Geoff Tate Operation: Mindcrime – Trillians, Newcastle upon Tyne, 16th January 2018

The 1980s was, for me anyway, a time when we saw the arrival of some outstanding bands and the release of so many great albums that quite how we kept up with the onslaught I’ll never know. Actually I do know …. some of us didn’t. I know that band mates raved about Queensryche and “Operation: Mindcrime” but for some reason it passed me by. To be honest I think it was the use of the rather disconcerting genre that is “prog”. Call it blinkers if you like (scared off by the early 70s monster that was Prog in all of it;s excess) or that I was just another Hair Metal kid (attracted by that 80s monster in all of its excess) but it did take me some time to realise that not only was I a fan but loved the album. So when this tour was announced, it was nailed on that not only was it not to be missed it was likely to be something special – Geoff Tate performing the album, in its entirety to celebrate 30 years since it was released. So could the night live up to the excitement I felt? Only time would tell.

Rocking up to Trillians, the sense of anticipation was palpable. For pity’s sake, there was a queue to get in. A freezing January night in Newcastle and there we were lining up waiting to get in. One thing was certain, we wouldn’t be cold inside but surely it would be far too full to see (and as for taking photographs, this could be a tricky one).  eventually we were in and more excited chatter amongst the crowd about the greatness of the album and how good the evening would be. Very quickly Till Death Do Us Part hit the stage. Featuring Emily Tate on vocals, the US/Scottish quartet brought their own brand of modern rock. With Emily clearly having learnt many tricks and techniques from her dad (yes, Geoff who would be with us later) their blend of intensity brought to mind a number of differing bands which, to me is a great sign – not one influence leading to the need to pigeonhole. Elements in Kieran Robertson’s guitar style reminded me of a number of classic bands whilst firmly being in the now. The one thing that was for certain, their brand of rock was a very comfortable fit to take the opening slot to the main attraction this evening with elements of progressiveness that would certainly appeal to fans of Operation: Mindcrime. Trust me on this one, it is always worth checking out support bands – they are there to be heard an, you know what, you will come across new bands that fill you with passion.

After a short gap, the strains of “I Remember Now” filled the air and the multinational band hit the stage. Half of Till Death Us Do Part (Kieran on guitar and Jack Ross on bass) made up the Scottish contingent, along with a Canadian, a Brazilian and a Sheffield native and as they crank up the opening blast of “Revolution Calling” the excitement rose and Mr Tate hit the stage and, we were presented with the story of Nikki from start to finish. Bew=tween song banter was never going to work with this kind of show and it was kept to a minimum and only at the spots that would make sense (so mostly at the end). Any fears about overcrowding went out the window – small venue maybe, sold out definitely but not uncomfortable and the sound was perfect. The guitarist in me started to get a bit jealous of the tone and sounds presented but, come on, we were here to see if Mr Tate could still “do it”. Absolutely no question in my opinion – the album works so well as a whole and it really did lift my love of the album to another level tonight.

A high spot had to be the somewhat mega “Suite Sister Mary” with Emily Tate joining her dad on stage to take the part of Mary. Epic is the only word for it – as one fellow reveller exclaimed “I’d forgotten how long it was. It filled the memory on my phone!”

As the final notes of “Eyes of a Stranger” echoed away, given the confines of a small club performance,  a clearly happy Geoff Tate explained they weren’t going to head off to have a quick beer whilst we chanted for more and went into the encore. “Silent Lucidity” proving that “Operation: Mindcrime” was never a one-off. Tate has so many great songs in his arsenal that prove this was no fluke, no one trick pony.

Strangely, in the build up/aftermath of the show I was aware of a number of “comments” regarding the choice and size of the venue. Here’s the rub, kids … night after night across the UK bands (of all sizes and reputations) play to one man and his dog (sometimes that would be me and Lemmy the labrador) whilst other bands play great big rooms which are many people away from even nearing 50% of capacity. I’m a great believer in playing a full house rather than saying we played such and such big venue (but no-one came). The promoters got this one spot on – great sound, great venue, fabulous atmosphere and a bunch of happy folks at the end of it.  What a blistering start to a new year of gig going – it could be a hard one to beat

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