The grandiose nature of a Dream Theater show can be tantalizing for audiences who love to lose themselves in their music. Dream Theater has come a long way since their debut album ‘When Dream and Day Unite’ back in 1989. They have gone on to record many seminal albums and have toured the world relentlessly several times over. As a live and studio band Dream Theater’s technical virtuosity and songwriting craftsmanship continues to improve after all these years, their back catalogue speaks for itself and so this year marks the 25th anniversary of their 1992 album ‘Images and Words’. The album boosted Dream Theater’s commercial prowess but it came out at a time when grunge was king and for young musicians to be playing progressive rock music that sounded like Rush or God forgive us even Emerson, Lake and Palmer was considered as being out of touch with their contemporaries.
Dream Theater’s music certainly crosses over genres and generations to the extent that many of their newer fans were way too young to have heard Images and Words when it first came out. This year the band decided to take a trip down memory lane by doing a special world tour to celebrate Images and Words playing the album live in its entirety and much to our good fortune a visit to Australia was included in their itinerary.
This week’s Dream Theater’s Sydney show at the Hordern Pavillion was an all seated affair. Like a classic act, the show was divided into two acts with an intermission in between. Act one was comprised of recent material from their last few albums and act two was entirely dedicated to the Images and Words album. Dream Theater opened the first act with the catchy and menacing riff of“The Dark Eternal Night”;within the first few seconds of guitarist John Petrucci and Co. starting to play their respective instruments all of us in the audience could feel the goose bumps. In his composition keyboardist Jorden Rudess releases a disconcerting steam of circus like melody while the rest of the band indulge in pure metallic prog bliss which is precisely what Dream Theater knows how to do unlike any other band in the planet.
Singer James LaBrie greeted the audience expressing how much they love coming to Australia adding a little moan about how long the flight is for them and how jetlag is always inevitable. The first act went down quite quickly as the band churned out a few of their fairly recent compositions from“The Bigger Picture”, “The Gift of Music”, “Our New World” and the epic masterpiece “Breaking All Illusions”. Two of the highlights of the first set were bass player John Myung’s tribute to that other legendary bassist Jaco Pastorious by covering his composition “Portrait of Tracy” and the second highlight came later as the band improvised “Enter Sandman” by Metallica jammed between their own composition “As I am”.
Act 2 started with a tape recording of a Happy New Year message from 1992 accompanied by snippets of many of the rock hits of the time such “Smells Like Teen Spirit”, “Under the Bridge” and “Man in the Box”and concluded with the announcement that a fairly new band called Dream Theater had just had a top 10 single with the song “Pull Me Under”. After this intro Dream Theater got back on stage and performed their 92 hit song to the delight of the Sydney audience. Older fans(but not exclusively) were passionately singing the chorus with James LaBrie. The crowd throughout the second act decided to stand up and this changed the atmosphere. There was plenty of clapping and head banging to the bands roaring ambience.
Of course a Dream Theater show would not be complete without solos from the individual members of the band. Drummer Mike Mangini pulled off one of the most epic drum solos and proved that he was the right man to have replaced Mike Portnoy on the skins whilst John Petrucci and Jordan Rudess showed their chops and how emotionally invested they are to their instruments and performance.
The final twist came in the encore where the band decided to play their epic and perhaps most prog ever 7-part composition “A Change of Seasons” from the E.P of the same title. This was a grand way to end the show and for Dream Theater fans it was a concert to reflect on the early stages of the band’s career and the big contribution they have made towards paving the way for progressive metal bands today and in the future. ‘Images and Words’ is an album that inspires today’s younger music fans to pick up and play an instrument or just to explore their creativity. Thanks to Dream Theater that bands such as Opeth, Porcupine Tree and Riverside have achieved the critical success they enjoy. Dream Theater may be veterans in the music game but they are certainly not done yet as they continue to gain new fans and release ambitious progressive metal albums.