QUEENSRŸCHE, MARTY FRIEDMAN And TRAUMA Fight Off The South Florida Heat With a Reigning And Energy-Charged Alliance On Tour Opening Night

March 5, 2023, 11 months ago

Words by Samantha Buckman | Photos by Joel Barrios

gallery heavy metal queensryche marty friedman trauma

Queensrÿche has been a foundational force in shaping heavy metal since their inception in 1982. Classic albums like Operation: Mindcrime and Empire have produced timeless anthems and have earned the band accolades including RIAA Platinum and 3x Platinum, respectively. 

2022 marked Queensrÿche’s 40th anniversary, a milestone they not only celebrated with grace, but with a new album. Released in October 2022, Digital Noise Alliance is the most recent full-length album to come from the Queensrÿche camp. And as Spring nears in North America, Queensrÿche has embarked on “The Digital Noise Alliance Tour 2023” in support of this latest offering. The touring lineup boasts support from both Marty Friedman and Trauma as the band makes its way to 31 stops over the next two months. 

The tour kicked off at The Plaza Live in Orlando, Florida, the first of four Floridian destinations on the Queensrÿche road. Bursting with energy on the best of days, on March 3, The Plaza Live boasted a unique predicament for the already sweltering Florida weather: broken air conditioning. Performers and fans alike had to grapple with the oppressive heat and poor airflow, which grew so extreme at points that some fans decided to escape the venue and find reprieve outside or in their cars. So, despite the apparent glamor and elation captured in the photographs that follow, there were otherwise invisible circumstances that made this tour’s debut particularly challenging for all in attendance. 

To open the night was thrash metal band Trauma. Hailing from the Bay Area and formed in 1981, Trauma remain well-known for the late Cliff Burton’s place in their original lineup. After a hiatus that spanned from 1985 to 2013, Trauma was revived, and in the decade since they have released three well-received albums. The latest is Awakening, which was released in 2022, which is also the first album without founding member Donny Hillier, who passed away in 2020. 

The iteration of Trauma that arrived in Orlando had only one original member remaining. Kris Gustofson kept his longtime role behind the drum kit, while vocal duties were covered by newcomer Brian Allen. Allen is a strong match for these enduring thrashers, as he boasts an ample register and dynamic stage presence, enthralling the audience with a style that could best be described as “Alice Cooper meets King Diamond.” Allen’s youthful vigor was matched by that of guitarist Steve Robello, who gave a tirelessly energetic performance. Michael Spencer was on bass, and having previously played with legendary thrashers Flotsam & Jetsam on multiple occasions, he was a seamless fit into the Trauma lineup. The newer members meshed organically with the more seasoned, and the explosive 30-minute set was everything a good opener should be. The setlist highlighted excellent musicianship alongside a passionate performance that stirred excitement in the audience. And although the rest of the night would see nothing quite so abrasive sounding as this thunderous trash act, Trauma made for both a very strong opener, and excited the crowd for the acts to come. 

Marty Friedman has spent a fair amount of time in the spotlight, and not always on stage. Since moving to Tokyo in 2003, Friedman has found himself a mainstay in Japanese culture, starring in everything from television series to commercials, and he has even become Japan’s first-ever foreign Japanese Heritage Ambassador. Most recently notable was his appearance with Megadeth in Tokyo’s legendary Budokan venue on February 27. Friedman played three songs alongside this modern Megadeth before embarking with Queensrÿche for this North American trek. In addition to the supporting spot alongside Queensrÿche for 31 dates, Friedman has also secured two headlining shows, one in Las Vegas and one in Los Angeles. This is Friedman’s first time performing in the United States since 2019. 

Friedman’s name may second be on the poster, but Friedman made Orlando a show all his own. Marty’s supporting bandmates elevated his performance with their own technical mastery, but the audience was most enchanted by Chargeeee, the man behind the drums. The performance by this percussive beast was a demonstration that rivaled Friedman’s own instrumental fury, and this dynamic duo were further supported by the newest members to Marty’s live band, bassist Wakazaemon and rhythm guitarist Naoki Morioka. At the helm of this display of magical musicianship, Friedman led a 45-minute setlist of electrifying and incendiary guitar nirvana. There is something to be said for his apparent effortlessness, as well as his charismatic playfulness. He joked with the audience about some songs being very popular in Japan, but not so much Orlando, which was met with laughter. But for all the laughter and variety in the setlist, Friedman launched into the musical sequence everyone had been hoping for: the solo from “Tornado Of Souls.” It was a moment of pure transcendence, as Friedman’s guitar became an extension of his own body, passion and purpose pouring into every note. Everything about that solo is his, and while others have tried, this performance proved that it will forever be Friedman’s intimate creation. 

This was a blistering, non-stop, delightful shred-fest from one of the masters himself. It was apparent just how much Friedman still enjoys his time on the stage, and that he can entertain the masses with a variety of material and styles. There’s no question that Marty is a must-see, but if there had ever been any doubt, the endless cries from the audience calling his name are testament enough. 

Both the heat and excitement in the venue were overwhelming after these two openers, each show-stoppers in their own right. Night had fallen hours earlier, and it was at 10:00pm that Queensrÿche took to the stage. The present Queensrÿche lineup stands on relatively stable ground, with bassist Eddie Jackson and guitarist Michael Wilton as the two remaining founding members, while vocalist Todd La Torre has been with the band since 2012. The newest face in the “Digital Noise Alliance” lineup, rhythm guitarist Mike Stone, is not quite so new. He spent 2003 through 2008 with Queensrÿche before returning to the band full-time in 2021. 

The 18-song set that awaited the audience was one full of surprises, though perhaps not too surprising if fans had caught one of La Torre’s interviews last December. La Torre had promised that the setlist would pull heavily from not only “Digital Noise Alliance,” but Queensrÿche’s three most recent records, and would include some deep cuts that have spent decades gathering dust. But while the crowd might not have been able to sing along with the familiar choruses of “Silent Lucidity” or “I Don’t Believe in Love,” they were still given a spectacular treat. Four songs from “Digital Noise Alliance” made their live debut, and five others were played for the first time since 2014 or earlier. Perhaps most thrilling of all was the addition of “Deliverance” to the encore, which is taken from Queensrÿche’s debut album The Warning, as this song made its first live appearance since 1987. 

For all the deep cuts and new material, there were still a handful of familiar favorites that made the cut. Voices raised together with La Torre’s for the well-beloved “Jet City Woman,” and the band took its first bow after “Eyes Of A Stranger.” Each musician handled the material quite capably, appearing very well-practiced in all areas of the band’s catalogue, and relative newcomers tackled older material with their own flair. It was one of the most comprehensive performances to come from Queensrÿche in recent memory. 

La Torre remains an unstoppable vocal powerhouse, and he owned every inch of the stage. He walked back and forth, microphone in hand, interacting with the audience to the left, right, and center. Stone and Wilton mastered the strings while perched atop sturdy platforms. Grillo’s kit was elevated, although the musician himself was somewhat swallowed by the massive array of instruments. The new material came to life with particular enthusiasm, the spark of “Digital Noise Alliance” erupting into fire when taken to the stage. It’s clear that new tracks like “Lost in Sorrow” and “Sicdeth” are tailored to each musician’s strengths and abilities when playing live. Wilton shone particularly bright during some of the older material as well, with notable excellence in both “Roads To Madness” and “Child Of Fire.” 

The performances were enhanced by a spectacular light show and full stage of colorful backdrops. Queensrÿche truly made this show an aural and visual feast for all involved, and the mixture of familiarity and novelty made it effortless to surrender to the magic. This show had everything that has kept Queensrÿche relevant for these many decades: heaviness, progressive complexity, and technical mastery. It was almost midnight by the time the last echoes of “Roads to Madness” had quieted and the stage went dark once and for all. Queensrÿche had delivered more than 90 minutes of exceptional metal bliss, and began their tour with a reminder of just how they earned their legacy. The Queensrÿche soul still burns bright and true, and this is one act that remains a must-see for new fans and long-time diehards alike. 

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