Geoff Tate has always been a bit of a round peg in a square hole. Or is it square peg in a round hole? Nonetheless. In the early 80’s fronting Queensryche he seemed as good a fit as any for a burgeoning metal singer. He certainly had the pipes. But as the decade progressed and the image of an 80’s metal singer started to take shape, Geoff seemed more and more like a fish out of water. With the release of 1988’s Operation Mindcrime, Queensryche made a clean cut from any hair metal ties as they dove into the world of conceptual record masterpieces and a sort of prog rock sound. In other words. They were smarter than any of their contemporaries.
Not smarter in a “they knew what they were doing” sort of rock n roll coolness sense. I mean smarter as in they can calculate a tip without a calculator. With Mindcrime I got the impression that the shackles for Geoff were off. An oddly intellectual nerd in a world filled with obnoxious laughter and peroxide had to wear on him. And my guess that new found comfort lead to confidence which eventually lead to a schism between him and the rest of Queensryche. Leading to his ultimate dismissal and resulting lawsuits.
I’ve never met the man but my gut feeling is that he is an obnoxious oddball. But my gut also tells me he’s a very genuine person. What you see is what you get. He was on That Metal Show shortly after the aforementioned schism. And his response to Eddie Trunk asking about the now infamous spitting incidence was, for me anyway, Geoff Tate gold. (Watch it. You won’t regret it.) And that one response sums up Geoff Tate. Unapologetic. A tad smug. And oddly cocky. And there is something eerily honest about his smile. I can’t explain it.
Oh! He can fucking sing yo. Which is the reason I found myself at the Amsterdam Bar and Hall in Saint Paul on a Wednesday night. Geoff is currently on The Whole Story Tour playing his songs from his entire career in an acoustic storytellers type of setting. I’ve seen a couple of these and it’s typically the singer and a guitar player. Geoff had something grander in mind. Backed with a backing band of two acoustic guitar players, a percussionist and a violinist. They walked out with no introduction or opening act and performed two hours of beautifully rearranged Queensryche/Geoff Tate music. It couldn’t have sounded better. I really hope they are recording one of these.
Opening with “Walk In The Shadows” from Rage For Order was a surprise. And it sounded so good. Everything did. And what a set list. After seeing it I’m not sure I would change a thing about it. Maybe a little more from Mindcrime but even the handful of songs I was less familiar with sounded like the perfect song for the moment. Throughout the night Geoff would share some stories of the time or the song that weren’t so much insightful as much as they were haughty musings of an accomplished raconteur. And I don’t mean that as a shot. I mean that’s exactly what I want from my favorite square peg.
It can’t be easy to be Geoff Tate. He seems happy enough mind you. But he clearly has higher aspirations than his core fan base. This was an evening of elegance. Of tact. Grace and sophistication. Not the night to shout from the back of the room “Want a shot, Geoff?” While Geoff can’t and probably wouldn’t say it, I will. A significant portion of this crowd didn’t deserve the show they got. If wearing a clean jacket and an outfit that looked remotely put together was too much work. If appearing showered and groomed was too much to ask before heading out for this show. Then this show was too much for you. And that’s where I think it can be difficult to be Geoff Tate. Because of his success with Queensryche, a band that fairly or not is still largely lumped in with the Poisons and W.A.S.P.s of the world, a certain percentage of his crowd is going to be people who won’t really get the “Not Lima, Peru. Lima, Ohio” joke.
But as with everything he handled it with grace as his amazing backing band performed a meticulous set. Having a little fun for the first encore with a spot on rendition of the Dropkick Murphys “I’m Shipping Up To Boston”. During his setup to the show closer “Around The World” something happened to the lead guitarists connection. Rather than throw a nutty or lamely fall off into the night the band picked up the slack. Cranked out the song and took a bow. Well done gents.
I couldn’t have asked for more. From the band to the PA, to the man himself. Everything sounded amazing. Geoff is still a once in a generation talent. His voice may sound a little older but it’s never been stronger. At times it was just a pleasure to be able to hear him sing in a smaller room. To hear ambitious arrangements of songs like “Take Hold of the Flame” and “Lady Wore Black” made me reimagine my childhood.
This show is out now and runs into April. If you are a fan of Queensryche I highly recommend taking it in if you can. And if you do I implore you. Take a shower. Put on a clean coat. Give this band and this evening the respect it warrants. We can all take a break from being slobs for a few hours, can’t we?
Walk in the Shadows
Another Rainy Night (Without You)
Some People Fly
Jet City Woman
Chasing Blue Sky
Until There Was You
Out of Mind
Take Hold of the Flame
The Lady Wore Black
Hundred Mile Stare
I Don’t Believe in Love
Eyes of a Stranger
I’m Shipping Up to Boston
Around the World