Depending on what type of concert-goer you are, taking in a Dream Theater performance can provide quite the dilemma:
- Remain mostly motionless throughout the two-hour-plus show, and you may as well be at an opera.
- Head bang and rock out like crazy, and you run the risk of missing some of progressive metal’s most precise musicians at work.
That missing out is even possible for a band that plays several songs longer than 10 minutes is an oddity in its own right, but true. And since it’s impossible to go as long without blinking, that means a Dream Theater show requires striking the right balance to the best of one’s ability.
Dream Theater gave San Antonians that opportunity Friday night at The Majestic Theatre on their A Dramatic Tour of Events trek across North America. As singer James LaBrie revealed in our pre-show interview (see link in blue at bottom), A Dramatic Turn of Events may be the band’s “most important” album.
That’s because after announcing his contentious split in September 2010 from the band he co-founded roughly 25 years earlier, drummer Mike Portnoy’s departure created a void. Several months later, in stepped the venerable Mike Mangini, who played on some of LaBrie’s solo material. Nearly two full years later, fans worldwide have been vocal for both sides, and it’s just a fact that some will take longer than others to get over the switch. You don’t throw away 25 years of familiarity, friendship and camaraderie out the tour bus window overnight, no matter who it is or which band it is. The latest album’s title, as such, is undeniably symbolic.
That being said, Friday’s performance was all about the chemistry between LaBrie, Mangini, guitarist John Petrucci, bassist John Myung and keyboardist Jordan Rudess. That a band which often exudes majesty through a complex maze of intricate melodies and overall musical patterns was playing The Majestic was only fitting.
Showing confidence that A Dramatic Turn of Events would be well-received, Dream Theater opened with one of that album’s tunes, Bridges In The Sky. They also mixed in This Is The Life, Lost Not Forgotten, On The Backs Of Angels and Breaking All Illusions from that nine-song effort with older tunes such as The Dark Eternal Night and The Root of All Evil.
Rudess, the wizard behind the keys with the beard to match, came under the spotlight at the front of the stage with a brief solo preceding Surrounded. A few songs later, Petrucci took over with a solo leading into The Spirit Carries On. The duo represent two of the industry’s most under-appreciated musicians, but certainly not to their faithful followers. Petrucci, in particular, rarely ever seems to pop up in a conversation of metal’s great guitarists or lists of such, making you wonder just what some so-called musical authorities are listening to these days.
The sound of LaBrie’s vocals at times were too high to make out in the historic, castle-like theater. Fortunately, such instances were kept to a minimum. Just as importantly, LaBrie knew when and how to keep the crowd engaged, and when to step aside to let his bandmates do their thing.
Sure, many were left lamenting the fact Mangini did not delight with a drum solo. Some people also missed the absence of Constant Motion and the band’s one “hit,” 1992’s Pull Me Under — especially on the day before the 20th anniversary of the release of Images And Words.
But most could agree that the overall experience of a Dream Theater show is a sight — and sound — to behold. That is, when you’re not headbanging full-bore.
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