After a successful run of Summer shows as part of the all-star cast of Avantasia’s ‘Moonglow’ tour, Geoff Tate managed to squeeze in a handful of ‘Greatest Hits’ UK tour dates. An appearance at Stonedeaf Festival was supplemented with a string of regional dates, including tonight’s gig in the stunning setting of Oran Mor. The majestic exterior lets everyone know that it was once a parish church, and if ever there was a rock vocalist best suited to a venue like this, then it has to be Geoff Tate.
Accompanying Tate on the short burst of dates, are opening act, the rapidly rising Gin Annie. Hailing from Wolverhampton, the five piece are ever so slightly moving on up on the outside rail as a band to look out for. Extremely confident onstage, the band have quickly gained a reputation as a go-to opening act. When you see their name on a bill, you know that you will be in for a short set of hook-laden, fist-pumping anthems, and tonight is no different.
It’s always a good sign when an opening act begin their set, and the material is familiar enough to have the crowd mouthing the words. ‘New Bad Habit’ is a corker of an opener, full of sizzling riffs and the all-important melodic hooks. Heads are bobbing and there are plenty of approving nods from those who have witnessed Gin Annie before. The kind of “told you they were bloody good” nods. David Foster is an amiable frontman, and it’s almost like he is on a mission to make eye contact with every punter in the venue. The same could be said of the frontline made up of guitarists Byron Garbett and Brian Green, and bassist Phill ‘Hammer’ Burrows, as lively a bunch as you are likely to encounter. Drummer Jack Ryland-Smith is hard to see amidst a wall of blue lights, but he is certainly making himself heard, especially during the tub-thumping ‘Fallin’’. Before long, the short set is brought to a conclusion with the chest-beating ‘Born To Rock ‘n’ Roll’; job done. After a few high profile opening slots, next time has to be a headliner surely?
It’s a very relaxed looking Geoff Tate that takes to the stage amidst howls of approval from the crowd. Most of them have been with Tate for some time now, and you can tell that it’s still a thrill for them as soon as his vocals kick in. His voice, also known as “THE voice”, is as potent today as it was all those decades ago when Tate first toured the UK with Queensryche. No signs of age, or wear and tear, when he reaches for the high notes; he finds them with ease.
Billed as a “Greatest Hits” tour, the format is different from the last few “Operation Mindcrime” tours. There it was a case of playing the seminal ‘Operation Mindcrime’ album in its entirety, followed by an encore made up with tracks from the ‘Empire’ album. Tonight, Tate dips into his songbook, and his enviable back catalogue, for a romp through the years. Reaching as far back as 1983 for ‘The Lady Wore Black’ from the debut Queensryche EP, the 1984 debut full length album ‘The Warning’, for the likes of ’Take Hold Of The Flame’ and ‘Before The Storm’, as well as stopping off at sophomore album ‘Rage For Order’ for ‘Neue Regel‘, ‘Screaming In Digital’ and ‘I Dream In Infrared’. This was a lesson in giving the hardcore fans a night to remember.
Obviously ‘Operation Mindcrime’ plays a major part within the set, you don’t omit tracks from one of the greatest Metal albums of all time. You simply don’t. A game-changing album, Mindcrime is represented by the title track, followed in the same running order as the album by ‘Speak’, ‘Spreading The Disease’ and ‘The Mission’, with bonafide classics ‘I Don’t Believe In Love’ and ‘Eyes Of A Stranger’ following on towards the end of the set. Encore time brings the first visit to the triple-platinum selling ‘Empire’ album; ‘Silent Lucidity’ is as emotional as it has ever been, 28 years and counting, and it can still drop a charging rhino; then the familiar opening strains of ‘Jet City Woman’ ring out and the audience know that their singing voices will be required. How do you top those two? With ‘Eyes Of A Stranger’ of course, that’s how!
As always, Tate has assembled a fine band that is a mixture of both youth and experience. Alongside him he has local boys Kieran Robertson and Jack Ross, Walter Cianciusi and Dario Parente from Italian metal band Headless, and none other than powerhouse drummer Felix Bohnke from Edguy and Avantasia. With each all having other commitments, rehearsal time must be thin on the ground, but you wouldn’t think that if you were to catch them live.
Geoff Tate, still the most potent voice in Rock music today.
Review and images – Callum Scott