A Dramatic Turn of Events: Dream Theater Live at The Warner Theater in Washington, DC

Review and Photographs By: Craig Hunter Ross

Though the venue doors opened at 7:00pm and show time would not be until 8:00pm, gaining entrance into the Warner Theater was proving to be quite the challenge. The ornate grand foyer of the former movie palace was a cacophony of various languages, demonstrating the band’s large international following.

Packed shoulder to shoulder and overflowing up stairways and out the doors, fans patiently waited for the large red velvet interior curtains to open revealing the path to their seats. Soon, they would have their opportunity to see and hear what many describe as one of the world’s premiere prog-rock bands, Dream Theater.

John Petrucci Photo: Craig Hunter Ross

John Petrucci Photo: Craig Hunter Ross

Founded in 1985 by three schoolmates at the Berklee College of Music, Dream Theater has developed a large and loyal following matched by few artists; not only of the prog/metal fan base, but that of any genre. While this tour supports their new release, A Dramatic Turn of Events, fans were equally anxious to see how new drummer Mike Mangini would fit in with his new mates, having replaced founding member and original drummer Mike Portnoy last year.

Following a strong set by support act Trivium, several fans rushed up to the stage during the changeover cameras in hand. As the previous artist’s backdrop was removed to reveal Dream Theater’s staging, the flash bulbs illuminated the front of the theater like that of a Super Bowl kickoff. Diehard fans and gear heads seemed intent and content to photograph and analyze the band’s technical equipment sans the artist.

John Myung Photo: Craig Hunger Ross

John Myung Photo: Craig Hunter Ross

There was note taking, photographs and discussions over pedal boards, amps, processors and microphone placement until finally security staff dispersed the crowd back to their seats and the lights began to dim. As the Hans Zimmer song “Dream is Collapsing” began to play over the sound system an original animation came to life on the three cube screen units hovering above the stage and the wait was over.

Opening with “Bridges in the Sky,” from the recently released A Dramatic Turn of Events, the band demonstrated they are just as technically proficient as ever, and that they certainly made the correct choice in selecting Mangini to replace Portnoy. A flurry of songs old and new would follow (“These Walls,” “Build Me Up Break Me Down,” “Endless Sacrifice”).

James LaBrie Photo: Craig Hunger Ross

James LaBrie Photo: Craig Hunter Ross

“Endless Sacrifice” featured the speed and precision of John Petrucci’s guitar against the equally dynamic keyboard work of Jordan Rudess. The back and forth “battle” was reminiscent of the note for note one-upmanship that used to be a staple of classic YES shows between Steve Howe and Rick Wakeman. The audience was mesmerized.

Not to be outdone, newbie Mangini would indeed now take center stage with a mammoth drum solo that utilized each and every part of his equally mammoth kit. The audience definitely embraced the band’s newest member, with even a few good natured “Portnoy who?” comments being overheard, though no one would question the skill Portnoy possesses or the contributions he made to the group in his 20 year plus tenure.

There was no rest though, as the drum solo was quickly followed by fan favorite “Ytse Jam” and the band exited the stage. With the crowd at a fever pitch and the band no doubt needing to slow things down, a well placed and unexpected mini-acoustic set was the perfect breather for all involved, band and fans alike. Front man James LaBrie, whose voice is a strong as ever, returned with keyboard virtuoso Jordan Rudess for a stirring rendition of “Wait for Sleep” before the two would be joined by bass master John Myung for “Far From Heaven.”

Mike Mangini Photo: Craig Hunger Ross

Mike Mangini Photo: Craig Hunter Ross

The second half of the set featured incredibly well produced animation, live action video and computer graphics projected for every song. Fans were treated to numbers such as “On the Backs of Angels,” “Caught in a Web,” “Fatal Tragedy” and other favorites. After a powerful version of “Breaking All Illusions” Dream Theater’s fans seemed to be virtually exhausted, the band took their bows and left the stage leaving the fans wishing for just one more song.

That wish would come true as out of the darkened stage Petrucci emerged strumming familiar notes while Mangini began the familiar march. Rudess provided the keys and Myung brought the thunder. LaBrie would begin to tell the lyrical story and the Dream Theater loyal audience were treated to an awe inspiring version of the epic “Pull Me Under,” a song which masterfully demonstrated why so many consider each of these musicians to be masters of their craft.

Anyone who calls themselves a musician must attend a Dream Theater concert at least once and this would be an ideal tour to catch them. You’ll either put your instrument down in defeat or as I’m sure the band would hope, you’ll be inspired to pick up your instrument and work at it harder than ever. Now that would be a dramatic turn of events…

Jordan Rudess Photo: Craig Hunger Ross

Jordan Rudess Photo: Craig Hunter Ross


  1. Cesar (4 years ago)

    The set list remains the same?? I’ve seen one show with Mangini on drumms, and it’s not so ammazing as the press releases, if don’t believe me, please see shows back in Portnoy time, and you see what I mean. Portnoy, please come back, this isn’t sounding the same, wake up guys!!..

  2. Ryan (4 years ago)

    You’re crazy cesar. They’re back and better than they have been in a looong time. Mangini is fantastic.

    • Cesar (4 years ago)

      Don’t get me wrong Ryan, but better than they have been for a long time? Ok, you like the new DT, I prefer the classics, and think that this album isn’t nothing special, and if Mangini is so good (I don’t think that his style is the best for this, but hey, it’s my opinion) I prefer the geniality and the innovation that MP gave to DT music, that we all were used to, but forgot..

  3. eggtrailer (4 years ago)

    Sadly, Mike Portnoy was slowly strangling the life out of Dream Theater. Maybe that’s not his “fault” per se but hearing this new release and seeing the show at the Warner, these guys are clearly enjoying a new beginning. Some may pine for Portnoy but that’s just foolish. Mike Mangini earned his place — and is clearly relishing every minute! Yes, this isn’t “sounding the same”. Good! It’s sounding much fresher and alive! Same setlist? Well let’s see, Mangini has just joined the band… is he supposed to master the entire DT catalog just that fast? These guys are kicking ass and taking names! HELL YEAH!

  4. FrankDT (4 years ago)

    Dream Theater is such a skillful band that fans cannot expect anything less… just saw them last week in FL, who cares if the setlist is the same…Mangini just joined and he played the old stuff spotless… those same people that critize are the ones that could not play the drum parts for “Wait for Sleep” even if they tried for a year… this guys rock… and as eggtrailer pointed out, for good or bad, Portnoy had too much influence.. this band is rocking and sounding better than ever… just wait for the next album for Mangini to go Mangini all over the drums tracks…

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  6. theeda (4 years ago)

    going wild again commenting on the photos:
    if those were the five best shots he got from the whole concert, mr. craig hunter ross appears to be a trainee.

    off topic: yes, MP had a creativity that can’t be matched. yes, he had too much influence near the end. DT always were the best they could be at that moment, and that they are still. it’s all as it should be.

  7. Adam (4 years ago)

    Well, the never changing set is obviously there for production purposes. Which is a reason I’m alright with. Though I gotta say, I liked the way I never new whichs songs they would play except for the new ones!

    And fuck guys. Portnoy contributed alot to this. But when it comes to drumming, technuiqe and groove, Mike and Mike sound very familiar to each other. When you look at the 7 drummers, Mikey M is by far the closest to Portnoy in that respect.

    Though when is comes to the songs, the mixing, the overall production. There is a difference, but who’s to blame if people don’t like it?

    Personally, I think most of the fans prefer this than a 5, 6, 7 year break ;)

  8. LP52 (4 years ago)

    I’m diggin’ the photos – Pro photographers only get to shoot the first three songs in nearly all gigs. I’ve shot a lot of shows and it seems once performers get in the groove, the rules governing pro photographers kick in and we have to stop shooting. Nice job Criag!

    • Craig Hunter Ross (4 years ago)

      Thank you very much for your kind words. It means a great deal to me. I strive to capture images that I hope people will enjoy, especially those who were unable to attend. Drop me a line anytime and keep reading Guitar International!

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  10. Eric (4 years ago)

    I have been to every DT tour since Scenes from a Memory; I have every record DT has ever produced (studio album, live performance, official bootlegs, single, etc), and I can say without a doubt, that this is the best DT shown (and album) since Scenes from a Memory. The freshness MM brought to the band is incredible. I can only speak for myself, but I really hope Mangini remains the drummer of the band.

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