SPEAK THE WORD
The word is all of us..
should be seeing this tour. Pay your respects to the 10 cassettes, 5 CDs and 2 vinyl records you wore out listening to the concept album that raised the bar for concept albums. Operation Mindcrime is performed in its entirety by the voice that gave you chills and serenaded your mind into a story that is foreshadowing even today's society. Cathy finds out what lies behind Goeff Tate's stare in the interview and review below.
by Cathy Rankin
October 10, 2018
I have a short list of my top “bucket list” interviews – there are only two names on it; Geoff Tate and Geddy Lee. Recently, one of those dream conversations came true, when I had the great pleasure of interviewing Geoff himself during his Operation Mindcrime - 30thAnniversary Tour – a day which I will vividly remember for the rest of my life!
I’ve been a fan of Geoff Tate and Queensryche’s music for over 30 years. I loved them before they even hit it big. So, when you are preparing for an interview with someone that you have been a fan of for years, it is a tricky thing. You want to be professional and ask great questions, but you can’t help but feel emotional, so your mind tends to play out how the conversation will go and what the person will be like, and rarely does that person ever live up to how you fantasize about it in your mind. But, when I met Geoff, not only did the conversation go better than I had hoped, but he exceeded everything I had imagined in my head.
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Upon walking into the room, the first thing you notice about Geoff is THAT presence. The guy just oozes X-Factor and genius. I don’t know how else to explain it! He is an intimidating presence from the moment he looks at you. He is very cool and collected, but you know that underneath there’s a lot going on, and his mind is observing everything around him. I expected that he might be a bit aloof – you can’t help but think of all the stories you’ve heard in the media about the breakup of Queensryche and of course there’s always been those that have said he is “difficult” or “different.” But in person, I can tell you this was just not the case. From the very beginning of the interview until the very end, he was absolutely charming, gracious, completely open and candid, articulate and funny. Yes, Geoff Tate is absolutely funny – the man has jokes! It started with the microphones – he immediately noticed the rather large size of our microphones, and before we even started our questions, he was laughing and bantering with myself and my producer, Roger, about those damn microphones as if we were a bunch of middle school kids. I was completely caught off guard by his sense of humor, and I knew right then and there this was going to be a great interview. Who would’ve thought Geoff Tate, the mysterious, dark, brooding Metal Idol would be so fun? When he told us the story about doing gymnastics (watch the interview!), I laughed even harder. I’m pretty sure this might be the only interview where he’s ever told that story, and it was awesome! Remind me never to listen to what other people say again, because you can judge someone all you want by the stories you hear, but until you are talking one on one with them, you really don’t know.
From that point on, Geoff was a delight and everything I hoped he would be. He is incredibly intelligent and measured in his responses. He takes the time to really listen to each question and consider each answer carefully. You can see he’s constantly thinking on both a macro AND micro level. I got the sense that this is a man who has seen and done it all, been to the heights of success and the depths of disappointment, and has walked away on his own terms to live life the way he wants. Sure, he may have his difficult moments and sides to his personality, but don’t we all? Of course he’s made mistakes – he’s human after all – but you also can’t deny that this is a guy who believes strongly in his art, and what he wants to say and how he wants to say it, and he’s not going to compromise that. If he did, he wouldn’t be Geoff Tate and he wouldn’t have been a crucial part of one of the most epic heavy metal/progressive rock bands EVER. We didn’t talk about the negative though, we focused on the legacy of his music and career, the power of his voice and the person BEHIND all that. I wanted to get a sense of Geoff Tate, the human being, not Geoff Tate the Rock Star, and I think that’s what we got. At the end of the day, Geoff is all about his family, and making some sort of difference through his work that he can feel good about.
As for the concert, it was incredible. I know there are the naysayers who think it isn’t Queensryche without the original lineup, but for me, a HUGE Queensryche fan, there is NOTHING that can top hearing Geoff Tate sing Operation Mindcrime from start to finish, which is exactly what he did. I don’t care who you are, there is no one better that can sing those songs, not even close. I’m not trying to take anything away from the other musicians who helped create the music, but at the end of the day, it is THAT voice, delivered with THAT emotion, that makes the music so gripping to me, and judging from the audience, I’m not the only one who felt that way. The crowd was on fire, singing loudly to every single word (I’m pretty sure I was singing the loudest!) and roaring at the beginning and end of every single song.
And trust me, Geoff knows what he’s doing – he’s surrounded himself with a young, energetic and incredibly talented band of musicians who were completely capable of handling their parts. From that very first hair-raising opening riff of Revolution Calling, the audience was gripped. Scott Moughton on guitar is a powerhouse who has been doing this over 40 years. He is a master of the instrument and the perfect cool and mysterious compliment to Geoff. Bruno Sa was the guy commanding the keys, synth, backing vocals and guitar – there’s nothing this guy can’t do or play, and his huge personality on stage kept he audience hyped up. Then there was the sexy duo of Kieran Robertson on guitar and Jack Ross on bass. These two young players are ones to watch – Kieran has a little bit of angry Scottish punk in him and commands the stage with such an intense energy that you feel like something bad AND good is about to happen at all times, and Jack counteracts that perfectly with his more chill, but purposeful vibe. They pack a great punch playing off each other and playing to the crowd, and I’m not going to lie, they’re pretty sexy to look at, too. And then there’s Josh Watts on drums – besides Geoff, this guy was the standout for me. I was shocked at how young he was and thought that he would have his hands full trying to power through Operation Mindcrime in its entirety, but WOW, this guy was incredible! He not only handled the complex technical aspects of these legendary songs, but he put on a great show with his playing style, as well – he’s one of those long, lean drummers who makes it looks so effortless. Maybe I’m partial to drummers because my sister (who attended with me) was a heavy metal drummer – but I couldn’t help but watch Josh when I wasn’t watching Geoff. He is a guy that can go far in this business, in my humble opinion, and again, I can’t lie, he’s incredibly easy on the eyes, as well!
To round out the band, there was Emily Tate. Yes, Geoff’s daughter Emily, who I remember seeing on one of his past tours when she was only 11 years old and so shy that she had to hold her Dad’s hand on stage, is now a beautiful young woman who not only was gifted with her Dad’s vocal talent, but has quite a commanding stage presence herself. She is far from shy, that’s for sure, as she comes out and fronts the band to open for her Dad, which is no easy task, and then sings the part of Mary during Operation Mindcrime. Imagine the pressure of being Geoff’s daughter! But, the audience loved her and encouraged this young talent as she is finding her own voice and her own persona on stage. It was really special to see Dad and Daughter singing together, you can just sense the love and pride between them. And when she wasn’t playing, she was helping sell merchandise – I had a chance to chat with her before the show as I bought a couple shirts, how cool is that!?
Last but not least, there was Geoff. Can he still sing? Can he still hit those notes and handle the material from start to finish? The answer is, you bet he can! I was shocked at how strong his voice was. Not that I expected anything less, but still, the vocal chords are a fragile instrument and I’ve seen a lot of great frontmen who have a hard time with their voices later in their careers, but Geoff is not one of them. He’s smart about it, he picks and chooses which moments to display his upper range, which is probably what keeps him so strong. But, when he does display it, it is as chilling and cuts through the room and to your soul as much now as it did 30 years ago. Clearly he’s kept his voice in shape. He was an absolute powerhouse and sang each song almost exactly how I remembered it from when I saw Queensryche open for Metallica in the 80s (where Queensryche stole the show). I can’t tell you how many chills I got throughout this show. I couldn’t believe I was listening to this music 30 years later and loving it even more this time around. But Geoff sings with such emotion and such a powerful presence, he doesn’t really need to do much other than look out at the crowd and belt those notes and lines, and you’re just mesmerized. It is as if he puts his soul into every word - there’s just not many people in music that can make me feel songs the way he does, other than Geddy Lee of RUSH.
After the show was done, the crowd was still basking in the glow of hearing what is one of the best albums ever produced by one of the greatest powerhouse singers EVER. Every song was perfection, and everyone was happy. My sister and I ran into the band outside by the bus and had a really fun conversation with them. Just regular guys talking music and life, and when I got in my car to go home, I honestly felt it was one of the best nights of my life. I met one of my two biggest musical inspirations, and it exceeded every expectation I ever had. THAT is all a music fan could ever ask for…..
The Operation Mindcrime tour is now in Europe, but if you see any dates come up for the U.S.again, do yourself a favor and go see this show. It is worth every penny and I don’t know that Geoff will ever do this album in its entirely again – it is NOT something you want to miss!