Eyes Of A Stranger

Since my last (outdoor) festival of 2016 is now a long forgotten memory – it was only a week ago but it seems like so much longer – and my ageing and aching body has semi recovered its now time to get to work on this blog again and start to look forward to a slew of shows in the lead up to Christmas – all with a roof over my head!!

I’ve already done one since Bloodstock turned off the lights. Vektor in the intimate sweat box of Manchester’s Star & Garter were absolutely sublime for the second time in four days. It could so have easily been three, I decided against young British thrash upstarts Detoxen and regretfully Ministry. Both in Manchester on consecutive evenings. I say Ministry regretfully as I’ve since seen their set list and it included a lot of the earlier stuff I’d like to have witnessed again. Maybe next time?

My next gig is going to be Seattle prog metalers Queensryche, probably in Bilston – one of the more unlikely towns to host a metal show. The Robin 2 has had a fair few decent shows over the years, but I haven’t been here as much as I’d have liked. Usually the gigs I want to attend seem to be on a school night and they often have a later curfew than I’d like, or the bands are playing other shows marginally further away but seemingly much easier to get to rather than enduring the M6 southbound – my biggest concern for this, a southern show on a Friday! 

Their West Midlands appearance is one of three UK shows for the band, take London out of the equation and I’m 50 miles away from the remaining pair. Sheffield on the Saturday is a nice drive through parts of the Peak District during daylight hours, but those winding roads on cliff edges are a bit unnerving in the dark if you’ve not experienced them for a while and I’ve not been to the Steel City for a long time now. 

I’ve been a fan of Queensryche since I picked up Operation: Mindcrime maybe a year after its 1988 release. Since then it’s been a firm favourite of mine along with follow up album Empire. I remember buying the Operation: Livecrime box set when I was in college. I must have worn out the VHS cassette in the first few months, I just couldn’t get enough of it. I was so thankful when a reissue surfaced on a shiny DVD disc!

I’ve only seen the band half a dozen times over the years, the last couple of times with Geoff Tate were pretty painful if I’m being honest – the set lists were just filled with odd choices and with massive omissions to the show and generally an air of not really wanting to be there and just going through the motions – but we know how that ended. The “new guy” Todd La Torre has rejuvenated the band to no end. And for those fans who can let go of the past, he has most definitely reinvigorated the fan base. 

I’ve seen a review from a recent Swiss show. There was an air of disdain about a 14 song, 70 minute set. I’d guess that most of their shows before and after this UK run are due to be on festival stages where they’ve got 45 minutes to an hour, so there provably isn’t the necessity to rehearse for a two hour extravaganza for a handful of shows. I could be wrong though. Plus there’s the usual “why play this song, I much prefer this one” in the comments – a band with fourteen releases is never going to keep 100% of the crowd happy. 

Here’s a classic cut from the aforementioned Operation: Mindcrime release and one of those songs a band just can’t drop from a set list. Without looking in depth at the set lists available on the internet I don’t think there are many concerts goers that have gone home without hearing Eyes Of A Stranger in 27 years. It’d be interesting to know if the talk during band meetings ever considered the idea? 



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