soaring guitars and thudding bass. That woke them up in Leicester, let alone Nuneaton.
There isn’t much room to swing a cat tonight as Geoff Tate has brought them all inside on a Monday night to hear this stunning vocalist play an intimate venue. The Queens Hall is a little-known diamond sitting between Leicester and Coventry, after it’s had a hefty face lift it is now become one of my favourite venues to visit.
That said the bass is crushing as it explodes from the stage once more, it’s a deep drone that just bounces off all the walls of the venue, I’m sure its rearranging body organs such is its intensity. Smoke continues to fill the stage as the word ‘London’ is chanted. The two guitars are stood back to back, as they open, Tate walks forward gently singing the opening lines.
The microphone moving from the ice cream licking position to drinking from a bottle. The drums crash around him and ‘London’ is repeated. The guitar harmony is a great bridge as they stand front and centre parting like sliding doors to , again reveal Tate, who is animated in his delivery once more, perfect as the crowd join in with the singing.
Green lighting now bathes the stage as Robertson is stood on the riser encouraging the crowd to join in. Oi Oi Oi is called as Hart windmills his hair, the kick drum has gone into over load as Robertson spins around. Tate’s voice is digitised as he speaks the intro to ‘Screaming in Digital’ before soaring with his outrageous vocal, a dramatic delivery from him as always flavours this anthem, moving out of the way Robertson is back screaming out a stunning piece of guitar work. The guy is a demon playing up to the crowd.
The first half of the night is brought to a close with ‘I Will Remember’, the final song of Rage of Order. As the guitars pick the opening notes, Tate reappears wearing his fedora once more. He’s faultless as he delivers a vocal dripping in gold and velvet honey. Backlit by purple spots he glances around the stage as the band carry on, his smile is palpable, he’s clearly enjoying the moment.
Kilt wearing Jack Ross is stood on the drum riser, his bass locked into the kick drum as the guitars play the simple but stunning solo together. Tate carries on with the lyric as the guitars play off each other, the lick seems to have an occasional flat note thrown in to disrupt the flow and make you take notice, clever but the crowd are hanging on every word anyways.
The hall is filled with cheers and applause as Tate announces he’s going to take a little break before part two and Empire!
‘Best I Can’ starts us on the Empire trail, with its taped intro of choral song as the band join in this rocky number, the bass and guitars driving hard as Tate sings about being the best he can. The lights flash and strobe as the song kicks off.
Tate has had a change of shirts, as have the band, except Robertson, he’s now topless showing off his array of tattoo’s front and centre, a huge chest piece of a lighthouse, good man you gotta love a lighthouse! The crowd are singing back “I won’t let go” as Tate paces back and forth standing in front of Robertson as he delivers the solo before walking off around the stage sticking his tongue out to the crowd. Tate brings the song down to a crowd filled cheering finale, as the band first surround the drum riser then march stage front to close.
‘The Thin Line’ sees Tate pick up a saxophone , giving it a quick blow, as he does so the guitars take over as he moves to the back. The lighting, worthy of an arena, plays across the stage as Tate stands at the microphone his voice dripping in echo, arms outstretched the hi hats rattles in the background as the song takes off.
Lighting explodes as he picks up the sax for a quick toot between delivering the lyric. The drums crash around as arms outstretched, he punches the sky as the crowd are singing along, the Sax is up and down as he moves to the back to play it, the guitars are both synched and delivering up front. Red lights change to blue and the smoke fills the stage giving it a stunning effect. The guitars line up, Quo like as Tate solos on the Sax not unlike Lisa Simpson, He’s pacing back and forth playing off the band as it comes to an end with a room full of cheers.
A thudding bass line and kick drum herald the start to ‘Jet City Woman’. The crowd yet again are singing along. They are true fans having sung to the first three songs in their entirety.
Robertson smiles as he takes a swig of red wine on stage left. With the band moved to the rear of the stage, Tate prowls back and forth, crouching and animated he holds the mic out to the crowd as they sing back ”Jet City Woman” as one voice. Tate invites Alex (hart) to bring us some blue sky. Back lit in blue he rips out a solo joined by bassman, who sings a line with Tate before the crowd take over once again.
This segues nicely into ‘Dell Brown’, as the Blue lights continue to dominate the steady beat and guitar swells. Tate saunters up to the microphone and croons slowly to the hall, pointing and grabbing air. Hart rips a lick as Tate turns his back before he starts singing again, arms out stretched in front as he powers through this slower song from this iconic 90’s album.
Arguably acclaimed as being their best collection of songs. Harts solo is dynamic, full of squeals and echo. The lighting is stunning as this song plays out. Robertson encourages the crowd to cheer which brings a huge smile to his face. As more interplay follows the band build up into a crescendo of drums and guitar for it to drop to a marching snare then nothing, but cheers from the crowd.
The sound of Thunder and rain fill the hall as Tate walks on clapping. The guitar riff has a slight Big Country lope to it as he breaks into ‘Another Rainy Night (Without You). His vocal at times, is drowned out by the crowd.
The sound is clear, money well spent on the upgraded system and it would seem to be being operated by someone who has some hearing left as it’s damn near perfect, yet another big salute to the Queens Hall. Robertson is on the Drum riser as Hart takes command of the solo from the front, flicking his hair he plays to Tate’s singing, who decides to point his mic to the crowd as they continue to sing the final words “without you”, echoed by Tate.
Tate speaks to the crowd, amazed that after 32 years everyone knows the words. He thanks Lee in the crowd for his service, a mark of respect that the Americans give their military boys and girls, something that we should be more-proud of than what we are in my book.
He points out that he can read lips so tonight he won’t mess his words up as he only has to look at the crowd to know what comes next. He Jokes “what’s the next song”, “I don’t have a setlist”, the guitars leap forward as the crowd scream ‘Empire’. Sonic guitars cry out as Tate and the crowd sing the title track to this 32year old song. Tate conducts the crowd in the singing, his arms open as wide as his smile. The lights strobe and sweep around the stage as Robertson riffs out over a thundering bass line, Tate has his arm around Ross as Hart interrupts the goings on with a piercing solo from stage right. Tate’s vocal is lost momentarily as the crowd’s singing over powers the PA.
Stood basking in the applause Tate tells us the next song written 32years ago about climate changes see us still arguing about it today. ‘Resistance’, Tate gets the crowd waving as the guitars swop sides repeatedly. This song dances along as yet again another mesmerising vocal is delivered. Lights flash through the smoke as the band crush the silence, Tate calls for the call of the wild, the crowd respond as does Robertson as he again slams out another dirty solo much to the crowd’s appreciation and respect. As part of the act, Tate walks Ross on bass back into the corner waging his pointed finger at him. The song is a killer.
Again, front and centre Tate takes time to address the crowd, He says he thinks words means things. He tells a tale of lockdown boredom leading to drinking his wine collection to eventually going grocery shopping. Not being the tallest man, he needed something from the top shelf so, he decides to stand in the shopping cart to reach the box, the one with wings.
As he does so a guy comes along and says “Mr Tate, I’m probably your biggest fan, could you sign my cd’s while I tell you my story”. He proceeds to produce 6 CD’s and a sharpie and tell his story of how the song got him through life, misery and tears.
Tate says they were both crying but he didn’t know which song he meant so he asked him, the gent replied “the best song you ever wrote”, “ Silence in Tennessee”. Queue the guitar riff of ‘Silent Lucidity’, and a smokie lit stage as Tate slowly delivers the lyric to this fine song. The crowd sing, softly too, a fist pump in the corner of the hall flashes briefly in the air as Tate mimics a violin, looks down and then opens his arms, his head cocked.
The crowd sing the chorus as Tate smiles, it’s tempting to sing silence in Tennessee now it’s been pointed out. Hart takes the centre for the guitar solo, his head down as he plays, picked out in spotlights. Tate walks forward his voice purrs the lyric to my favourite song of the night. The hall is electrified as this song plays out; the talked finish has an almost Elvis quality to it. Stunning and the crowd think so too judging by the cheers.
With three left from the ‘Empire’ album, the band are straight into ‘Hand on Heart’. A change of tone now as a walking drum beat thumps out from within a yellow and red smoked filled stage. Red spots play down as Tate patrols the front of the stage as he delivers this slower song, stopping briefly with guitarist Hart, they sing to each other on stage right.
Moving back Tate crouches as he sings to the crowd, getting up he crosses to Ross on bass and sings with him before grabbing the middle of the stage only to be replaced by a smiling Robertson, who, rocks out the solo, smiling and pulling faces as he does so. Red and Blue spots light the smoke that has now engulfed the stage. Clicking his fingers as Robertson solos to the end of the song, Tate points into the cheering crowd and smiles.
The guitars are back central as Hart head bangs whilst grinding out the opening riff to ‘One and Only’, the penultimate track on the album. The band rock out before Tate joins in amidst red lighting, casually walking around the stage he delivers the lyric, spots flash and sweep across the crowd, whilst the guitarists provide backing vocals, the crowd cheer and clap, bouncing along as they do so.
Horns and hands are being thrown in the far corner. Hart then plays to Tate before facing the crowd and initiates a bought of hand waving before singing again. Bathed in red light, Tate asks the crowd to put their hands up for the boys who are bouncing around like Tigger on the stage. It drops into a heavier riff as all three take to the risers as a drum filled barrage finishes the song.
A picked intro from Robertson and a piercing guitar note from Hart, reminiscent of early Marillion, rings out, as the final album song, ‘Anybody Listening ‘plays out, this doesn’t last long as the cymbal crashes fall around as the sorrowful guitar echoes around the hall like a room full of sad violins. Atop the riser’s, Hart gives his guitar the beans as he rips the hell