Weekly Wire
Tucson Weekly Soundbites

By Lisa Weeks

RANT AND ROLL: Admittedly, I am somewhat out of my element writing about Queensrÿche, but the new record, Here in the Now Frontier, and subsequent tour of most of the major venues in the nation, does warrant some attention... especially in a market where so many bands vie for increasingly smaller pieces of the pie. With records sales in a slump, it's interesting to note which bands are able to stage these pricey mega-tours without the benefit of being a part of a big bill. The stadium tour, once a rock-and-roll staple, for better or worse seems to have largely given way to the festival show--Lilith Fair, H.O.R.D.E., The Warped Tour, Lollapalooza and the like. For the most part, the stadium has always been more the domain of hard rock, heavy metal, and what would now be termed classic rock--who could forget the excitement of KISS, The Rolling Stones and Led Zeppelin? So I suppose it shouldn't surprise one to find that, with some notable "alternative" exceptions like U2, these genres still hold court in amphitheaters nationwide.

If record and ticket sales are the measure, hard rock and heavy metal continue to thrive, reaching vast audiences with comparably little media fanfare. With the exception of grunge, which in many instances so closely resembles all of the above as to seem more of a wayward sibling than anything new, something like tempered metal for college kids, no single brand of rock and roll consistently draws so many fans. One can only speculate why.

Enter Queensrÿche. Mainstream rock stations, here they come, once again. With the help of a couple of the younger generation of Seattle's sons, namely Toby Wright of Alice in Chains and the venerable Stone Gossard, Queensrÿche has turned out a new record sure to hold its own among the crossover rock-alternative bands currently dominating the radio waves. Fourteen years and seven full-length releases have passed since the release of their self-titled debut EP, and the times they are a changin', if only a little. Hear in the Now Frontier straddles the fence between the greener pastures of their huge success (Empire, Operation: Mindcrime) in the late '80s and their darker, more uncertain ventures into the contemporary with Promised Land. Certainly this album flails its arms seeking balance, with tracks like "You" pulling to the past while "Sign of the Times" and "The Voice Inside" are unabashed efforts towards an alternative mainstream audience, and an already dated grunge aesthetic.

So, while still the gearheads they always were, the boys have lightened up a little, and some of the cuts actually feature acoustic guitar tracks ("Hero"); and there's certainly no lack of simple, heartfelt, albeit sentimental, narrative in the lyrics, with some vague attempts at political commentary. For all the seriousness, darkness and weighty guitars, leather pants and menacing expressions--not to mention power, man, power!--the true Achilles' heel of this genre of rock has to be the goofy lyrics. I know it's a generalization, but come on, man, you've got umpteen layers of dense metal guitar tracks, etc., etc., behind lyrics like: stay with me forever/It's all I want from you/And if we stay together all our dreams will come true; and I am amplified by what's inside of you/ I feel your energy is something I can't loose/ I am a pressure cooker, I'm about to blow.

Arguably one could explain them as sincere expressions of emotion--so many-thousand rebellious adolescent males can't be wrong--but with the contrast between music and message, the lyrics come off as much hokier than even the hokiest country ditty.

However, there's little doubt Queensrÿche will have no trouble selling tickets for their Thursday, July 3, appearance at the Tucson Convention Center, even at $28.50 a hit. Quite the bargain, really, compared to the $38.25 you'd pay for reserved seating at the June 28 Phoenix show. Call 791-4266 for ticket information.

MORE HOT TICKETS: Should you be looking for something to do this evening (Thursday), perhaps a live alternative to warm you up for a fine weekend of entertainment, there are a number of shows around town to fill the bill. Stop off first at the Winsett Park Stage between 7:30 and 10 p.m. for some energetic, indigenous straight-up rock with Percolator and Love Sex Nine opening for Super Monkey. Couldn't afford the OzzFest ticket prices on top of having to take the day off from work, or just didn't want to drive all the way to Phoenix to hang outside in the heat all day? Thanks to Lethal Entertainment, you can get your rocks off in the cool of the evening, and it won't cost you a red cent. Besides, Marilyn Manson isn't nearly as intriguingly demonic when viewed through binoculars from 150 yards away. What is all the hype about, anyway? Dark clothes and lots of make-up, now that hasn't been done before....

Local favorites Milkseed are appearing tonight at the 3rd Stone Bar & Grill, 500 N. Fourth Ave. If you haven't caught them yet, now's your chance to see them up close and personal, headlining on one of the best little stages in town. Call 628-8844 for more information.

If you're bent on blues, and you missed him the last time he was here, then head over to The Boondocks, 3306 N. First Ave., for Sonny Rhodes and his smokin' fretwork. Cover is $5 at the door. Call 690-0991 for more information.

LAST NOTES: Two upcoming shows at the Club Congress, 311 E. Congress St., include Rainer, aided by the singularly superb, internationally esteemed and locally under-appreciated Giant Sand, and special guest opener Milkseed, on Friday June 27.

Hailing

from and returning to the Naked Pueblo after a fabulous fall appearance, The Flat Duo Jets with fellow Chapel Hill natives, '60's retro-rockers The Woggles and The Cadillac Angels, converge on the Club on Sunday, June 29. Cover for both shows is $5. Call 622-8848 for more information.

--Lisa Weeks






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