Wednesday June 19 the original voice of Queensryche, Geoff Tate brought the 25th Anniversary of the epic 1988 concept record Operation Mindcrime tour to Newport Music Hall for a night of Queensryche classics and the Operation Mindcrime experience start to finish.
For his version of the Ryche, Tate enlisted former Ozzy, Quiet Riot, Whitesnake and Dio bassist Rudy Sarzo, AC/DC, Something Unto Nothing skinsman Brian Tichy on drums, guitarist Kelly Gray of Queensryche/Myth fame, Hurricane’s Robert Sarzo, and keyboardist Randy Gane of Myth to help spread the Mindcrime to thousands of adorning fans across the country. LA’s Something Unto Nothing and Ireland’s The Voodoos warmed up the crowd.
S.U.N. opened the show proving that loud sound and intense musical power can come from two people with only a few instruments. The blond dancing swaying bayou queen Miss Sass Jordan came out to the beat of a Cajun groove, pouring her whisky strong voice into the mic over the crowd, like a mystic enchanting spell carried by silent swamp water. If Janis Joplin got in a cat fight with Grace Slick, Miss Jordan’s voice would be the winner. By the time they’re done, she’s Burned her image and performance into our minds and ears. She takes us on a trip down to Uncle Tom’s cabin to be Razed voodoo style with a little help from Zeppelin. Drummer Tichy can make thunder come out of one large kick-drum as the two person band make incredible music come out of a drum, cymbal, acoustic guitar, tambourine and Jordan’s voice. An electric acoustic never sounded so heavy. Jordan’s a tambourine shaking flower child as she foot stomps through tales of the mighty backwater river and the mysteries buried deep in the swamp muck. Once they go down that one way road over sacred, burial ground there’s No Way Home for these traveling Nomads. Tichy’s first show was Kiss’s Dynasty tour at age 10 inspiring him to hit the drums. Making a surprise early appearance the Ryche’s Kelly Gray came out to play Maybe I’m Amazed.
From Ireland comes a special kind of electric voodoo played by the five-some from Cork known as The Voodoos. Mark Daly brings a Dave Grohl/Chris Cornell look to his stage presence as they sprinkle some old fashioned rock n roll dust on the audience blending bluesy angst ridden rock with a jam band experience. The band opens with those sinister Black Walls, telling the audience there’s two sides to every story but there’s Nowhere to Run. Daly pulls out the Cobain anger and sorrow as his hearts Torn Apart. They finish with Don’t Listen.
Queensryche’s third record, considered both a concept album and a rock opera, follows the story of a drug addict who becomes disillusioned with the Reagan led society of his time and reluctantly becomes involved in a revolutionary group as an assassin of political leaders. In January 1989, it reached No. 34 on Kerrang magazine’s 100 greatest heavy metal albums of all time, certified platinum in 1991. I Don’t Believe in Love was nominated for a Grammy in 1990. During the Empire tour, Mindcrime was performed in its entirety with video footage, animation and a guest singer as Sister Mary and was released as Operation LIVEcrime. The story was also explored in a series of video clips that aired on MTV and in the 1989 VHS, Video: Mindcrime. It was re-released with bonus tracks in 2003 and as a box set in 2006.
The album begins with main character Nikki laying catatonic in the mental ward unable to remember anything from his past but snippets. In a moment of complete realization, everything floods back as he remembers being a heroin addict and political radical in the making manipulated into joining a secret new world order organization dedicated to starting revolution and used as a pawn for political assassination. Lead by the devious Dr. X, Nikki was manipulated by his addiction and brainwashed by the ‘good’ Dr., becoming his murderous puppet whenever he spoke the word ‘mindcrime’. Through one of the doctor’s associates, Father William, Nikki’s offered the services of Sister Mary, a prostitute turned nun. Through their association Nikki begins questioning the true nature of what he’s doing. Dr X notices, seeing the threat of clarity Mary represents he orders Nikki to kill her and the priest. Nikki kills the priest, and confronts Mary but doesn’t kill her after they both decide to leave the organization. He tells the doctor they’re done but is reminded that only he can provide Nikki with his fix. Nikki leaves to find Mary dead. Unable to cope with the loss or the unknown possibility that he might have done it under ‘mindcrime,’ insanity creeps in. He runs through the streets screaming until subdued by the police. A gun is found and he’s taken in under suspicion of the Dr. X murders. Suffering complete memory loss he’s placed in a bed until seeing a news report of the spree jogs his memory.
The lights go out as the crowd roars and the sounds of the disinfected, sterile, bland mental hospital room blend with the anticipation and tension of the crowd awaiting anarchy, revolution and mindcrime. Nikki is sufficiently sedated by the disgusted nurse leaving him to his tidal wave recall. His memories come through the speakers through Tate’s voice as he remembers how it started…
Gray and the Sarzo brothers start the soaring guitars as Gane hits the keyboard background, and Tichy marches the drumbeat bringing out the music of Anarchy-X as the doctor yells impassioned propaganda at the Columbus crowd from his loud audio podium. The guitars slowly build toward the entrance/appearance of Mr. Tate as Revolution’s Calling. The bald, goateed voice of the Ryche since ‘82 comes out eyes mysteriously hidden by trademark shades, decked in leather to speak the truth the media won’t tell us. For a price he’ll tell us the story, and we give him a pretty good cause. The years/decades may change but the cynicism and corporate/government greed stay the same, who do you trust when everyone’s a crook? The phone rings, Dr. X starts Nikki’s Operation:Mindcrime telling the drug riddled puppet it’s time to change the system and kill for the underground revolution with the sinister sounding guitars playing an early painting of the dramatic violence to come closing with Tate’s sorrow filled wail and the mob growing restless. Several months in, Nikki’s become the doctor’s most valuable colleague; his missions of murder/assassination have given him a godlike ego and he believes himself to be a one man trigger happy messiah of world change, disparaging the old system, completely submerged in Dr. X’s new global empire. The guitars speak of Nikki’s new life mindset/determination to ‘make a difference’ in his own way with their fast paced speed and heaviness while the bass underlines his new found power. Speak the word: the word is revolution, it’s all of us. Speak! After Wright’s killer drum solo, they introduce former working girl Sister Mary into the story. She was pulled from the dead end nightly street walks by Father William who saves her and ordains her as a nun, seemingly freeing her from Spreading the Disease but soon after his true colors emerge, taking favors from her in payment for giving her ‘salvation’. The music has a treacherous feel as it’s played over dirty lyrics of sex and greed used to infect the masses. The pattern of love, sex and betrayal continues as it’s revealed that the good father is a close friend and supporter of Dr. X who offers Mary as a fringe benefit for Nikki’s loyalty. The Mission begins months later with Nikki sitting in his room, watching TV in the darkness, the evil of his deeds and guilt in his conscience catching up as the adrenaline and high of the kill have dissipated. Moving illumination flickers from the victims’ candle light shrines he’s made in despair. Father William preaches as a bullet shatters the TV, starting a beautiful guitar melody as Tate’s vocals pour out pain and sorrow like rain shadowing the voices of Nikki’s victims then turning into the voice of his psyche. The guitars sear solos of his hopeless anguish. His humanity is slipping away, the only thing keeping his emotions alive is time spent with Mary. He is slowly falling in love with her. Doctor X decides that Suite Sister Mary and the priest are weak links in his plans and instructs Nikki to do the deed. More haunting melody as the Latin chants of judgment sound off in the background. New found clarity and morality conflict with obedience/obligation to his father figure. Tate’s voice serenades high telling Mary’s story. He confronts her and realizes he cannot kill the only happy thing in his life. He confesses why he came. Sass Jordan returns to the stage singing as Mary telling Tate/Nikki she wants to die for her sins yet he still can’t pull the trigger proving his true love and they share themselves on the altar as the thunder and rain pour outside. The Needle Lies to every addict, and Nikki’s no exception as he goes to assassinate his final victim, Doctor X and start a new life with Mary. Unfortunately their experience left Mary struggling with the memories of Father William’s sins and she falsely sees Nikki as just another man who used her. The doctor holds the power of Nikki’s addiction over him and he leaves defeated, returning to the church to find Mary dead in her room.
The story never tells the specifics of Mary’s demise and remained an intentional mystery, with fans surmising their own theories, until the secret was revealed on 2004’s An Evening with Queensryche tour. A quick Google search will yield both the “official” story and lots of fun fan theories.
Her Electric Requiem begins as he stares down at her body, the keyboard pouring dark waves of panic, shock and anger. High pitched guitar notes crack in his brain, slowly crumbling his sanity into the gutters. As madness seeps in, he runs through the streets screaming her name, his mind a flood. With his frantic mind Breaking the Silence and psyche crumbling, he makes one last trip back to the church to try and find answers only to be swarmed by police. He’s connected to the political assassination they don’t know he’s guilty of yet and Mary’s murder which he’s presumably innocent of, his belief in love gone. He’s booked and convicted as the haunting guitars play a beautifully simplistic duet of Waiting for 22. He sits in his Empty Room, his mind weaving in and out of rational sanity trying to figure out what happened to Mary, his last moments of clarity and what used to be his life. He looks up at his reflection in the TV staring into the Eyes of a Stranger, his fate, repeating these memories over and over.
The band finishes the performance, leaving the stage in darkness and the crowd screaming for more.
They reappear after the livecrime to comfort with some Silent Lucidity, the best they can. They pull out a surprise new song from Frequency Unknown bringing the Cold. I’m American from Operation Mindcrime II ending with the Jet City Woman flying over the Empire Tate helped build since ’82.