Geoff Tate loves his work. So when Queensrÿche, the progressive metal band he’s fronted for three decades took a year off, Tate found another way to continue to sing and perform.
He put together an acoustic band, worked up some songs and hit the road.
“Queensrÿche is not doing much together this year,” Tate said. “I wanted to keep touring and I wanted to move in a different direction. It’s kind of a singer’s dream really. You’re not competing with the other instruments, especially the drum kit. The whole idea was hatched after a dinner party at my house one night.”
Last year, Tate and his wife hosted a party at their Seattle-area home with some musician friends. After dinner, they picked up the instruments that were lying around the house and started playing. It sounded good and was enough fun that Tate decided to try a few acoustic shows on the West Coast. From that a national tour was born.
The acoustic shows are a dramatic departure from a Queensrÿche concert — and it’s not just the instruments and lower volume. The acoustic shows take place in clubs rather than the arenas and large theaters that Queensrÿche calls home.
“It’s quite different,” Tate said. “The vocals take front and center. The songs I’ve chosen for this particular tour are a particular kind of writing. They really lend themselves to storytelling. It’s kind of an intimate experience as opposed to a typical Queensrÿche show, which is bombastic and loud.”
The acoustic show has been put together from Queensrÿche albums and from Tate’s 2002 solo record. He’s got another solo recording in the works that will likely be released in the fall. But he’s not playing any new songs. Those who come to the shows, he said, want to hear songs with which they are somewhat familiar.
The show is far from Queensrÿche’s greatest hits done acoustically by Tate and his four Seattle friends — a pair of guitarists, a keyboard player and a bassist.
“I’ve got a lot of songs to pick from,” he said. “I tried to pick songs that I felt would translate acoustically and the subject matter would connect them to an audience. I do some introductions for almost every song, maybe a funny story or how it was written or why. I always feel more connected to an artist when I know where they’re coming from.”
The acoustic tour is a first for Tate and comes after three decades of singing progressive metal in Queensrÿche. He says he’s having a blast doing the quieter shows and so is his audience.
“I think they really like it, the fact that it is so intimate,” Tate said. “They feel like they are part of it. They can talk to me on stage. We joke around. We even take some requests, even if we don’t know the song sometimes we try to play part of it.”
In conversation, Tate’s a down-to-earth regular guy, talking about his new grandson, his winemaking and expressing pride that all four of his daughters work in one of the family businesses — either wine (he has partnered with Three Rivers Winery of Walla Walla, Wash., to introduce a red and white variety of his “Insania” wine — or in the case of his youngest daughter, singing and touring with Queensrÿche.
That’s saying something about a guy who has sold 20 million albums worldwide, 6 million in the U.S., toured the world singing to millions of people and is repeatedly named as one of the top metal vocalists ever.
Despite the acclaim Tate has gained over his three decades with Queensrÿche, he says he doesn’t much care about how he is evaluated for his singing or songwriting or what his legacy will be.
“I’ve always thought music is a very personal journey,” he said. “It’s very personal for the artist. It’s very personal for the audience as well. So I don’t really pay attention to what’s being said, to critics or awards. That doesn’t mean much to me. What’s important to me is getting out, performing and talking to the audience.”
Usually talking to the audience takes place before and after the shows. On the acoustic tour, chatting with the crowd determines how long the show lasts.
“It’s at least an hour and a half,” he said. “It varies in length depending on how the audience is. Are they participating, asking questions, that kind of thing. Sometimes it goes and goes and goes.”
Tate says he’ll likely continue the acoustic tour throughout most of 2012. Then, have no fear. Queensrÿche is getting back together in 2013.