First off, Queensryche fans, stop reading this review and go get this disc. It was made for you and you'll love it. Everyone else may want to know a little more about the band first.
Queensryche spent the 80's and 90's recording increasingly complex and epic albums of conceptual drama metal, sort of a mix of Iron Maiden and Rush. They dropped the make-up and poofy costumes much earlier than their peers and played the roles of the consummate professional musicians. They carried the flag of prog-art-rock straight through the grunge revolution and teen pop rebellion, and their most distinctive element, lead singer Geoff Tate's operatic voice, set them apart from the Motley Crues and Poisons of the world from the first note.
After a series of increasingly intricate albums they reached their commercial peak with 1988's concept album Operation Mindcrime and 1990's Empire. What may have stymied their progress, however, was their strict adherence to studio perfection and a sample-heavy production that limited the spontaneity of their live performances. (I saw a show on their Empire tour and they played Operation Mindcrime straight through, skits and all. It was fun but didn't leave you with the joy of live musicianship. A DVD of that show, called Operation Livecrime, is also available) still, there is something commendable about the Queensryche style. They take their music very seriously and, because of that, have never grown to look as silly as many of their contemporaries.
Queensryche: Live Evolution was the band's attempt to sum up their career to date in concert. They reached back into their early catalog and pulled songs that they hadn't played for years. Taped over two nights at Seattle's Moore Theater, Live Evolution is an effective overview. Early cuts like "Queen of the Reich" from the band's 1983 self titled debut EP bristle with raw energy, while Mindcrime's epic "Suite Sister Mary" soars from melodrama to guitar shredding, and Promised Land's "I Am I" has the majestic mix of power and melody that the band developed over time.
The concert can be watched in two ways: In the order that the show (presumably) was performed or in "suites", organized chronologically by album. I prefer the original running order since Queensryche is a band with a sense of drama and the build of the show works well. The suite order, however, gives a more specific sense of how the band's style has changed over time. I've included both title lists below.
As far as the performance goes, it is pretty pared down. The band (Tate, guitarists Michael Wilton and Kelly Gray, bassist Eddie Jackson, and drummer Scott Rockenfeld) all wear simple black outfits and the stage is adorned only with a couple of Queensryche logos and some fancy lights. The Moore Theater is an intimate setting and the small venue adds a closeness that rock shows don't usually have. A few too many shots of the band's pasty fans may have been included, but overall the simple approach works. Their performance is also toned down a notch. First off, original guitarist Chris De Garmo is gone (replaced by Gray). De Garmo had a strong hand in the musical direction of the band and wrote many of the songs performed here, including Queensryche's biggest hit, the delicate "Silent Lucidity".
Perhaps due to this key personnel change and the intervening years, they don't rage quite as hard as during earlier tours but they still sound fine. Fans will definitely enjoy Live Evolution and casual hard rock listeners will also find plenty to like.