An Dreamy Evening With Dream Theater
Dream Theater are easily the biggest progressive metal band this world has ever seen, and they happen to be my favourite band of all time. From old classic albums like Images and Words or Scenes From a Memory, to more recent hits such as Systematic Chaos or A Dramatic Turn of Events, Dream Theater have continuously put out excellent, technically challenging, yet strangely catchy material. Their newest album mostly failed to catch my attention, but even so, I knew that I could not miss their show when they came to Vancouver on April 12th. In addition to the new album, they were also celebrating the 20th anniversary of their album Awake, as well as the 15th anniversary of the landmark Scenes From A Memory. So, fellow writer Warunki and I grabbed tickets and headed out to Vancouver’s Queen Elizabeth Theatre on one gorgeous Vancouver evening to catch the prog metal legends.
Before the show, a bunch of us fans met at Moxy’s on Cambie Street for pre-drinks. It was the first meeting of the group dubbed the West Coast Prog Brigade, the first of what we hope to be many, focused on trying to grow the progressive rock and metal scene within Vancouver. Good times were had by all, many of us meeting each other for the first time.
Just before the show started, we all headed over to find our seats. I got mine just as the band were ripping through the first single from their self-titled new album, “The Enemy Inside”. It’s a good enough song, though more reminiscent of the last decade of progressive power metal bands than any of the ground-breaking music Dream Theater were always known for. “The Shattered Fortress”, the final song in Mike Portnoy’s 12 Steps Suite of songs dealing with his struggles against his alcoholism, was next, and that really got me into the show.
The band moved through newer material, and found the time to dip back to “Trial of Tears” from 1997’s Falling Into Infinity album, one of my favourites from that release. An extended intro, instrumental section, and then a final sneaky little nod to “Xanadu” by Rush made it a great performance. Also note-worthy: the instrumental track, “The Enigma Machine”, during which drummer Mike Mangini had a short drum solo section. I could tell Warunki was really getting into the drum solo, because he leaned forward in his chair to watch more intently. They closed the first set by playing “Breaking All Illusions”, a track from 2011’s A Dramatic Turn of Events that quickly became a huge fan favourite. It was a damn fine closer, that’s for sure.
After a quick intermission during which I grabbed a drink and chatted with some friends, the band came back at it. This time, the focus went back to 1994, and the landmark album Awake. Dream Theater paid homage to it by playing the entire second half, which included “Space-Dye Vest”, a song that had not ever been played live previous to this tour due to the band considering it to be ex-keyboardist Kevin Moore’s ‘song’ – though some speculate that it wasn’t played simply because ex-drummer Mike Portnoy didn’t like it. Regardless of the reason, it is an excellent song. Being able to sit there and witness such a deeply emotional and heavy song was truly special, as was getting to hear “The Mirror” and “Lie” performed live, songs that work off each other and are truly awesome to hear. Dream Theater then closed out the set with the 20 minute epic “Illumination Theory” from the new album, a song that has grown on me a decent amount since its release.
And then came the encore. As I previously mentioned, it is the 15th anniversary of Scenes From a Memory, which is Dream Theater’s best album, and is perhaps one of the finest albums of all time. The band honoured this by playing a couple songs from that album, including the mind-blowing instrumental, “The Dance of Eternity”. Really, the $65 ticket price was worth it for this encore alone, especially seeing that level of virtuoso ability compressed into one short 6 minute song. Then the epic closer, “Finally Free”, wrapped up their set on a fantastic note with Mangini providing one last hurrah of drum heroics while the band grooved on the closing riffs, and the truly fitting vocal line from LaBrie; “We’ll meet again my friends/someday soon”
And then, all too soon, it was over. It wasn’t the first time I’d seen Dream Theater, but the fourth time, and each time they manage to leave a large impression. Their technical ability is quite stunning and, though he is the weaker link in the band, vocalist James LaBrie was spot on, sounding really good live. Mike Mangini will probably never escape the shadow of the man he replaced on drums, but he continually shows himself to be a fantastic drummer in his own right. John Myung, though he has little actual stage presence these days, is probably the best bassist in the world based on pure raw talent. John Petrucci is an absolute god on guitar, and the way he and Jordan Rudess work off of each other is inhuman. Speaking of Jordan, he is perhaps the only person ever who can actually pull off playing a keytar and look cool doing it.
Hopefully they’ll be back soon so I can see them again. I cannot image a plausible scenario where I wouldn’t go see them, four times was definitely not enough. I haven’t even gotten to see “Metropolis pt 1” live yet!
Thank you, Dream Theater, for putting on an excellent show and just being excellent in general.