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(Live Review) QUEENSRYCHE + ARMORED SAINT - Rockford, IL, 4/9/24


The Beard & Little Johnny


Good evening friends, fans, and followers. It is your metal review team The Beard & Little Johnny and we are reporting from show #19 and bands #66-67 of our 2024 season. This evening, we are at the Coronado Theater in Rockford, IL for Queensryche, with special guests Armored Saint.



Although Little Johnny is sad that we are attending at a venue without a general admission mosh pit area, the Beard is quite content to be up in the balcony and away from the chaos in a comfortable chair with drink in hand. Johnny says the Beard has lost his edge, but I prefer to think of myself as a sager wiser Beard who doesn’t need the insanity of swinging elbows to enjoy myself. I have told my diminutive cohort that, “with age comes wisdom and the allowance of a certain degree of comfort.” His reply, “We’re at a metal concert, not high tea with the bloody Queen of England ya wine swilling pansypants!”



Kicking off the evening was a band that may be the most loyal metal group out there, Armored Saint.

Armored Saint have been around for over forty years now and have been doing it with largely the same lineup. Vocalist John Bush, guitarist Phil Sandoval, bassist Joey Vera and drummer Gonzo Sandoval have all been around since the beginning. Only Jeff Duncan, (who joined when original guitarist Dave Prichard passed away in 1990) is newer having started in 1989. This lineup makes Armored Saint one of the most legitimate long lasting metal bands of all time. What makes them the most loyal is that both singer John Bush & bassist Joey Vera at separate times had offers to ditch Armored Saint and join Metallica and both men turned down the offer choosing to remain in Armored Saint.


Although having moderate success in the mid 1980’s with their first few releases, ultimately Armored Saint are another in the long list of couda, shoula, woulda, metal bands with full-on success always eluding them, although they have made a decent living off festivals and supporting act slots while actually releasing ten plus albums over the last four decades. This will be the Beard's first time seeing their act. 


Playing classical music for an entrance is a little different for a metal show but works for them as they got a nice crowd pop when they hit the stage. I have to say the look was a bit odd. John Bush was dressed like he rushed to the gig straight from painting a house. The rest of the guys at least looked metal. Armored Saint does have a good sound though. Obviously, they are practiced and tight given it has been the same guys for four decades. Bush may not look metal, but he can still hit a high note. His voice has that Anthrax resemblance “of course” (given he was their lead singer from 1992-97 during a time of Armored Saint's inactivity), so that was what kept jumping in my mind. This did not detract from their grade.


The Sandoval brothers are great on the guitar and drums. This was a steady dose of early 1980’s style heavy metal that foreshadowed a lot of where the power metal genre would go especially on tracks like "March of the Saint" & "Can You Deliver". Their set did mix a lot of different eras including material from both 1990s releases Symbol of Salvation & Revelation, and current material from Punching the Sky (2020) All in all I am a surprising, but solid 87/100 for my first Armored Saint experience.

Little Johnny report: They are all old, but they still play some music you can jump around to. If you would book us a venue where we could actually do that I mean.


Next up, the mighty Queensryche.

Headliners Queensryche already delivered one of 2024’s best sets last month as night two headliners at the Hell's Heroes metal festival. Longtime original members guitarist Michael Wilton and bassist Eddie Jackson have enjoyed amazing success from 1983-2012 with original vocalist Geoff Tate, then survived through one of the nastier breakups in rock, including a long lawsuit that saw Wilton/Jackson retain the right to the Queensryche name ,while ceding Operation Mindcrime & Empire material largely to Geoff Tate.


Following the split, they hired former Crimson Glory singer Todd La Torre in 2012 and he has been wailing away for them the past decade through four newer albums (although none have reached anywhere near the success of the Tate era.) On this current tour, they are mining the early era material and performing the Queensryche four-track EP and initial album The Warning in their entirety. These songs reflected a rawer structure and more straightforward metal approach which the band would move away from in their subsequent releases, adopting more of a metal opera sound. Tonight’s entire set was like time traveling back to attending a show between 1983-85 (which brought the Beard back to his 17–19-year-old self.)



The Ep material:

"Queen of the Ryche": of course, begins with that amazing scream that introduced me to the band forty years ago. Latorre can certainly get there, but right away I noticed a lot of sustain on his screams. He was done and the mic pulled away while the scream lingered in the air for about two more seconds.

"Nightrider": was rather good, and that is not one that often gets played, so it was fun to hear it live.

"Blinded": was particularly good. Once again Latorre CAN get his voice up for the screams. The sustain was a bit distracting to me, but someone on sound must have thought it sounded good because they stuck with it. I would have shortened it and just let his voice stand on its own. It is good enough that he doesn’t really need help.

"The Lady Wore Black". While Latorre can probably get his voice more consistently higher with vibrato, Geoff Tate is still THE voice on songs like this one where less metal and more operatic quality is the key.

Queensryche the band comes off WAY more metal than Tate's band, although I was not in love with the sound mix. In Houston on an open-air stage, their sound was better than in a 2400 seat theater. Inside, the low end was too loud, and the bass drum was overwhelming everything else.


The Warning tracks:

Todd Latorre does absolutely nail "The Warning". On this song if you close your eyes, he is Geoff Tates doppelganger.

"En Force": I am just not familiar enough with that one to properly evaluate it vs. Tate’s original version. It rocks though and musically it was good.

"Deliverance": Great Wilton solo on this one. Even more than the vocals, this was a standout guitar track.

"No Sanctuary": Best Latorre track vocally. This combines the metal and the operatic without too much of the histrionics of continued sustained high notes. Latorre gives this one the passion needed to bring it in.

"Take Hold of the Flame": This was one of only two songs in both Geoff Tates & Queensryche set lists. Thus, one of the few direct comparison opportunities. My thoughts - one, the sustain on this one was overdone. The notes are still going seconds after Latorre has moved on. Tate does it cleaner, but he does not “go for it” as much. I think Geoff is content to get it 80% there each night while Todd knows this is a defining moment in fans’ minds. I.E., can he hit this. How well does he hit this? That is what I define as the Mistress vs the Wife syndrome. One person is trying to live up to the legend. The other was (and in some ways still is) the legend. Honestly, Queensryche got the better fan pop on this particular song.

"Before the Storm": Honestly, I was writing notes on the last song and kind of missed this one.

"Child of Fire": Once again a Wilton guitar song. With all the talk about the singer comparison, one forgets Michael Wilton is Queensryche in the same way Neal Schon IS Journey. Despite the never-ending debate over Steve Perry vs Arnel Pineda. We talk endlessly about the singers, but a lot of the songs are just as successful because of the music and Wilton is a huge component of that.

"Road to Madness": This was a nod to where Queensryche was heading back in the day and this almost ten-minute operatic number was solid in closing the initial set.

Where in Houston, they made a bad choice in selecting "Empire" as one of the encore numbers, (which did not work as that exposed Latorres' weakness vs Tate's strength), pulling out the early era "Prophecy" stayed in Latorre's wheelhouse and sounded good. They have been switching up the final encore song over the tour choosing different ones off Operation Mindcrime. This time they selected the title track, but once again this version of "Operation Mindcrime" still was not as good as Tate's and that meant ending the night with one of the weaker tracks of the set.

First off, because of the sound issues, and too much sustain on all the high notes, I am giving the set itself an 88/100. As far as the act comparison (Geoff Tate band vs Queensryche), they smartly do not often overlap allowing both sides to play to their strengths. I think Queensryche, the band, musically is stronger than the Geoff Tate band, but far trickier is the singer comparison.


My understanding is the two have met twice and reportedly have no issues with each other. Tate complimented Latorres' singing, and Latorre accorded Tate his props as the innovator of the Queensryche sound vocally. That might be the slim area I make my lean. While I believe Todd Latorre can absolutely front Queensryche, I also believe you could drop him into Iron Maiden, or Helloween and he would STILL be good enough to pull it off.


I believe Latorre is an extraordinarily talented vocalist who can do a wide range of styles well. Geoff Tate though I think IS the Queensryche sound and therefore is the best at it. I would NOT however drop him into any band that does not have that sound because I do not think he would mesh with it. Tate is infinitely talented vocally, but he is tied to a sound that is defined as “his.” Like Ozzy or Lemmy or even Bon Scott, an iconic voice can be limiting to where it belongs. Without wanting it to seem a detrimental statement, Latorre is a chameleon and Tate is the original.


So, that wraps up show number #19 and bands #66-67. We still have a lot more shows to cover in April, so stay tuned each Wednesday and Thursday at The Mighty Decibel for our weekly review columns. Remember to check out our TIKTOK site at thebeard0728 for all the video goodness, and friend or follow Mark McQueen on Facebook for all the non-metal reviews.

Until next time this is the Beard, and Little Johnny saying ...

Stay Heavy & Horns Up!!!


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