When we last caught Dream Theater it was in celebration of their 20th Anniversary and the whole majesty of that tours’ finale was captured on a live CD & DVD recorded at New York City’s Radio City Music Hall. You can check out “Score” when you have a chance and that’s a solid recommendation without a doubt and a must have for any discerning DT fan. Tonight the band was closing out the first leg of their tour supporting the newest CD “Systematic Chaos”, which is also was the bands debut on Roadrunner Records. The album has been receiving lots of positive praise and shows that the Progressive Rockers are not out of ideas by a long shot. Based on my knowledge of the disk I was certain that this was going to be exciting material in the live sense so the show tonight at New Jersey’s PNC Bank Arts Center was an event that I was looking forward to very much. This time around there would be some differences with the most apparent being the show was NOT “An Evening with Dream Theater” but instead a show that found the band bringing two opening acts on the road with them. The lucky bands for the tour would be Century Media Records own Into Eternity and InsideOut Music’s Redemption. This was a great gig for both of the bands but I have to admit that I was a little surprised about the order that these two openers would be appearing for the attending crowd. It seemed as though Into Eternity was first up and this bothered me since the band has been assaulting the Metal senses of fans in America with a constant level of touring for the past two years. They hit the stage promptly and I was missing the first couple of numbers based on security not letting me inside the venue since the camera stuff needed to be cleared. The guys would do a very short set and at this particular event there were not as many people watching them as I would have liked to see. Perhaps Into Eternity is too heavy for some of the Dream Theater fans, but if that’s the case these people would do good to remember that DT themselves were very, very heavy at the earlier stages of their career as well. I liked what I saw of the guys and they were again focusing on their most recent album “The Scattering Of Ashes” – and its really an album that you should give a chance to if you have not done so already. Sadly they would be done rather quickly and I think that they only played about five or six tunes when it came down to it. The bands newest members are now locked into place and prove to be welcome and worthy additions. Those who were in the audience during their set seemed to like them and I was happy to see this. Next on these guys plate will be a co-headlining tour with EdGuy from Germany. Redemption would come up second and since the band features Ray Alder from Fates Warning I guess this was the reasoning behind his slot. It’s no secret that the guys in Dream Theater have long admired that bands work for Progressive Metal. While I know I expressed some ire about Ray’s Redemption coming on second, it was more based on this particular band not being as in the public eye as the IE guys had been since their inception. Musically they were really, really excellent and I will definitely be looking into them a little more going forward. Ray sounded great and its based on his being one of the better Metal singers around and the guitar work and overall composition of the tunes seemed to be top notch. Their newest platter is “The Origins Of Ruin” and it’s a CD that I know I have but still need to listen to a little deeper to get what these guys are doing. There is some good technical display going on with them and I found them a lot closer to DT than I expected them to be. I didn’t like the fact that Ray would walk offstage constantly, but perhaps he was doing this to not just be standing on the stage while solos and other Progressive adventuring was taking place. After about 45 minutes or so it was time for the one and only Dream Theater to make their way to the stage.
If you consider yourself a fan of modern Progressive Rock and Metal and for some reason have not yet caught Dream Theater in concert then you are doing yourself a great disservice. They are very simply one of the best live bands in the world and they possess some of the top talents that the music scene of the last twenty years has ever offered up. As I said they would be supporting their newest CD, and as result a lot of the material tonight would be focused from this release. Outside of Rush I think that only Dream Theater and perhaps a couple of choice other bands can get away with playing that much new material on each tour. It also seems that the people who come to see them once are the ones that return and often follow the band to a few extra stops on their tours if it’s possible. Such a practice has enabled Dream Theater to remain one of the most consistent draws in terms of their concerts. The music from the new album was as amazing live as I had expected it to be and if one were to judge the feelings about the record from the audience reaction you could say that they agreed with me. I was lucky to be right up front for the first few moments of the show and was hard to get me to move once I saw the absolutely massive drum kit that Mike Portnoy was using tonight. For the tour he has a clear vista-lite set from Tama and this thing was a marvel of engineering to behold. At a guess I would say there were at least twenty five actual drums on the thing and even more cymbals. I apologize for not having an exact number for you, but needless to say it was big, and it sounded even better than it looked. Tonight we would also find Portnoy singing a lot more than he had in the past and he really has a nice voice when it comes down to it. Front man James LaBrie was himself in peak form and comes across like Rock royalty on the stage nowadays and can you blame him after so many successful tours and albums? When he gestures to the attending crowd they respond in kind and I have yet to hear him miss a note from any of the songs. He was truly a perfect fit way back when they first selected him so many years ago. John Petrucci was on fire tonight and when I say it you know that it has to be true since I am not one of those diehard guitar guys. I mean I love the technical playing, but I’m an ex-drummer guy, so it’s the percussive side of things that usually catches my focus and when I am not shifting my gaze from the guitar you know its awesome. I’m forgetting where this actually happened in the set, but there was an interlude that they were doing which started to sound really familiar and as it was happening I thought to myself that I was imagining it. Luckily, I was not and it became very clear that they were jamming the chords of “Sugar Mice” by legendary Progressive Rockers Marillion. It was mainly the music but towards the end LaBrie came out and sang some of the chorus. There were many singers in the audience who tried their best to help him out on this part whether he wanted it or not. I just wish they actually did the whole song as it would have been an even cooler treat. Of course I cannot leave out the masters of bass and keyboard that are John Myung and Jordan Rudess – the two and uncanny in terms of their talents. Myung rarely shifts his focus from his bass and just makes it look so easy, while Rudess continues to experiment and offer up techniques and patterns that bring new and exciting life to Dream Theater compositions. At one point in the show he had a remote keyboard and since they generally hate the term “key-tar” I will not use it to explain his device. The group always seems capable of having an incredible sound no matter where the show is and while the PNC Bank Arts Center is under cover, it is still an outdoor venue and such a medium is often tough on bands. Still DT always manages, no matter what and that for me adds to their appeal. I hate when a band sounds great on the album but is terrible live. Luckily this is something we never have to worry about when Dream Theater’s name is on the marquee.
The show tonight would run just under two hours and I know that those fans who like the three plus hours of the band were a tad disappointed in that but truly it also gives the band a break and allows them to give other acts a chance to become rising stars. Their set list was great as I mentioned and outside of the new album highlights they played some stuff from “Octavarium” and even closed with a massive medley that had the audience on their feet and screaming like there was no tomorrow. The only issue I had with the show was the amount of people because the entire lawn area was closed off and it seemed that if you had a ticket for the lawn that they were giving you a seat down under the main structure. I had never experienced this and totally didn’t expect it but perhaps the fact that this was almost the end of the summer was to blame. Those that chose not to come this evening will have to wait for next year and knowing the way Dream Theater works the set will not be the same by any stretch of the imagination, so they truly missed out on a killer performance and some solid openers.
Photo Notes: I wasn’t able to get any decent photos of Redemption based on lighting, and this same issue caused limited Into Eternity ones to be shot. As far as DT goes, Petrucci, Rudess and Myung were quite far and hence my increased Portnoy and LaBrie shots.
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Official Web Site: www.dreamtheater.net
Official Web Site: www.intoeternity.net
Official Web Site: www.redemptionweb.com
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