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Queensr˙che Rocks the Senator in Chico

Ask almost any hard rock/metal fan from the 1980s and 1990s about Queensr˙che and you're sure to get a wide range of opinion about the band's music. Some prefer the metal bombardment of 1988's Operation: Mindcrime, while others enjoy the Pink Floyd-ish vibe found on 1994's Promised Land. The one constant, however, is that fans know when Queensr˙che rolls into town, they are going to get a stunning live performance.

Queensr˙che's show on April 19, at the Senator Theatre in Chico, Calif., was no exception. Playing three suites of music featuring tracks from Rage for Order (1986), American Soldier (2009) and Empire (1990), the band gave both hardcore and casual fans something to enjoy and rock out to after and unseasonably sweltering day in Northern California.

Leading off with "Neue Regel" from Rage for Order, Queensr˙che powered through five tracks from the record, mixing in rarely-played cuts such as "Chemical Youth (We Are Rebellion)" with old standbys like "Walk in the Shadows." Lead vocalist Geoff Tate, renowned for his operatic range, but criticized over the years for his spotty performances, was better this night than he has been on recent tours. Although still noticeably struggling on the high end of the older material, his delivery was strong and filled with conviction.

Following the first suite was an extended helping of Queensr˙che's new album, American Soldier. A conceptual work that tells of the experiences of soldiers in their own words, the material came across well in a live setting. Beginning with the album's first cut, "Sliver," guest vocalist/Navy veteran A.J. Fratto walked on stage bellowing a resounding "on your feet!" which the crowd of 650 enthusiastically obliged.

The new material clearly resonated with those in attendance, with hearty applause for most of the eight new tracks, including the epic "At 30,000 Ft.," and the touching father-daughter ballad "Home Again," which features a guest appearance by Tate's daughter, Emily.

Queensr˙che capped its first-ever visit to the city of Chico with a set of songs from its most successful and mainstream album, Empire. Along with Tate, remaining original band members Michael Wilton (guitar), Eddie Jackson (bass, vocals) and Scott Rockenfield (drums), supplemented by touring guitarist Parker Lundgren and keyboardist/guitarist/vocalist Jason Aimes, ran through many of the band's well known hits.

Crowd favorites such as "Best I Can," "Jet City Woman" and "Another Rainy Night (Without You)" received thunderous ovations, while long-time fans were also treated to a surprising rendition of "Resistance," which is being played for the first time since appearing as the opening number during Queensr˙che's "Building Empires" tour from 1990-1992.

Curiously, the band didn't interact with the crowd throughout much of the evening, with Jackson mostly in the background, and Wilton performing with his head down until he reared up to play the role of guitar hero during solo spots. Lundgren, only his fourth show with the band, respectfully represented departed original band member Chris DeGarmo, playing his rhythm parts well, adding in a solo or two.

Lack of interaction aside, Queensr˙che certainly proved it still has the power to captivate an audience for two hours, something noteworthy after 28 years as a band.

April 19, 2009
Senator Theatre
Chico, Calif.

- Brian Heaton

Queensr˙che performs live at The New Oasis, in Sparks, Nev. (July 25, 2009)
From left to right: Geoff Tate, Parker Lundgren, Eddie Jackson, Michael Wilton
and Scott Rockenfield. (Brian Heaton / April 19, 2009)

Copyright 2009, Brian Heaton. All Rights Reserved.