Queensryche made a ballsy move this year by releasing "Operation: Mindcrime II," the sequel to its groundbreaking 1988 concept album. It hasn't stopped there: The band is touring North America and pla

Queensryche made a ballsy move this year by releasing "Operation: Mindcrime II," the sequel to its groundbreaking 1988 concept album. It hasn't stopped there: The band is touring North America and playing both albums back to back, complete with a theatrical presentation of cinematic video, props and actors. Quite a challenge, even for a band as talented as this one.

The group has half the battle won, since "Operation" Mindcrime" just doesn't get old -- and neither does Queensryche's commitment to it. The crowd, as usual, gave itself over completely to the album, and the band complied by infusing the material with the same riveting energy it always does instead of phoning in the performance. The group regularly tweaks it to keep it from getting stale, like when Geoff Tate whipped out a sign imploring someone to put President Bush in a sexually compromising position so he could be impeached. "Suite Sister Mary," "Spreading the Disease," "The Eyes of a Stranger" -- take your pick. Every cut was a winner.

Rather than trying to fill Chris DeGarmo's sizable shoes, guitarist Mike Stone, who joined in 2003, is walking his own path by mastering parts the former member wrote without sacrificing his own style. His personality and talent have won over fans the old-fashioned way.

The rub was playing "Mindcrime II" straight through and entertaining the audience with material that vastly differs from the first record. It's more nuanced than its predecessor, and the conflict that lead character Nikki faces is internal. The theatrical element, and Tate embodying Nikki's personality, makes the action more visual. It's a lot to absorb.

Segments like the video duet of Ronnie James Dio and Tate for the pumped-up "The Chase" made for some of the best sequences. But sometimes it was hard to decipher the messages: While the lyrics of "Hostage" concern Nikki being a victim of the justice system, the setup onstage of him being tried in court was confusing since the album starts with him being released from prison.

Aside from a slight waffling during "The Hands," Queensryche had the material down. Tate and guest singer Pamela Moore (reprising her role of Sister Mary from the first "Mindcrime") had plenty of bright moments, and the show's finale of their gorgeous duet "All the Promises" drew applause before the song ended. Wilton and Stone's guitar solos burned and the rhythm section of bassist Eddie Jackson and drummer Scott Rockenfield was as dependable as always. "Signs Say Go," "Re-Arrange You," "Murderer?" and "Fear City Slide" were the most hard-hitting numbers and will likely emerge as fan favorites.

The crowd was more raucous during the first half of the show, but it didn't abandon the band in the second half. Many sang along, and every song was heartily cheered. Queensryche did encores of "Take Hold of the Flame" and "Jet City Woman," ending the night on a high note of frenzied audience adulation -- not just for giving a great performance, but for meeting such a bold challenge.

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