It’s no secret that live albums are of incremental interest, and even then, only to diehard fans of a band. In a sense, the same could be said for Queensyrche’s Live Evolution, but in a more accurate one, you could also say that this live album serves as a better “best of” than last year’s incomplete Greatest Hits collection — and at two discs, it’s nearly the same price! What truly makes Live Evolution a gem is its (mostly) chronological order, where each disc is divided into two halves: On disc one, we have the “EP/Warning Suite” and “Rage/Mindcrime Suite,” covering all the band’s material from the ’80s, from the classic self-titled debut EP to the utterly masterful Operation: Mindcrime; on disc two, we have the “Empire/Promised Land Suite” and “HITNF/Q2K Suite,” covering all the band’s material from the ’90s, from their last great album, Empire, up through their patchy ’90s work. Sure, the track listing is slightly off and out-of-order in spots (Rage For Order‘s “Walk in the Shadows,” from ’86, is the second song on disc one, warp-speeding a good two or three years), but you can’t argue with the content: prime ‘Ryche, in all their prog-metal — nay, smart-metal — glory, rendered with the same passion and precision as the DeGarmo-era lineup, the whole thing lively yet still obeying of the originals. The sound quality’s big n’ expansive, the movement from one track to the next is flawless, and even their aforementioned post-Empire work, spotty as it is, gets new life once they’re ebbing from the earlier, by-all-accounts better work (in hindsight now, ’90s lynchpins Liquid Sky and Falling Down are friggin’ brilliant), the whole package spelling “purpose” for once in Queensryche’s flawed past decade. For the most part, frontman Geoff Tate’s in fine form here, still able to hit (most of) his upper register, the only notable exception being the epic recasting of all-time fave “Spreading The Disease” during the cathartic chorus — and that could merely be a choice of improvisation rather than an otherwise technical limitation. Take the above into account and add to it a classy, artsy fold-out cardboard layout (could do without Metal Edge editor Paul Gargano’s gushing liner notes, though), and you’ve got the epitome of a quiet triumph, and probably the finest introduction to the ‘Ryche money can buy. Oh, and did I mention the whole of Live Evolution was recorded over the course of two nights at Seattle’s Moore Theatre? Brilliant, even if that once-blinding light has dimmed a bit in the last 11 years.