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June 4, 2020

Queensryche Sings the Queen City Blues [Album Review]

By Brian Heaton

Like many Queensryche fans, particularly us “old schoolers” from the 1980s and early 1990s, I'm an avid collector of the original lineup's live shows. Because the quality and recording sources of these bootlegs vary greatly, however, I haven't been inspired to write reviews of any new ones that have surfaced over the last few years. Until now, that is.

Queensryche's performance at the Cincinnati Gardens, in Cincinnati, Ohio, on November 13, 1991, has been issued by Zodiac 360 on silver CD. Simply titled Operation: LIVEcrime November 1991 DAT Master, I can't validate the claim of it being sourced straight from the show's official digital audio tape recording, but I can say the music and vocals sound crystal clear and the release is wonderful snapshot of the last few months of the band's legendary Building Empires world tour.

Among the highlights of the CD are beautiful renditions of “Della Brown” and “Last Time in Paris” as part of Queensryche's encore (along with “Silent Lucidity”) in the Queen City. Showcasing the bluesy elements of the band's sound, the tunes didn't get regular play from the band on the other legs of the Building Empires tour but were featured prominently on the setlist as the 18-month trek came to an end.

What stands out most in listening back to this show from 29 years ago, is the precision Queensryche had. Very few bands can deliver with the kind of steadiness Queensryche did on this tour. The stop in Cincinnati was the band's third 2.5-hour headlining show in a row, at the tail end of the largest album support run Queensryche ever had, and Chris DeGarmo, Eddie Jackson, Scott Rockenfield, Geoff Tate, and Michael Wilton all played flawlessly.

That's not to say you couldn't hear some fatigue in the performance—indeed, the energy level, at least to this hardcore fan, was slightly lower in comparison to other shows I've heard from the tour. But put me on the floor Cincinnati Gardens, and I likely wouldn't have noticed any difference. It has been said many times that Queensryche was a “well oiled machine” back in 1991, delivering with "stunning consistency, line after line, time after time." This unedited, raw recording certainly proves it.

Sadly, the release does not contain the full concert—the entire first part of Queensryche's show is missing. But unlike many silver CD-pressed bootlegs, time was spent to get the artwork for this time period accurate. The imagery on the front and back cover, along with the CD tray and inner liner note are all from the Empire and Operation: LIVEcrime eras. In addition, the CD is individual numbered as a limited edition. It's a completely professional looking package.

Of course, it goes without saying that I'm not advocating that anyone buy this CD, which is clearly an unauthorized bootleg. I would urge readers to purchase Queensryche's officially-released live offerings, particularly the amazing Operation: LIVEcrime, Building Empires (the latter features a ton of live videos in addition to the band's catalog of regular music videos), and the 20th anniversary re-issues of Operation: Mindcrime and Empire. Each of those contain a portion of an entire live show from November 15, 1990, in London (an unedited and brilliant raw recording), which can be re-sequenced on your media player in the proper running order of the concert.

If you happen to be able to acquire this November 1991 show from Cincinnati, however, it will make an excellent addition to your collection of live Queensryche albums.

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