Gig review – Operation: Mindcrime at Highbury Garage, January 15, 2017
By STEVE MASCORD
IS shedding a tear different that crying? To satisfy the strictest definition of “crying”, do you need to make a sound, like “Whaaa! Whaaa! Whaaa!”
I wasn’t bawling, but I shed more than a few tears during the opening bars of “Breaking The Silence” during this performance of the entire Operation: Mindcrime album, 30 years after its release, by former Queensryche singer Geoff Tate.
I was going to write a review discussing the nature of our relationship with musicians we’ve observed from afar for decades but really, when it comes to this show, the most important barometer of its impact is these salty tears.
Where to they come from? Nostalgia? The chords themselves? The sentiments expressed in the lyrics? Even as I recreate the first few seconds of “Breaking The Silence” in my mind while I write this, I can feel goose bumps forming.
The Garage is far from full but it’s a much larger room than the Camden Underworld, where I last saw this show. I also saw it once in Jacksonville, when Tate was still calling his solo band Queensryche, and when he had an all-star line-up which must have been a drain on the bank balance.
Now, he’s clearly cut costs. Two members of the support band, fronted by his daughter Emily, are in the line-up. You can’t say there is a sense of anticipation in the air among a crowd of mostly middle-aged men. “It’s Monday night, this should be OK’ is the prevailing mood.
I’ve no idea how much of the music is pre-recorded or how much technology Tate, now 59, relies upon but the sound of tonight’s show is close to flawless.
I’m not going to review a 30-year-old album here but every track has power and emotional force. In the mid- to late-eighties there was a real feeling that America could be subject to a revolution led by people in their 20s – Guns N’Roses’ Izzy Stradlin openly predicted it one magazine interview.
The idea of a shadowy figure co-opting a drug addict to kill government figures seems a tad ridiculous now – but the songs still have enormous impact, especially during the golden trilogy of “Breaking The Silence”, “I Don’t Believe In Love” and “Eyes Of A Stranger”.
These are the moments when the central character becomes most introspective and despite the flight of fancy that underpins the whole story, this when the lyrics are most easily transposed to your life or mine.
I’ve listened to the album so many times that I’m conditioned to prepare for an elevated heartbeat when the first of these songs start. You are relishing the artificial anguish you are about to impose upon yourself. Every note, every key change; you willingly allow your entire disposition and emotional state to shift with them.
Some in the crowd cheer as if at a football match. Others close their eyes, clench their firsts, drift back to the eighties and the first time they heard Operation: Mindcrime on cassette. They still divide it into sides one and two.
Tate returns to the stage with “Best I Can”, “Silent Lucidity”, “Empire” and “Jet City Woman”. In the face of rapturous applause from a crowd that has now completely forgotten it’s Monday night, Tate gives a second encore, performing “Someone Else?” from Promised Land, accompanied only by piano.
Sometimes all the politics surrounding your favourite band, all the narratives and conceits, aging, hubris, the rest, have a tangible impact on performance and your enjoyment of a show.
And sometimes, like tonight, the music itself rises above all that.