GIG REVIEW: An Evening With MIKE PORTNOY’s Shattered Fortress Live at The Metro Theatre, Sydney
In this day and age, it is rare for individual band members to become superstars in their own right, especially drummers. Yet when Mike Portnoy left Dream Theater back in 2010, he went on to form several formidable bands and tour in all parts of the globe in front of legions of loyal supporters who recognized him as a prodigy who surpassed the status of his former band.
Portnoy’s signature style of drumming has won him a reputation and status rare amongst his generation, only previously enjoyed by a few legendary names such as Neil Peart, Bill Bruford or Carl Palmer. Portnoy is not only a high-profile progressive rock musician; he is also a metalhead at heart and loves bashing his drums to the accompaniment of heavy metal guitar tones. The compositions he wrote with Dream Theater are still very close to his heart as well as with the fans, and whilst DT are still active without him, Portnoy announced a final tour to celebrate the music he had composed in his time with them and perform those songs in front of an audience for one last time. The Mike Portnoy’s Shattered Fortress tour was always planned to conclude in Australia, and it was the first time he had played a live show in the country since he departed Dream Theater.
The Sydney show at the Metro Theatre was a packed affair, and the fans’ excitement and loyalty to Portnoy really resonated throughout the whole theatre. It had been 8 long years since he graced our shores, and there was no need for a support act to warm up the crowd. The audience was already pumped to witness the incredible musicians that would come onto the stage.
The original creepy theme of ‘Psycho’ was the prelude to the band’s arrival. You could not have asked for a better opening introduction as it created a mysterious atmosphere and was very appropriate to the ambience of the show – plus Portnoy is always tweeting about films he loves. The band came on stage with huge applause and proceeded with the compositions “Regression” and “Overture 1928”. Portnoy’s delight to finally be back in Australia was evident by his acknowledgement that he loves coming to visit the country and to play music to his fans down under. The members of Portnoy’s 6-piece band are the contemporary progressive metal outfit Haken who had recently completed their own tour in Australia. Dream Theater were Haken’s primary influence and the motivation to start their own band. They all knew exactly how to perform each composition down to the details of every note and phrase perfectly played and interpreted.
A multimedia projection screen aided the music with visuals of shattering glass, majestic lighting and wild storms – all while the band locked into intense heavy passages and fast rhythmic patterns. The standout composition was “Repentance”, one of the few songs Portnoy wrote the lyrics for in his time with Dream Theater. It’s a very personal song about regret and restitution as he was going through a difficult period with alcoholism. The visuals had all of his close musician friends talking about their own personal regrets, including Mikael Akerfeldt and Steven Wilson.
The best compositions were left for the encore when Portnoy and Co. played the hypnotic progressive anthem “Home” and the sublime instrumental “The Dance of Eternity”. The final song before the band said their thank you’s and goodbyes was “Finally Free” a fitting piece to end a majestic musical concert.
From the visuals to the musicianship, it was all on display for an audience who knows the lyrics and guitar licks all too well and had an appetite for showmanship and spell-biding music. Whilst Portnoy has a busy schedule working with other world-class musicians and forming new supergroups, the Shattered Fortress tour felt like something that he needed to do for closure and to express gratitude to the many years the fans supported him during his time with Dream Theater.
Another Australian tour for Portnoy in 2018 looks quite likely on the cards – whether it is with The Winery Dogs, Sons of Apollo or Flying Colors, we will just have to wait and see.