Rows of blinding strobe lights and huge glowing video screens, one in the shape of a human ear, mesmerized the crowd at the Queensryche concert. But despite this onslaught on the senses, nothing could disguise the muddy sound of the music.
Queensryche, 16 years since they began, played for a small, faithful following. Its tour follows the release of its sixth full-length album, "Hear in the Now Frontier." However, the band took few chances with new material, relying on hits from older albums to please the crowd for more than an hour and a half.
Opening with older songs "Inside," "Empire" and "Jet City Woman," Queensryche then introduced a song from the latest album, "You." Unfortunately, the band's basic rock music lacked clarity and even sounded distorted at times. It was especially disappointing when the vocals sounded muted, since lead singer Geoff Tate's signature wail defines the otherwise unoriginal music.
Guitarists Chris DeGarmo and Michael Wilton, bassist Eddie Jackson, and drummer Scott Rockenfield played well together, but without imagination or musical risk. The maintained energy throughout the show, but not enough to keep the crowd consistently excited.
Heavy use of lights and video screens are also a Queensryche trademark, but the show was particularly blinding. During the songs "I Am I" and "Damaged," the flickering of powerful strobes made it difficult to focus on the stage. Queensryche used many video clips from the last tour, or at least clips so similar that it was difficult to notice any difference, leading one fan to remark, "This is the same as it was two years ago."
The video screens gave the concert the quality of a television show. While the screens highlighted Tate's dramatic facial expressions and gestures -- easily lost in a large venue -- they also masked the over-all low-energy performance, which depended on the videos and lights to carry the show.
Despite these problems, Tate added a personal touch by taking time to talk to the mostly middle-aged fans between many of the songs, helping to unite a crowd dwarfed by Darien Lake's capacity. Among his jokes was a reference to the giant ear behind him, the symbol of the album, as a "remnant from a Mike Tyson fight."
Strong songs included "Mission" and an acoustic version of "Killing Words," both of which sounded clearer than most songs. Crowd pleasers included "Revolution Calling" and "I Don't Believe in Love." From the new album, the band also introduced "Reach" and "Some People Fly."
During radio hit "Silent Lucidity," the vocals and guitar were comparatively strong and clear, but the band's typical theatrics went into temporary autopilot, diminishing the mystical quality of the song. Playing an up-tempo, straightforward version of the song, the potential musical drama was lost.
The crowd's attention drifted during the surprisingly anti-climactic final number "Eyes of a Stranger." But when the show ended, the crowd revived and rallied for more. Queensryche closed with songs from the new album, including a strong version of their social commentary, "Sign of the Times."
Veterans of the heavy rock scene
Wednesday night in Darien Lake Performing Arts Center