Photos by Julius Richardson
Live Review: Shadow Editor
How do you find the words to describe something majestic? Marvelous, Magnificent, Pompous? I could think of a few other synonyms to provide for you the reader about one of the all-time best Progressive Metal bands we have going today. Yes, I’m referring to the mighty Dream Theater. How about how do we eloquently put into words ways to describe how a band absolutely consumes every inch of energy and ownership over each of their respected instruments as Dream Theater does? How they exquisitely play like true professionals, deeply rooted in their craft, only giving the fans an absolutely mind-blowing performance, that resonates long after their set is completed and the smoke was clear, and the cool air of this mighty evening in Nashville has subsided.
Okay I know you are probably thinking, this guy is such a fanboy, right? Sure that would be selling this performance review short, simply because when you go to a concert and are transcended through space and time, while you listen through a two and a half hour set, and wonder where the hell did the time go? You know you are doing something right.
A few things make this night of Dream Theater memorable. For once it’s the first time this fellow writer has seen one of his favorite bands live, sad but true. Two in that Dream Theater hasn’t played in Nashville in 26 years, and lastly “The Distance Over Time Tour”, would provide the fans with a full performance of one of DT’s masterpieces, the great concept album Metropolis Pt. 2: Scenes from a Memory will be played in full across this tour celebrating their 20th anniversary, and that feat alone it’s worth the price of admission.
Listeners often find solace in certain albums, either for their symbolic meanings, their powerful lyrics that resonate deep in our souls, or simply astonishing musicianship. Metropolis Pt. 2 is a record that I hold dear to my heart and fits all those qualities in my eyes. This specific album hit me hard when I first heard it, it’s powerful use of rhythms, the beauty of its dark mysticism and it’s meaningful story makes it one of the best prog albums ever made. In my case when I lost someone dear to me, this was an album I found comfort in, for various reasons that go way beyond the stretch of this review, but all these things make this tour and this specific performance one to remember for all of time. That and you get a chance to share it with great friends, who by the way had never seen them live either and are also absolutely big time fans of the band, and you know it’s a win-win scenario. By the way happy wedding anniversary Draven, your old man says hi.
The night began quickly as we made our way to TPAC in Nashville, TN. The place was starting to get packed, not to anybody’s surprise. We met some fans that came all the way from Seattle and Missouri just to see the show. The power of music transcends miles and time, this is one of those bands.
The futuristic backdrop and imagery before the show began, screams of Jordan Rudess influence, I say this based on some of his solo stuff and artwork used in his upcoming solo record titled “Wired For Madness”, do yourself a favor and check it out here as we had a chat with Jordan on his solo record as well.
The band wastes no time and kicks things into high gear with “Untethered Angel” first single of their newest record “Distance Over Time”. A cool song, more straight forward than some of recent’s DT material, but solid nonetheless. Act 1 leans heavy on the new record with a couple of exceptions coming in the form of “A Nightmare To Remember” and “In The Presence of Enemies” Part 1”, both great songs from later era Dream Theater. The band ends first half before intermission with “Pale Blue Dot”, a favorite of mine from their new one. One could gripe a bit about maybe featuring more classic era DT songs, from “Awake” or “Images and Words”, but let’s not kid ourselves, we are here to witness the full ensemble from top to bottom of “Metropolis Pt. 2”.
After a short intermission, we start the very familial “Regression” bit from this masterpiece. We are transported into this concept world via some cool imagery during their set to help aid the journey of each song. “Overture 1928” sounds amazing, and “Strange Deja Vu” gives me all kinds of feels. I can simply state that DT is able to capture any song live and absolutely uplift their live cut vs their studio versions. These songs are not easy to play live, but you can see the kinship and intense focus on every one of the band members while they engulf themselves into each and every one of these songs, with a heartfull of intricate perfection.
One of the songs I looked forward to hearing live was “Fatal Tragedy” and it was done exquisitely. John Petrucci is a guitar legend, it’s been said before yes he’s an absolute virtuoso, and his live performance during this act is fantastic. His guitar tone totally unmatched, you can hear the crispness in his riffs and solos, hands down damn near perfection on every song. The frenetic fretwork in “Beyond This Life” is stunning, and John Myung as usual, the silent backbone of the band, kills it with his precision bass.
At this point, we get into “Through Her Eyes” of course and if James Labrie has been saving some of his vocals for later in the show, he starts kicking things into high gear here. Such an emotional song, Labrie delivers the goods here. Even without Theresa Thomason singing this live with the band, harking back on Live Scenes from New York days, still sounds so beautiful and marvelous; one we sang out loud from beginning to end. And yes James Labrie can still sing, so stop asking that question, he has not lost his voice.
The heavy hitters come next in “Home” and “The Dance of Eternity”, I can’t even begin to translate into words how insanely hard it is to play these songs live, the intricate change of rhythm and riffs in these two are mind-blowing. Jordan Rudess does a marvelous job on the keys here, reintroducing the fans to when he first came into the band. The spectacle of sounds, and layers of maniacal renderings here bring out an array of enchantment.
Mike Mangini manages through even though the drumming set forth by the great Mike Portnoy is not an easy thing to follow, he does a commendable job all throughout the night. And after “Home” he gets a special birthday cake surprise by the band members, nice to see that, yes it was his birthday the next day but what the hell it was nice. Happy Birthday, Mike, hope you had a blast too.
Goosebumps began creeping down my spine when “The Spirit Carries On” comes up. You talk about a song that symbolizes us humans and our existence? Questioning life, what it all means, all these thoughts go through my head when I hear this song, and witnessing it live it’s even more alluring. Again all band members just shine on every instrument, no surprise here. Petrucci once again just has all the feels when he plays, nothing but high praise to witness one of the all-time great guitar players of our generation.
Can you believe we are ending this journey already? An amazing night that ends with the encore of the beloved “Pull Me Under”, one which the band had to play or it would possibly enrage some fans. Regardless; this magic evening transcended the live images I felt when I first heard Metropolis Pt.2 years ago and to revisit this again and play such a masterful record of this magnitude live in the flesh, with such precision and aptitude, it’s truly a feat. Thank you Dream Theater for making this one memorable Wednesday night. When the dust finally settles on their long historic career, they would have left so much quality material that would make any band from any genre envious. Happy 20th-anniversary Metropolis Part 2, it was an honor walking down memory lane after all these years.