Queensryche and Fates Warning at The Plaza Live on 3/2/19 By Jesse Striewski/Photos By Brooke Striewski

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Unlike other bands from their era simply running off nostalgia (Ratt, Quiet Riot, etc…), bands like Queensryche are still releasing more-than-respectful material, and not relying solely on their past. And while they may still be largely ignored by modern radio these days, bands from said era such as them (along with Iron Maiden and Megadeth, among others), are still just as strong as ever. After catching them live this past weekend for the second time, there’s no denying these bands are still able to pack a house.

Fates Warning have always been somewhat of interest to me, especially since Armored Saint/ex-Anthrax bassist Joey Vera first came aboard. And with a solid lineup that also includes original guitarist Jim Matheos, joined with other longtime members Frank Aresti (guitars) Ray Adler (vocals), and current Sebastian Bach drummer Bobby Jarzombek, I was looking forward to actually seeing what they could do on stage when they opened the first night of this current tour. But for the most part, they focused a tad too heavily on their (not so) new album, 2016’s Theories of Flight, performing “From the Rooftops,” “Seven Stars,” and “The Light and Shade of Things.” The furthest the band even went in their own catalog was “Life in Still Water” from 1991. While it’s understandable they had limited time to work with (only able to squeeze in eight tracks) this is one case where it would have been nice if they dug just a little further back in time (at the very least 1988’s “Silent Cries” should have still found its way in the set list somewhere).

And finally, Queensryche took over. The last time my wife/photographer and I saw them live, they were still touring for their first album with current vocalist Todd La Torre in 2013. Since then, the band has released a couple of more albums, and were not swayed from playing material from any of them (despite knowing many likely still come to hear their Geoff Tate-era hits). One thing’s for sure, their stage/light show has definitely improved over time. However, it was somewhat disappointing to see original drummer Scott Rockenfield was not on board this time around, though Kamelot’s Casey Grillo filled in just fine.

Opening with “Blood of Levant,” the band continued with mostly newer tracks such as “I am I,” “Man the Machine,” and “Condition Human,”  but managed to throw one from their debut album, “N M 156” in there before finally breaking out with one of their signature “classics” (“Queen of the Reich”) six tracks in. “Selfish Lives,” “Open Road,” “Light-Years,” and “Eyes of the Stranger” all followed before the band took a quick reprieve.

It didn’t take long for the band to come back with a trio of their most well-known hits for their encore, including their biggest (and in my book, extremely overrated) power ballad “Silent Lucidity,” as well as “Jet City Woman,” and finally “Empire.” I say it all of the time; if ever you doubt the ability of a band that’s been around as long as Queensryche, wait to see them live before judging. These guys have been going strong since 1980, and it’s clear they don’t show any signs of slowing down anytime soon.

Fates Warning opening the show.

Sebastian Bach at The Plaza Live on 11/2/18 By Jesse Striewski/Photos By Brooke Striewski

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The last time I caught former Skid Row singer Sebastian Bach live, he was the supporting act for Guns N’ Roses back in 2006. Last Friday night’s show at The Plaza Live in Orlando somewhat paled in comparison to that of the larger, arena-sized production I saw him on years earlier. But despite this, those in attendance seemed to at the very least be having a hell of a time.

Young Canadians One Bad Son kicked off the night, ushering themselves onstage with the theme from “Rocky” before ripping into their set. Their style ranged from traditional heavy metal (“Scarecrows,” “Lost All Control”), to mainstream mediocrity (“It Ain’t Right”). Despite some of the most awkward silence I’ve ever witnessed at a live show in between songs,  the band truly got it right towards the end of their set with a cover of the Talking Head’s “Psycho Killer.”

Prong/Madonna (yes, you read that right) guitarist Monte Pittman (who the band gets its namesake from) was up next. It wasn’t until about halfway through their set I realized Pittman had devised a super-group of sorts, featuring Holy Grail bassist Eli Santana, as well as former Slayer/Testament drummer John Dette.

Pittman offered a wide range of various rock genres; from metal numbers worth banging your head to (“Changing of the Guard,” “Everything Undone,” “Skeleton Key,” etc..) to even acoustic numbers like “Depth of Perception.” All in all, Pittman’s set was one of the surprising highlights of the evening.

Finally, former (though not “original” – die hard fans will remember that title actually belongs to Matt Fallon) voice of Skid Row, Sebastian Bach, took stage some time after the 11 o’clock hour, appropriately kicking off his set with one from his ex-band’s glory days, “Slave to the Grind.”

The current lineup Bach has assembled for his band offers its own rock royalty as well, with Spread Eagle/UFO bassist Rob De Luca and Riot/Fates Warning drummer Bobby Jarzombek rounding out the rhythm section. Newcomer Brent Woods handled guitar duties admirably (though at one point he threw handfuls of guitar picks into the crowd in what appeared to be a fit of anger).

More tracks from both his work with Skid Row, as well as his solo catalog, quickly followed, including “Piece of Me,” “Dance on Your Grave,” “18 and Life,” “Here I Am,” and “The Threat” (a personal favorite of mine that I don’t recall him playing the last time I saw him, and was definitely not expecting to hear this time around, either!) before getting into the “big guns” (literally).

Once Bach and his band went into the massive 1989 hit “I Remember You,” fans were screaming for more. Which they quickly received, as he then broke out with a couple more from Skid Row’s debut album in the form of “Big Guns” and “Sweet Little Sister.” Bach somewhat lost the crowd for a second with a less-than-stellar joke (the punchline, “Motordead,” should give you an idea of what it entailed) before introducing the song “All My Friends Are Dead.”

Thankfully he was able to recover with the hard-hitting “American Metalhead” before lashing out some more classic Skid Row cuts in the form of “Monkey Business” (in which the band briefly segued into a nice cover of Rush’s “Tom Sawyer” mid-way through), “Rattlesnake Shake,” and the classic anthem “Youth Gone Wild,” which would have made for more than a perfect ending to the night. But Bach hit the already-exhausted crowd with one last solo song (which the name of completely escapes me at the moment) before finally calling it a night.

Unfortunately this time around any and all material from Skid Row’s Subhuman Race album was completely omitted from his set list (if memory serves me right, he at least played “Breakin’ Down” that first time I caught him back in ’06). Even so, I’m glad to see he’s still out there giving it his all, night after night.

Bassist Eli Santana (also of Holy Grail) opening the show on stage with Monte Pittman.