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June 27, 2013 at 4:39 PM

A marathon week of Queensryche includes shows at The Crocodile and Moore

Queensryche featuring Todd La Torre

Queensryche featuring Todd La Torre (center)

Hair was swinging and fists were pumping at Queensryche’s raucous record release party Wednesday night at The Crocodile. Flanking the stage were two giant skulls incorporating the band’s distinctive, medieval-looking Tri-Ryche logo.

It was the first of two Queensryche shows scheduled this week, each with a different lineup of players because of a lawsuit between warring factions of the original band and an unusual court decision that allows both camps to use the same name. The final outcome between now and the next court date of Nov. 18 will decide who ultimately gets to use the Queensryche name. (Read my June 23 story about the bifurcation of this bad-ass local band on the Seattle Times website.)

The sold-out Crocodile show featured new singer Todd La Torre, who fits the role of Queensryche front man like someone born to play the part, as well as guitarist Parker Lundgren and original members Michael Wilton (guitar), Eddie Jackson (bass) and Scott Rockenfield (drums). The group performed as a tight, solid unit.

A second Queensryche — featuring original singer Geoff Tate, whose soaring vocals were an integral part of the original band – performed Saturday at the Moore Theater. Tate was joined by a cast of high-profile metal musicians, among them Rudy Sarzo, Robert Sarzo, Kelly Gray, Randy Gane, Simon Wright, Brian Tichy and John Moyer.

The show featured a live performance of the entire 1988 “Operation: Mindcrime” concept album on the 25th anniversary of its release. (Read more about that show below.)

At the Crocodile, the band led by La Torre played its entire new album, “Queensryche,” on the loudspeakers. The group then kicked off an hour-long live set with “Queen of the Reich,” the song that gave the band its name in the early ‘80s. The set included two new songs, “Where Dreams Go to Die” and “Fallout” (but not the album’s first single, “Redemption”).

Highlights of the set included “Enforce,” “The Warning” (with La Torre sustaining a long, glorious note at the close),” “Empire” and a chill-producing “Eyes of a Stranger.” Seattle rock singer Pamela Moore thrilled the crowd by reprising her role in the song “Suite Sister Mary” from “Operation: Mindcrime.”

In filling the slot once held by vocalist Geoff Tate, La Torre sounded authentic and remarkably Tate-like in his howling renditions of the band’s classic songs. He also came across as a stable, dedicated musician who takes his role very seriously.

A capacity crowd of fans dressed almost exclusively in black treated the event like a celebration of old-school Queensryche and the group’s famous songs, before the band lost its commercial edge in the late ’90s after the departure of original guitarist Chris DeGarmo.

In a backstage interview at The Crocodile, La Torre said the ongoing lawsuit “has been a roller coaster for everybody.” As a new member thrust into the melodrama of the last year, he’s had to walk a tightrope in interviews.

“It’s very tough to be true to yourself and professional because you’re also representing everybody else when you say something,” he said. “I’m a little cocky by nature. I like to say it like it is, but I also try to be respectful.”

At the Moore, Tate reminded concertgoers that he has some of the best pipes in the business, soaring through the entire “Mindcrime” album with amazing power.

The show featured two drummers, Wright and Tichy, who performed a thundering drum solo. Moyer and Rudy Sarzo played awesome bass, and Gray (on Flying V) and Robert Sarzo ably handled the guitar roles. The set was classic hair metal, with the Sarzos striking rock-star poses, leaning into their instruments with legs outstretched. But the band was tight, playing the songs from the complicated “Mindcrime” album with great skill. It was a no-frills performances that focused on the music and not on theatrics. Songs from the Queensryche catalog included “Silent Lucidity,” “I’m American” and “Empire.”

“Like every band, you start off a little rough, then you fine-tune it,” Tate said in a recent interview. “And then all of a sudden everything clicks.”

The crowd sang along to “I Don’t Believe in Love” and other songs, and Tate  cheerfully shook hands with those standing below the edge of the stage. The show wasn’t sold out; there were empty seats at the back of the main auditorium and balcony.

Singer Sass Jordan, who recorded a duet with Joe Cocker for the soundtrack of the 1992 movie “The Bodyguard,” sang on “Suite Sister Mary,” the “Mindcrime” song that originally featured local singer Moore.

Tate, who hurtled about the stage aggressively, made reference to the two bands’ ongoing lawsuit, saying, “The last year has been incredible . . . You really find out who your friends are.”

The vocalist also connected the political themes of “Operation: Mindcrime” to the rise of terrorism. “The list keeps growing,” he said. “Boston, New York, Oklahoma City.”

The juxtaposition of the two Queensryches in Seattle on the same week highlighted the two bands’ similarities and differences. The La Torre-led Queensryche has recorded some strong new material and enjoys a sense of community with its longtime fans. Tate’s Queensryche also appeals to longtime fans, but comes across as a Tate solo project with longtime Queensryche member Gray and a bunch of talented players from other notable bands, among them Foreigner, Whitesnake, Disturbed and Ozzy Osbourne.

Unfortunately, having two Queensryches only distracts from the strengths of  each group. And until a settlement is reached or a judge makes a decision, the future of these two bands will remain uncertain — and more than a little weird.

Seattle attorney Joleen Winther-Hughes, founder of Hughes Media Law Group, feels compassion for the what the two bands are going through during the lawsuit. And beyond the November court date, there could be appeals that drag on for years.

“They don’t know what the future holds,” she said. “They’re sort of in limbo now. But the legal system works the way it works, and you hope that it comes to the right solution.”

Geoff Tate's Queensryche

Geoff Tate’s Queensryche

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