Prog metal titans Dream Theater descended upon a frigid Rochester, NY last night as they celebrated the 25th anniversary of their landmark album ‘Images and Words’ in the beautifully equipped Rochester Auditorium Theatre. They’ve been touring the album for the better part of the year, and have been touring almost constantly for the last two. As would be expected from such a schedule the band is a well oiled machine.
The night began with the thunderous riffs of “The Dark Eternal Night” which got the already eager crowd even more hyped up than they were. In fact, despite the fact that we were in a very nice theatre, they remained standing through nearly the entire 3 hour set that we were treated to. Among the technical pyrotechnics of the opening song was Jordan Rudess stepping out from behind his keyboards to play an adapted keytar equipped with a sound pad rather than keys; the crowd responded enthusiastically. After a brief humorous greeting from James LaBrie, the band moved directly into the slower paced “The Bigger Picture” and assorted other songs from their lengthy catalogue. As always, the interplay between John Myung’s bass work and the blazing playing of John Petrucci’s guitar work were a true wonder to behold, and the quick, impossibly tight playing was firmly cemented by Mike Mangini’s precise drumming.
We were soon treated to a couple of unexpected pieces, “To Live Forever” and “Don’t Look Past Me,” both written during the writing of ‘Images’ but not put on the album. This current US leg of the tour is the first time the band has performed the latter of the two songs. Another early treat was Myung’s bass solo and tribute to bass legend Jaco Pastorius, which was a very nice touch.
After a 15 minute intermission we were greeted by the sound of radio static and brief clips of songs that came out in ’92 as though switching stations. Incidentally, doing so was an excellent way to remind all of us how old we’re getting… This of course led into the performance of the entire ‘Images’ album, staring of course with their one (and only) hit song “Pull Me Under.” Performing such a classic album is of course a massive treat for fans, but also fraught with peril for the band, as everyone present knew every note intimately. Musically it was executed flawlessly.[metalwani_content_ad]
Sadly however, what became rapidly more apparent (it already was) was that LaBrie’s voice just isn’t what it used to be. I’m hoping he was simply having an off night, or perhaps was a bit under the weather; as the temperature had dropped nearly 30 degrees overnight, and that kind of thing can certainly mess with one’s voice. But he couldn’t hit (or even try to hit) any of the higher notes, and at times was singing so erratically that the vocals came out as an incomprehensible jumble of noises. The mix was also not very good either, and the result vocally was well… a mess for lack of a better word. I’m inclined to think that two years of constant touring has taken its toll, and hopefully a good rest will restore his voice.
Despite some vocal problems, the performance was still exceptional and Mangini gave a lengthy and fun-filled drum solo in the middle of “Metropolis – Part 1” with the rest of the band (and subsequent applause) stopping abruptly, and then jumping back into the middle of the song without missing a step. Mangini is clearly having a great time when he plays, frequently making faces at and laughing with the audience, all the while never missing a beat of the very complex music.
The evening concluded with a single song encore, but when the encore is the 23 minute epic “A Change of Seasons,” that’s all they really need to play. I had heard they were closing with it, and was much looking forward to hearing it, it being, I think, their best song. I was not to be disappointed. And though some of the vocal issues came back, James crushed the highly emotional closing of the song, ending a glorious evening of prog metal.
As they made very clear, after all these years Dream Theater is still playing at the top of their game, and are the gold standard of classic progressive metal, especially in a live setting. Any fan of the band would do very well to catch this tour if at all possible. The chance to hear such a loved and influential album played in its entirety is not something to be missed.