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.
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.
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”).
“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.”
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…