A change of seasons has come as summer inevitably turned to fall, and fall has brought some excellent concert opportunities here in Utah Valley. A few weeks ago, I was able to see Kamelot. As fall progresses toward the darkest of winters, I have Adrian Belew, Opeth, and They Might Be Giants (with Jonathan Coulton) to look forward to.
This past weekend Tyson and I (along with my wife, his dad, and a few friends) had the opportunity to see Dream Theater play at Kingsbury Hall in the bustling metropolis of Salt Lake City, Utah. Dream Theater hadn’t played in Utah since 2007 on the Systematic Chaos tour, which both Tyson and I missed, so we were quite excited to see them play. All those years without Dream Theater just seemed hollow. As an interesting side note, following Dream Theater’s 2007 performance, governor Jon Huntsman officially proclaimed July 30th (the date of their show) to be Dream Theater Day in Utah (all hope is not lost for prog in Utah).
Note to readers: All Dream Theater puns, however terrible, are absolutely intended, and +1000 internets to you if you manage to catch them all!
Unfortunately, we were not privileged enough to enjoy An Evening With Dream Theater, but were instead granted the dubious distinction of being played at by Trivium. I’m not a big fan of Trivium at the best of times, but when they are playing first rather than Dream Theater playing alone, I felt like I was in the presence of enemies…twice…and that they were the root of all evil. Then they had the temerity to mention the abundance of “Dream Theater influence” that can “apparently” be “heard” in their “songs.” The lesson on musical influence must have been the test that stumped them all. Tyson put it succinctly when he stated that the only ones who hear a Dream Theater influence in their music are “stoners who think Dream Theater and bad Metallica are the same band.” Clearly, this idea caused a war inside his head, or maybe he just misunderstood.
It was only a matter of time before they finished playing and Dream Theater took the stage, but it felt like a dark, eternal night. If they didn’t quit playing soon, there was likely to be an outcry! Their performance burned my soul and left me feeling scarred, but at last they concluded and we were finally free. Dream Theater would soon be on to take away our pain and just let us breathe.
With a dramatic turn of events from suck to awesome, Dream Theater finally made their entrance and opened with Bridges in the Sky off of their latest album. And what an opener it was! It was executed flawlessly (of course) and I was able to make out the individual instruments, as well as clearly hear (not necessarily understand) James’ vocals. When I saw Kamelot a few weeks ago, the vocals were so low I could barely hear Fabio Lione’s voice and it made me cry. Also, the bass was so high, the guitar solos were difficult to resolve into individual notes. Thankfully, this was not the case here!
Seeing as this is their first tour without Mike Portnoy, you may be wondering how Mike Mangini’s playing was? Rest assured, his playing was phenomenal, and sounded much better than it did on the album, which wasn’t mixed as well as it could have been. Well, I’m not a drummer, but Tyson is, so he can tell you about Mangini.
I was really excited to see Mangini live. His drumming on the album was actually quite good, but it sounded terrible, and I was sure that seeing him play the stuff would make up for not being able to hear it. It was just awesome, and he actually sounded better live than he does on the album (don’t worry, in my review I’ll complain even more about it). For all you drummers out there who might not be familiar with this guy, he uses a symmetrical drum setup, which means he has hi-hat/ride/toms on both sides of him, instead of the traditional setup; everything kind of branches from the middle (hence the symmetry). He switches from right-handed to left-handed playing on the fly, several times per song, and it was was more than a little mind bending to watch that happen.
The real highlights of the concert for me were the songs they played from Six Degrees and earlier. Up until that point, I pretty much had blind faith in Dream Theater, but each album from Train of Thought onward always had at least several moments that were cringe inducing. Systematic Chaos had a number of those, including one entire song *coughdarketernalnightcough* that was considerably less than stellar. When they announced at one point that their next song would be off of Systematic Chaos, everyone cheered, except for Tyson and I, who decided to reserve our enthusiasm for after the song was announced. Dark Eternal Night would have been a (fatal) tragedy. Fortunately, they started playing Forsaken, so we joined the cheering.
When they started playing The Great Debate, it felt like strange (and welcome) déjà vu. The last time I had seen them was two years after the new millennium on the Six Degrees tour and they played this song. Since that was the first tour I ever saw them on, this song really struck a chord (haha) with me.
I jumped out of my chair (yes, I was seated for most of the concert. I must be getting old) when they played Through My Words and Fatal Tragedy. I made myself hoarse singing along with James. The songs were both sources of great elation and slight disappointment, since those were the only songs featured off of my favorite album.
My biggest gripe with the concert was that they didn’t play enough songs from pre-2000. I wasn’t really expecting them to since this was, of course, the tour for A Dramatic Turn of Events, which is where they pulled most of their material. However, I wouldn’t have minded at all if they would have neglected it a little more in favor of older favorites (particularly my favorites). I mean, would it have killed them to play Pull Me Under? Of course, An Evening With Dream Theater might have fixed that problem. *sigh* Perhaps another day they’ll play An Evening With Dream Theater show here, but I digress. They did at least play Silent Man, YTSE Jam, and one more surprise (that will come later). So, they did play some older songs, but never enough.
When they finished playing and left the stage, we all began shouting for them to play one last time, by which I mean play an encore, not play One Last Time for the encore, although I do like that song. Eventually, they caved in to our demands (surprise, surprise) and came back out to play a grand finale (not the song). And what a finale it was! When I heard the opening chords, I about had a panic attack (of elation). THEY WERE PLAYING UNDER A GLASS MOON! Just a few days before the show, I was listening to this song and thinking how great it would be if they played it. And they did! And it was glorious! It was the best goodnight kiss EVER.
Well, there’s not much to tell after that. I went home to wait for sleep, since I had work at 6:00 in the morning. I woke up with a sore neck from headbanging, a hoarse throat from shouting and singing along, and a raging migraine from all the decibels, but it was worth it. I hope that through my words you, dear reader, have been able to catch somewhat of the sense of excitement that comes with seeing Dream Theater, and that if you get a chance to see them you will take the time.
Puns provided courtesy of Tyson and Kyler’s demented sense of humor and unappealing knowledge of dream theater’s catalogue. No progulators were harmed in the making of this review…that badly…we were played at by Trivium after all…