Prog Metal pioneers Dream Theater stopped by Montreal on the second date of their North American tour last night, and their 3 hour set gave the few thousand fans present a healthy dose of virtuosity, complex rhythms and crunching riffs. For their Along For the Ride Tour, the band chose to go back to the Evening With format, and chose to celebrate the 20th anniversary of the Awake album, as well as the 15th anniversary of their masterpiece Scenes From a Memory. The set was constructed into 3 parts: The first half was mostly devoted to the “post Portnoy” albums (with the splendid Trial of Tears thrown in for good measure, as well as The Shattered Fortress which had never been played live before this tour). Dream Theater usually sounds great, even in an arena, which is a testament to the quality of their FOH engineers, but this time (and it might have been because I was close to the speaker stack), it was overly loud (to the point that the PA would cut out during the first few songs) and there was no cohesion between the instruments. It got better as the evening went on, but it made it harder to appreciate all the subtleties in the music.
After a 15 minute break where various DT related fan videos from Youtube were shown on screen, the band launched into their Awake tribute by playing the last 5 tracks from that album. And yes, that means that, for the first time ever, Space Dye Vest is being played live, although in a modified arrangement that, while it works better live than it did on the Youtube videos I saw from earlier in the tour, still robs the song of a lot of its poignancy (in my opinion). Lifting Shadows off a Dream was a highlight of that section, with James Labrie (in fine form) hitting all the high notes with an ease he hasn’t had in a long time. The band followed that with the 22-minute Illumination Theory from their latest self-titled album. After a short encore break, the band came back, to thunderous applause to play 4 tracks from Scenes From a Memory.
While I like the new material, the juxtaposition with the vintage tracks just highlighted the fact that they used to excel at creating incredibly complex yet coherent songs, something that’s missing from their newer material. I also wish they’d go back to the rotating set lists; you never knew what songs you’d get, and they’d always throw in some surprises. I realize this represents a huge amount of work to memorize so many complex parts, but it made the band seem so much more exciting. I used to travel to catch multiple shows, hoping to hear as many tracks as possible. The static set lists have taken this element away. Drummer Mike Mangini, on his second tour after replacing Mike Portnoy, has settled nicely in with the band. While you can hear the difference in style on the old material, his chemistry with the band is top notch, and his skills are unmatched. His drum solo was particularly good, enough to give him a pass about breaking one of the 7 Rock Concert Clichés That Need to Die. Keyboard wizard Jordan Rudess made everything look effortless, matching the lightning speed runs of John Petrucci who seems to have reintegrated melodies into his arsenal, after years of trying to break the speed of sound with amazingly fast runs. The quiet one, John Myung, laid down the bass with just as much skill, and used his few moments in the spotlight to prove his superior skills.
All in all, a very good show from these veterans, but I’ve seen them do much better ones. This felt safe, and it’s jarring from a band that used to push the envelope so much.
- The Enemy Inside
- The Shattered Fortress
- On the Backs of Angels
- The Looking Glass
- Trial of Tears
- Enigma Machine (with drum solo by Mike Mangini)
- Along for the Ride
- Breaking All Illusions
- The Mirror
- Lifting Shadows Off a Dream
- Space-Dye Vest
- Illumination Theory
- Overture 1928
- Strange Déjà Vu
- The Dance of Eternity
- Finally Free
He's also a regular contributor at the excellent news site Montreal Rampage
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