Live | Geoff Tate [Headless & Leksi] – Zeche, Bochum [DE]
2 April 2023
It is time: In these troubling times of uproar, revolution is calling. France is burning as millions take to the streets day after day to rise against the current political situation. Situations caused by misjudgement, imposed restrictions and the loss of freedom for the people. Ruled by the almighty Dollar, the elites find themselves richer than ever while poverty reigns amidst the general population. We’re mislead, and they are spreading the disease outsourced by their mainstream media outlets.
Never has there been a more appropriate time for the iconic Queensrÿche masterpiece `Operation: Mindcrime’ to be performed in its entirety again onstage. The story about the protagonist Nikki lying in near catatonic state in hospital unable to remember the past. With a sudden slow flood of his memories recurring, Nikki’s Heroin addiction and political radical standings start to build his story and concept of Geoff Tate’s pillar of modern heavy metal. Political and religious demagogue fused to his uproar and outcry for equality are easily placed over the current state of the world. Geoff Tate is taking his brainchild to the streets on this 35th anniversary of the album’s chartbusting release.
Changing opening slots on the current tour Geoff Tate saw support act Mark Daly departing the tour because he went back in the studio recording his next EP. Daly is replaced by Leksi, in my opinion also a better match to the running bill as main man Alex ‘Leksi’ Hart manoeuvres in more comparable sonic territory as Geoff Tate and Headless. His refreshing take on progressive rock and metal is at times gloaming, atmospheric and eclectic. The multi-talented artist is also known for his participation with Geoff onstage and also brings Geoff Tate’s rhythm section to the stage. Bass player Jack Ross and drummer Daniel Laverde take duties in Leksi alongside Hart who relays to his vocal performance, while Geoff Tate guitarist James Brown is accompanied by Alex ‘Leksi’ Hart’s recording guitarist Amaury Altmeyer.
Dimmed lights and low lumen create a darker atmosphere in which Leksi’s music comes across very well. It is atmospheric and driven, with Hart’s vocals powerful and clean. The ambient subtone is present with the guitars in fine-tuned balance, plucking and riffing out. Lush structured melancholic songs with rich guitar toning and sweep picking over the progressive guitar and bass interplay. There’s a spooky pulse often amplified by storming guitars and Hart powering up on the vocals, wild banging to the powerful groove. Distorted guitar notes die out and are seamless incorporated with sound effects and ambient droning tones. Especially powerful Leksi is the live rendition of the progressive ,,Pulse” with its jagged blunt riffs and polyrhythmic changes.
For the duet Leksi brings Marília Zangrandi to the stage. The interaction is pristine with both vocals empowering one another. Belting the higher clean range Zangrandi adds to Hart’s raw vocals and fuses to the pleasant melodic side of his vocals on the harmonies. The song is the upbeat to the heavy ,,Contact”, a true monster, to find accolades in the alt-tinged ,,Surreal” with its distorted guitars and subtle picking. Wonderful meandering melodies and mood swings make the song well with emotions, with Alex Hart’s stage performance adding value. The grandiose breakdown in the end as perfect show-closer. If I’m correct, the setlist consisted of all tracks of his last album `Real’ performed integral.
The sheer pleasure of hanging out together that was present this afternoon is also dominating this evening’s concert in front of an enthusiastic crowd. The band enjoys every minute in celebration of their music and the interaction of each member is radiant. So much fun, combined with their immense technical abilities, make for a joyous evening.
Kicking their performance into gear Headless can delve from their rich catalogue packed with high quality hard rocking metal tracks. Mega melodic and progressive meandering, the songs evoke an intense wall of sound that is clean and powerful. The mix of Doro’s mixing engineer helps, as he creates a very dynamic overall sound with all instruments in balance, yet highlighted in the separate layers of the mix. A-Grade tracks ,,Risin’ Up” and ,,Misdirection” are powerful melodic metal gems immediately displaying the band’s powerful interaction.
Enrico Cianciusi’s thunderous groove, packed with dynamic fills and floor interaction, ground Headless sound. Fused to the powerful backbone, his brother, guitarist Walter and Dario Parente drop their ragged riffs on top to make the powerful cocktail of melody and metal combust. Rich toning and gigantic hooks are implemented with wonderful harmonies and licks colouring the sonic pallet. Close harmony guitars and pitched perfect soloing from both maestros create an intense display of power and tone. Swapping solo duties intensifies their fluent cooperation and amidst all this shred terror Martin Helmantel’s bass fills the gaps. His Warwick and Engl stack pump a dynamic sound in which he holds up firmly. The dynamics are intense and unload melodic progressive perfection.
Close harmony vocals add to the slick appeal of the nesting choruses as the band delves into the past with oldie ,,No Happy Ending” with dynamic bass and floor tom rolls underneath the multi-layered vocals. Rich toned guitars meandering and vocalist Ian Parry makes a powerful impression. Not moaning like Edman, the Englishman belts out a powerful delivery while enthusing his audience.
The impact sees the audience warming up to their music rapidly orbiting Headless’ performance. One would expect the German spectators would respond to ,,Langeweile” immediately, as the German-titled song is far from boring. Bluesy section and sudden tempo shifts propel the song with double kicks weld to intricate bass licks and plucking chords. The song definitely gains momentum performed live.
The subtle sections are also present in Headless’ semi-hit, the bluesy structured slow mover ,,Frame” with its colourful vocal delivery from Parry who is countered on the rich layered harmonies of Helmantel and Cianciusi in the song’s bridge. Dying out with Parente’s slick bluesy solo the song moves into another double-kicked gem, ,,Woman in White” and sees Enrico and Martin in close contact. Jagged raw riffs propel towards the wonderful harmonies of its bridge and chorus. Pitch perfect, with only minimal help from a subtly mixed-in backing track, the song blooms. Drum rolls develop into double kicks again prior to the guitar duel in which Parente and Cianciusi display their skills and creative, with Helmantel taking over the chords before delving into a plucking powerful bass lick, mixed in full-frontal.
The song conveys the right tone for the band to surprise the audience with the news of the Elegy reunion celebrated with a rendition of the band’s `State of Mind’ classic ,,Visual Vortex”.
Gradually building tension with Parry roaring his pipes the song explodes with close harmony riffs and sees Walter and Dario flexing their fingers to the max to revive v/d Laars’ typical alternating riffs and staccato fretboard fireworks. The guys do a remarkable job while Parry and Helmantel clearly enjoy the moment and drop jaws over Enrico’s great dynamic prog drumming. Walter showcases his impressive craft nailing the technical solo and reviving the spirit of Henk’s playing. It all comes together in a welling performance grooving into the prog-monster ,,Melt the Ice Away” with its scorching riffs ominous pace.
Almost translucent the song shifts its ebbing and welling segments while maintaining its crawling staccato. Soloing Parente and Cianciusi once more display their immaculate technique spiralling in the twin-harmonies and bouncing off each other in the duel sections. Entertaining the masses with pristine interaction the band takes one final bow and wave goodbye.
GEOFF TATE – 35 YEARS ANNIVERSARY OF OPERATION: MINDCRIME
“I remember Now” echoes from the P.A. as the lights dim under loud applause. The recognisable intro from the hospital calling Dr. Blaire and Dr. J. Hamilton with the disgruntled nurse entering addressing Nikki with the memorable words “Sweet dreams, you Bastard!” shouted out loud by the venues 1.000 fans present.
The ominous lick has Tate’s long running sidekick guitarist Kieran Robertson entering the stage trading off the memorable melody with James Brown slowly intensifying. Daniel Laverde’s marching beat rattles ,,Anarchy-X” into action pumping up the atmosphere with bass player Jack Ross firing up the crowd. Tension building as the charismatic vocalist takes the stage immediately winning over the audience with his arms held high and diving into the title track; “For a price I’d do about anything, except pull the trigger. For that I’d need a pretty good cause!”
Fans sing along word for word much to the praise of the master who belts out an insane job. When, during the bridge, backing tracks fill the void of the densely layered harmonies, there’s a tiny glitch Tate skilfully fixes to revert back to the powerful chorus. Standing frontstage he overpowers the speakers powering up on the following verse calling out to Nikki, almost in a personal matter. His gestures and mimics are powerful and Tate interacts with his audience constantly.
The pace is high without breathing points manoeuvring through the first set of the concept album. “It just takes a minute, and you’ll feel no pain. Gotta make something of your life boy.” Tate belts entering the title track of the iconic album. The song scatters through the packed venue, enthusiastically sung along to. Fists fly up and Geoff keeps dominating the stage with his powerful presence. Minimal in one-liners, he saves the best for later.
Power and pace go up for the intense ,,Speak”. The trade-off between Kieran and James displays their intense and long collaboration backing Tate on his many tours. Both guitarists on par, both resonating the original. Tate constantly signals the listeners with strong hand and arm gestures to empower the lyrics of the album which are more actual than ever before. Addressing the money machines of the big corporation claws intoxicating the masses.
Moving fluently into ,,Spreading the Disease” the turmoiled power and pace keep smashing head on into the audience. Then, midway, the pulse throbs of the sound fragment; “Religion and sex are powerplays. Manipulate the people for the money they pay. Selling skin, selling God. The numbers look the same on their credit cards. Politicians say no to drugs. While we can pay for war after war, after war…” he belts out with cringing anger. Emphasizing his take on the world, Tate’s facial expression speaks volumes.
Moving into the colossal sounding ,,Mission”, Tate and his band build towards monumental showstopper ,,Suite Sister Mary” for whom he brings metal soprano Marília Zangrandi to the stage again re-enacting the dramatical plot-change of the album. The duet is intense with voices matching tone in the dramatic harmonies, though it isn’t always fluent. The applause is perpetual.
After the long epic track Laverde starts his ravishing ponder unleashing Robertson and Brown for their furious riff discharges. The pace is high with Tate carefully and keenly steering clear from the extreme highs to extend the endurance of his performance. The song packs tremendous energy still and never lets down. Sheer metal mayhem. Breaking midway in classic style Geoff Tate calls out to his fans; “More?!”, to shoot into gear again.
,,Electric Requiem” bursts into that other colossal hook-laden track ,,Breaking the Silence”, making melodic waves for another melodic powerhouse: ,,I don’t Believe in Love”. The beat and breaks are powerful and heavy, the backing vocals a bit too much. But hey; we want it served up as bold and brass as the original, right?!
More than once the singer, hand above the eyes looking into the crowd, locks with his many fans. The short instrumental ,,Waiting for 22” eludes into the equally short and dramatic ,,My Empty Room”, with Nikki finding himself placed in custody in the mental asylum, self-reflecting. The song powers up for the wonderful album closer ,,Eyes of a Stranger”, making `Operation: Mindcrime’ go out on a high. The live rendition is celebrated, while it bridges for a cluster of highlights from his rich Rÿche past.
,,Silent Lucidity” is announced as the track people got married to, buried to, was made love to, and babies were made to it. Geoff grins and the audience embraces his spontaneity. The hit single is packed with backing tracks of strings and effects, but it is Tate who safeguards the performance claiming the spotlights with his voice fluently delving in a deeper baritone injecting a different vibe. Echoing his low tone, he proclaims to be watching over you, for ever and ever. Only during the choirs, it gets generic, but that’s forgiven. Ross moves forward to claim the spotlight with a low growling bass and Kieran picking chords opening ,,Jet City Woman”, that other ‘hit’ from the past. Loudly sung along to, the song is a crowd pleaser per se.
It’s the following ,,Take Hold of the Flame” however outdoing them all. This IS the track that nested The Rÿche in the hearts of so many fans present. Where Tate’s voice on ,,Jet City Woman” already displayed some decay, ,,Take Hold” sees him stretching his voices entire range delving a heavier metal tone steering from the extreme pitches. The band bounces up and down, much like the Zeche itself.
,,Empire” closes the set in a colossal pompous fashion, as an exclamation point to the previous classic, only for the band to return for the last encore. Shredding classic metal in ,,Queen of the Ryche”, the band brings even more metal to the front, with Tate pitching the opening note with tons of reverb supporting his bone chilling metal scream. Smart move, as this evening closer is a true beating on his vocal pipes. A last call to arms with James and Kieran soloing the twin in pitch perfect format.
Tonight’s concert was one that was celebrated, with little hick ups and glitches. Tate’s band delivers as usual and he keeps surrounding himself with talented musicians that can convey the intricate music of his past. What I don’t like is the clinical sound of the generic drumkit used. A total turn-off, especially after hearing Headless’ drums resonate to the max. It’s the splashes and scattering cymbals I miss the most, and it does no justice to the skilful skin beating of Laverde.
Geoff Tate himself is the man on a mission and he belts an impressive performance, even though I’m critical towards the many backing tracks used and technique at his disposal. It is still a performance not many can top, and whether he uses some support or not (,,Queen of the Ryche” is dubious to my feeling), I can’t do anything else than applaud this display of power. `Operation: Mindcrime’ is an album that impressed then, and the performance still does to this date. It stood the test of time with Geoff Tate keeping the flame alive.
Make sure to shoot up with a dose of metal history and enjoy this timeless classic from one of the best and most redefining vocalists known in metal!
All photos by Edwin van Hoof