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Wednesday, Feb. 6, 2008

Queensryche @ The Northern Lights Theater

Jan. 30, 2008

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Left for dead a decade ago, the progressive-metal band Queensryche has spent the ensuing years reinventing itself. Post-grunge records, a covers disc and a sequel to 1988’s seminal concept album Operation: Mindcrime all entered the fray, as the arena stalwarts became accustomed to smaller venues like the Rave and Madison’s Barrymore Theatre.

Yet it was a revitalized band that entered the cozy confines of the Northern Lights Theater at the Potawatomi Bingo Casino last week for a three-night stand. The restlessness was apparent. After all, Queensryche, which has retained all but one original member since its inception 27 years ago, spent much of 2006 performing the Mindcrime saga in its entirety (complete with actors and props). So when given the opportunity, the Seattle veterans dug deep into their catalog for an unexpected but rewarding second-night set short on betterknown material.

Highlights included no fewer than four cuts from 1986’s overlooked Rage for Order, the proto-industrial “NM 156” from 1984’s The Warning, a handful of hits (“Eyes of a Stranger,” “Jet City Woman,” “Take Hold of the Flame”) and a startling version of Pink Floyd’s “Welcome to the Machine” featuring sharp-dressed vocalist Geoff Tate on saxophone.

When not playing dual solos, guitarists Michael Wilton and Mike Stone gave impressive individual performances, injecting emotion and edginess into Queensryche’s complex arrangements, mainstream hooks and precision heaviness.

Eighties rocker Don Dokken, taking a break from recording his eponymous band’s next album, opened the show with a six-song acoustic set that didn’t include any post-1985 material. Backed by guitarist/vocalist Kelly Keeling, Dokken proved himself an amicable fellow that contrasted with his tyrannical image back in the day. And he managed to sum up the entire evening with a comment he made before playing a single note, declaring, “This is a little different.” It sure was.
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