Queensryche – Operation:Livecrime (1991)

After the 1988 release of Operation: Mindcrime, Queensryche weren’t in a position to put on a lavish stage show or three-hour
headlining concert yet; in fact, they spent their time opening for Metallica on the epic …And Justice For All tour. (Unfortunately, they were only on the first leg of this tour; by the time I got to see Metallica supporting this album in the summer of 1989, we had to endure The Cult as an opener.) But after the huge success of 1990’s Empire, the band had enough clout to book an extensive headlining tour, which included all of the video screens needed to produce a show that could feature the rock-opera album in its entirety.

In October 1991, EMI released this limited-edition box set containing a CD (or cassette – remember those?) and VHS video of the entire Mindcrime album, performed live, along with a booklet and a box, of the “long” sort (for those of you old enough to remember CDs sold in long boxes.) This limited edition release could both be seen as a nice tribute to the fans, or a “why did they do that?” misstep, depending on how you look at it.

As far as the CD goes, it’s the entire Mindcrime album, exactly. Exactly. No extras, no bonus, no covers, just the album, and that’s it. The performance is pretty good, and it’s upbeat and doesn’t drag, plus Geoff Tate’s vocals are pretty good and aren’t scratched or busted, as they were on the latter half of this monstrously long tour. There are some issues with levels in places; sometimes, a sample from the album is too quiet or muddled, or a guitar isn’t as up-front as it may be on the album. I’m sure part of that problem is that I listened to Mindcrime about 20,000 times before I heard this album, so I tend to notice all of the little bits here and there.

The video is also exactly what’s on the album. They did a good job of having lots of cameras and many angles and stuff moving, which is decent. They also captured a lot of the video projection screens, and showed clips of the story as it’s going on. It’s not as good as watching all of the actual videos back-to-back, which are compiled together in another release, but it’s much more than just watching the band play live.

The problem? The band just came off their biggest tour ever, with all of these new songs on Empire, and all of the classic stuff from the older albums, and this box set captures only those exact songs on Mindcrime. No “Silent Lucidity,” no “Queen of the Reich,” no other tracks are added to the CD, either from the same massive 3-hour set from which this live album was removed, or from their b-sides or other catalogue. (If you were lucky enough to find the Japanese release, it came with “The Lady Wore Black” and “Roads to Madness” as bonus tracks.) If I was a new fan of the band, this would be a pretty bad purchase to make, unless I bought it specifically to find out more about the prior album. It also means there’s no real reason to listen to this CD when one can just listen to the far superior studio version. In fact, I don’t think, prior to this review, I’ve even cracked the case on my copy for a good six or seven years.

There’s also a big disconnect here as far as formats. The old version was a VHS and a CD (or tape). I never, ever watch old VHS anymore, so this thing sits in the case gathering dust. But if I wanted to listen to the CD or rip it to my iPod, it’s there. This was the only version available, and despite the fact that this was a “limited edition,” you could occasionally find a new copy in the back of a music store, five years later. (I think I got mine at a Wherehouse in 1997.) But they were hard to find, and in that pre-eBay world, it meant you either had to buy a boot, pay someone a hundred bucks for a used copy, or try every record store in a thousand-mile radius.

In 2001, when their record label was performing necrophilia on their back-catalogue, Capitol re-released this box set as a regular DVD. This means you don’t have a CD, which might not work in your car or when ripping the audio to your MP3 player. (Actually, they released the CD as a standalone also – but if you buy that, you don’t get the video.) But you have everything on a DVD, and they also added some bonus features, like an interview, some graphics and fan photos, and a few crumbs of nebulous information that might help you figure out the story, if you’re still struggling with who really killed Mary. I don’t know what the packaging or liner notes are like on this version, but if they are anything like the other reissues and box sets Capitol put out for the band’s other material, I’m guessing “shitty.”

But, I have the BOX SET which makes me more elite than you wankers who first got into the band in like 1999. Don’t worry, you’re not missing much. It’s a good collection, and a good intention, but I wish they would have released a 3-CD live album of the 1991 tour instead.

Rating: 7