Mass sobriety.

Not words that one usually associates with what may prove to be the most stunning concert tour of 2023, but thanks to the unexpected (and unnecessary) "card only" policy at Newport Music Hall in Columbus, Ohio as The Digital Noise Alliance Tour arrived, that is what the scene was.

As cottonmouth reigned, Queensrÿche, Trauma and Marty Freidman made their arrival. Yes, that Marty Freidman, formally of Megadeth and Cacophony, and not exactly a tabloid regular, even though he is looked upon as one of the greatest living guitarists extant today.

As Queensrÿche's Todd La Torre was to say to the say the crowd later in the night, a Marty Freidman sighting is like a unicorn sighting.

La Torre also confessed to the crowd that it was of utmost importance to every member of Queensrÿche to try and achieve a true diversity of sounds and genres in this long-awaited tour, and to put it mildly, the goal was obtained.

Trauma takes place

The first act of the night was Trauma. Before taking the stage, vocalist Brian Allen and drummer Kris Gustofson talked about their most famous member, the departed bassist of Metallica, Cliff Burton. When asked about an odd Cliff story, Allen responded by telling the story about the time that Burton was in Trauma and a certain fan's girlfriend was "missing."

As the boyfriend frantically looked about for his missing date, Cliff Burton was introducing her to the naughty side of rock n' roll and Trauma rapidly departed town before the jilted lover could put together just what had taken place.

Such was the life of rock stars in the 1980s.

Today, regardless of whether such escapades happen still, Trauma proved to be a band that has only bettered with time. The aforementioned members, along with guitarist Steve Robello (who was the band's bassist from 2014-17), guitarist Casey Trask, and bassist Michael Spencer, assured that Columbus was about to be traumatized!

From the opening track, it was quite clear that Allen had vocals for Trauma that were going to deliver a rich performance that would range from dirty sneers to the upper octaves of people like Halford, Michael Sweet, and yes, Geoff Tate.

Even their first solo work of the night set everyone's hair on fire with both fury and finesse.

Trauma's newest single, The River Red, also showed that the band cared about presentation as much as musical mastery (which is saying a lot) as the red/green/yellow timed light show added a deep visual element to the duo guitar wizardry.

The guitar harmony solos found in Walk Away were added to greatly by everything from howls to duo vocals from Spencer, to some of the best inner-melody lines to be found in any axe work the world over.

As with Marty Freidman, who was soon to follow, there were times when both guitars took leads at the same time and the bass was allowed to really shine, yet without the "back" of the song falling out, which isn't easy to achieve.

A unicorn sighting

Megadeth, while famous for having always had the very best guitarists that the world has ever seen in their roster, a listener is hard-pressed to find one more stunning in axe mastery than Marty Freidman.

One is also hard-pressed to actually see the man.

While not nearly as reclusive as Vinnie Vincent or, God knows, Vito Bratta, Freidman isn't a face that is seen at every festival and concert all of the time.

Lucky was Ohio, then, when Columbus not only got to see the great one but got to hear his magical music, as well. While Freidman avoids the moniker "shredder" due to his ability to work melody lines like a singer into his sonic creations, there are times when he not only shreds, but he does so in a way that makes a person wonder how he still has any skin left on his fingers when he is done.

His band, which is said to have gone through "extensive training" in order to even do what is needed, is comprised of Japan's finest musicians.

Wakazaemon, the bassist is as adorable as she is talented, often playing the most complex and melodic sections of music which compliments but does NOT follow Freidman.

Duo-lead guitarist Naoki Morioka and drummer Chargeeeeee rounded out the tribe and, on every song, the band showed how they were not a legend with a backing crew. Rather, each member got to shine on every track and at all times during the performance.

Marty Freidman and the band's stage presence was second to none with Friedman kicking some cymbals in time with the music and their drummer looking like Ricki Rocket while playing like Neil Peart. It was like nothing that anyone had ever seen before, both sonically and visually.

Marty's music is different from most other artists because his music does use a lot of the scales, time signatures, and approaches that are often alien to rock audiences, yet the songs never veered too far into "world music" or "Asian music" as to be distracting in any way.

Quite the opposite, for the melody lines and true emotion often range from stomping to, dare one say, "happy," though in a very Satriani sort of way, never sugary or pop.

The snare rolls and timing found in the drum movements were staggering, some of the rolls seemed to almost sound as if backward, and all of it was accomplished with a stage presence that was almost glam.

Simply put, by the time that Megadeth's "Tornado Of Souls" was turned into an instrumental (as all of Freidman's music is), it was clear that Ohio was witnessing a band who may have surpassed "Animals As Leaders" as the best instrumental act touring today.

Hopefully, it won't take another four years for Freidman and the crew to return.

Revolution calling: Queensrÿche takes the stage

When it comes to progressive rock/metal at its very best, it is all but impossible to not mention the name Queensrÿche. Singer Todd La Torre sounds so much like the band's former singer, Geoff Tate, that it would not be at all surprising to find that many in the crowd thought that it was Tate who they just heard. Not since Journey has such a transition been so close to the original.

While, like many acts today, Queensrÿche don't have all of the members that made them a household name still in the band, drummer Casey Grillo, bassist Eddie Jackson, with guitarists Mike Stone and Michael Wilton certainly did every note of the more-classic lineup justice, while more than proving the solidity of the newer music.

As a matter of fact, songs like "Behind The Walls," "Sicdeth," and "Forest" (which La Torre told the crowd was about losing one's parents since, while many young faces were to be seen in the crowd, many were "on the wrong side of 50") were some of the shows best moments. Forest was a ballad placed where many expected "Silent Lucidity" to be, and to be honest, it was a nice departure.

As a matter of fact, when the singer teased a ballad, a few fans shouted out "Silent Lucidity" and La Torre laughed deeply before saying that that particular song is done a lot... but not tonight.

Beyond that, the galloping bass on "In Extremis," the flurry of harmony solos that echoed through the hall like the cries of Muses during that song, was also a point in the show when those watching could only stand with their mouths agape.

Likewise, in the track Sicdeth, it should also be noted that, like Trauma who opened the night's festivities, every member who sings for Queensrÿche can really sing. It was, at no point in the evening, a situation where the CD sounded one way on the backing vocals, and the real thing is a bit less.

This is of particular note since, as La Torre said, most members of all of the bands have the flu, are getting over the flu, or are too sick to hardly talk, like Grillo - who was too ill to do a radio station ID - yet he managed to deliver a flawless performance in time signatures that are anything but simple.

One of the few slightly negative aspects of the show was that the keyboards were tracked or triggered, which seemed odd for songs like "Empty Room," as it prepped the crowd for the classic, "Eyes Of A Stranger." Again, the subtle yet complex drum nuances reigned supreme as everyone sang along to every word (even members of the band who were dodging the mic playfully, like Stone).

As for the lead vocal, the fact that La Torre was sick was not in any way heard in his delivery since songs like Empire, the above-mentioned Eyes Of A Stranger, and especially the closer, Queen Of The Reich, have some of the most impossible ranges in all of the music world and they sounded perfect in pitch, depth, and inflection during this performance.

Little tweaks, like the double bass after the blistering harmony solos in "Empire," were to be heard and savored and it was during the spoken part of this song, where 'the stats" are read on the CD version, where the band was introduced, which was quite clever.

At one point in the show, the sound system crashed and the band had to wait while a reboot took place, yet they didn't allow that to stop them.

La Torre, like Halford, often departs the stage while solos and long musical movements are taking place, so the break didn't seem as bad as it could have been.

Even with the reboot delay and whilst recovering from the flu, as fans headed for the doors, those who waited by the buses managed to still get an autograph, a pick, or a fist bump from Queensrÿche and many of the openers, and that speaks volumes about why these bands have managed to stand times most grueling tests.

They even made not being able to get hydrated a tolerable experience, after all.