Heavy metal band bringing in burlesque, go-go dancers for Queensryche Cabaret

Queensryche is still a heavy metal band -- but it's performing a cabaret tour (playing Vegas this weekend) featuring burlesque and go-go dancers, ballerinas, drag queens, jugglers and contortionists.

Fans show up "prepared to party and get their cabaret on," says singer Geoff Tate.

"The audience is really fun to watch," Tate says. "Some people dress to the nines, in tuxedos and suits. Women wear slinky dresses.

"One person came dressed as a giant mouse -- I don't know what that's all about."

Fans wear "lots of makeup, and weird hats, and scarves, and beads -- and incredible shoes, I've gotta say," he says.

"It's kind of like if you took the 'Moulin Rouge' movie and mixed it up with 'The Rocky Horror Picture Show,' and added heavy metal and a giant mouse. You've gotta be really dedicated to wear a giant mouse costume."

Queensryche isn't changing its music to that oompa-cabaret style.

"We define cabaret on our own terms," Tate says. "Our albums and live presentations tend to be serious. This show is not serious at all. We've taken all of our less-serious music and constructed a show out of it. It's really a good time. It's fun, tongue-in-cheek and outrageous."

Tate knows America isn't Cabaret Central.

"There are some select cities that kind of have cabaret scenes -- San Francisco, Seattle, New York and L.A.," he says. "It's one of those types of performance arts that's kind of underground.

"I think once audiences see it, they become enamored with it, and they start seeking it out."

Over the years, Tate has seen cabaret shows around the world. He and his manager wife, Susan, toyed with the idea of doing a cabaret show.

Then a friend of theirs got a job as an entertainment director in a casino in the Seattle area and asked them if Queensryche would like to do something unusual for a Mardi Gras/Valentine's gig.

"I said 'Hey, this is a good time to launch our cabaret idea,' " Tate says. "I talked to the band. We wrote a show. We ended up selling out two nights at the venue. And we had a great time with all the different (side) acts. Then, promoters heard about it and wanted to book it."

The band's filming the tour for a DVD.

"It's probably the most enjoyable show we've ever done," he says.

Head trip

Hey hair-metal fans: Tate is rocking a shaved head.

The singer went bald to support a friend who's battling cancer (she's on the mend). But he enjoyed his hairless pate so much, he kept the "nice summer 'do," he says.

"It becomes liberating," Tate, 51, says. "You feel faster, more efficient, aerodynamic."

Now he realizes how much he was "locked into" his hair.

"You spend all this money on products, and time spent styling it and combing it. And you have to have all these utensils and tools to take care of your hair.

"Then once you shave your head, you don't need all that stuff. You can focus on other things you want to do, or obsess about," he says and laughs without elaborating.

He's done this before.

"The first time I shaved my head was '92, I think," he says.

"I shaved it at night. Then I went to bed and woke up the next morning, and I went to the bathroom mirror to shave my face and said, 'Oh my God! Who is that in the mirror?!' I had forgotten I had done it. It was a shocking experience."

His shave-at-night story sounds like the scene in Pink Floyd's "The Wall" where the rock star shaves all his body hair, but Tate kept his eyebrows.

"I didn't quite go for the eyebrow thing," he says. "It was one of those moments I said, 'I'm gonna change my whole scene right here and refresh myself and liberate myself from what I'd been.'

"It's freeing."

coming soon

Queensryche is working on an album, set for release in 2011, that will alter the band's sound a bit, Tate says.

"It's a progression away from where we've been -- into some new territories," Tate says, calling it a "very modern approach to what we do -- modernizing our sound a bit more."

He says he's "trying to be vague" about the project, so as to keep the album under wraps as much as possible.

But he did offer a little more of an explanation.

"It's kind of a modern approach to song arrangement -- utilizing different sound effects and sounds sources; playing the instruments in a different way than what we have before; really experimenting a lot with the structure of rhythm and bringing it into what's modern.

"Next year is our 30th anniversary. We've done a lot of different kinds of records at different times. We're definitely trying to make a record of the time, rather than something of a different time. How's that for vague?" he says and laughs.

Doug Elfman's column appears Sundays, Mondays, Tuesdays and Fridays. E-mail him at delfman@ reviewjournal.com. He blogs at reviewjournal.com/elfman.