Geoff Tate - Empire Hall, Belfast

Review: Geoff Tate’s Operation: Mindcrime – Empire Music Hall, Belfast

Operation: Mindcrime is the current band of former Queensrÿche frontman Geoff Tate. The band has been celebrating the 30th anniversary of Queensrÿche’s hit album, and Operation: Mindcrime’s namesake, 1988’s Operation: Mindcrime. It’s a critically acclaimed progressive metal rock opera that tells the story of Nikki, a drug addict that is manipulated into killing political leaders as part of an underground revolution.

Support came in the form of two very different packages. First up were local Antrim metal heads Conjuring Fate. The band came on stage, backs to the crowd, and synchronised a turn to the first chord of ‘Our Darkest Days’, a mood-setting beginning to their set. The show was explosive with energy thanks to driving drums, ripping riffs, and blistering solos which all came together to create Conjuring Fate’s classic monstrous heavy metal sound. Guitarist Karl Gibson often stole the show with his enthusiasm, and it’s hard not to have a great time when someone on stage is enjoying his so much.

The second round of support came from dark alt-metal band Till Death Do Us Part. The band played through a subtler, more modern rock set with interesting synth layers. At first it was difficult to place why an alt-metal band would be supporting Operation: Mindcrime, however it was eventually explained that lead vocalist Emily was actually Emily Tate, Geoff’s daughter. Emily related a story of her previous experience at the Empire Music Hall, in which she helped sell merch and is now on stage performing, an inspiring sight as she confidently fronted the band and bantered with the crowd.

The main set began with the band coming on stage, complete with guitarist and bassist of Till Death Do Us Part. The 5-piece band stood and waited with coy smiles while the pre-recorded theatrical intro to Operation: Mindcrime, ‘I Remember Now’ played over the speakers. This led into the heavy marching beat and ascending guitar of the instrumental musical intro to the album, ‘Anarchy-X’.

Once the intros were complete, the band started in to the first full-length track of the album with the uniting chanter ‘Revolution Calling’. Shortly after it’s own intro, Geoff joined the 5-piece band on stage to a barrage of cheer. Any worry that the band couldn’t reach the heights of Queensrÿche’s heyday were quickly brushed aside as the band played as tight as the original recording of the album. It was great seeing a veteran frontman like Geoff in action, with his larger than life persona lending to a strong stage presence that allowed him to lead the crowd.

Next up was the titular track ‘Operation: Mindcrime’, another chanter that showed the band’s skill and the crowd’s willingness to be part of the set. Moving on from the previous two stompers is the faster and more dark hymn-like headbanger ‘Speak’. Geoff had some nice interplay with the crowd on this track as he sang “Speak the word”, pointed the microphone to the crowd, and received a “the word is all of us”.

Keeping the speed going is ‘Spreading the Disease’, a track that brought soaring vocals that showed Geoff’s voice to be as powerful as ever. The song ended with some unique heavy tomwork on the drums. Following this ‘The Mission’ began with one of the more sombre moments so far with a clean arpeggio intro, building into another epic and moody metal track with lightning sharp guitar solos and electric lead guitar lines.

Next up is the epic 10-minute centrepiece of the album ‘Suite Sister Mary’, another track with a melancholic intro. The song has some spectacular choral embellishments thanks to keyboardist Bruno Sa. Much like ‘The Mission’ this track builds into a shrieking metal journey. Tate’s daughter Emily returned to the stage to sing integral character Sister Mary’s verses. Tate eventually held Emily’s hand up to receive another round of cheer from the crowd before she left the stage. This track marked the halfway point of the album and I had only realised that banter with the crowd was kept to a minimum so far, though Geoff would often shake the hands of crowd members, I took this to be a step in keeping the pace and integrity of the album.

This was followed by a track I was strongly anticipating, unrelentless heavy metal racer ‘The Needle Lies’. The headbanging was out in full force for this as the band sped through the riffs and solos.

Brief ominous death instrumental ‘Electric Requiem’ gave way to ‘Breaking the Silence’ which amped up the mournful tone but kept the melancholic theme of the second half of the album going. This lead to the hit single ‘I Don’t Believe in Love’. Geoff again played with the audience’s knowledge, allowing them to sing the chorus. This was the loudest moment of the night as almost everyone in the concert hall chanted “I don’t believe in love”, with Geoff joining in for “I never have, I never will”. Bruno Sa lifted a guitar for this song, totalling three guitarists rocking at once, allowing longtime Operation: Mindcrime guitarist Scott Moughton to duel with fresh-faced Till Death Do Us part guitarist Kieran Robertson. The cleaner, solemn ‘Waiting for 22’ followed this, with the end of the album drawing near.

Another sombre moment came during ‘My Empty Room’, my personal favourite of the shorter tracks. The brief number ended with a heavy and almost Floydian lead guitar line that grabbed the crowd before easing them into the final track, the fan favourite ‘The Eyes of a Stranger’. The solos in this track were highly anticipated and the band delivered with another dual guitar solo. The song ended with an explosion of sound that took elements from previous tracks of the set that erupted into a frenzy of noise.

With the album finished, Operation: Mindcrime left the stage and a steady roar emerged from the crowd, drawing in the encore. On return Geoff briefly outlined the next song and bantered with the crowd, a first as he described the next song as having “many meanings to a lot of different people… it’s a song about dreams” to which Scott Moughton began the beautiful opening arpeggio of ‘Silent Lucidity’. Geoff again got the crowd to sing along with the choir-like “Iiiiii” in the chorus, gaining his response of “will be watching over you”. It was a lovely experience with the entirety of the Empire Music Hall joining together as a brief choir in such an inspiring and hair raising song.

The next track in the encore was hilariously fitting for the venue. ‘Empire’ was another epic prog metal track with stomping, busy instrumentation that built into a fever at the end. The final encore track came after some final banter from Geoff as he thanked the crowd for their time, giving way to the rumbling steady bass that rolled through the uproar of the crowd: ‘Jet City Woman’. Guitars then soared and wailed before coming down to a clean arpeggio accompanied by Geoff’s verse, leading in to a runway of a pre-chorus with the guitars building to take off again at the chorus as Geoff sang “Jet City” and the crowd met it with a yelled “Woooooomaaaaaan”. The track ended to a hail of applause and cheer.

Operation: Mindcrime’s Operation: Mindcrime 30th Anniversary Tour was an amazing show worth experiencing. The chance to see such a classic and influential prog metal album played in its entirety is rare, and not one to be passed up on. I had heard some negative comments on Operation: Mindcrime regarding sloppy playing and failing voices, but that is definitely not the show I saw and is something I can only jot down to animosity towards Geoff. The show was definitely a fan-pleasing, epic journey that captured the spirit of the album all too well, and one I’d highly recommend.