An Evening with Dream Theater, 3/22/04

This show came with great anticipation for me. Not only is Dream Theater pretty much my favorite band, but seeing them at the State Theatre gave me the opportinity to see them up close without being chained to a specific seat. They were scheduled to do what few bands can pull off – play two complete sets – and considering the energy level at which they play, that's like four sets for any normal band. We gathered a pretty huge contingent for the journey… 7 people made the journey down with me, and Matt's group was 5 strong. I was prepared for a sweet show, and they didn't disappoint…

Dream Theater opened the show with a brief history of the band set to their music of the same vintage as the imagery. It started with their days as Majesty and progressed through the conversion to Dream Theater, and up to the music of today. They opened up their first set with As I Am and This Dying Soul from Train of Thought, and everything else after that is a blur. I found it hard to focus on anything else but the sheer musical madness going on up on the stage, so actually remembering what was going on is a bit difficult. One thing that stands out in my mind is their digressions from the normal song flow into extended and seemingly improvosational jams. The first was the most memorable… I think they digressed from a section towards the end of Beyond This Life if I remember correctly. Jordan Rudess opened it up with some completely insane classical piano stuff, and Mike Portnoy joined in with some off the wall percussion on the wood blocks and whatever else is in his Siamese Monster drum kit. The way they played off each other was really sweet. One guy would lay down a light-speed barrage of notes, and the moment he stopped, the other would let rip with a flurry of equal intensity. It was a spectacle. And as quickly as it started, it ended, and they started right back up where they left off in the song they digressed from. There were other such episodes with other members of the band, but that first one was the most memorable.

John Petrucci was simply incredible, as usual, and the set list the band chose seemed to be concentrated on letting him flex his muscles with the 7-string guitar. They played most of their 7-string songs, which made for a hard-crunching night. They played all of the Train of Thought album, which is recorded exclusively on 7-strings if I hear correctly, Caught in a Web (played a half step up if I heard correctly), The Mirror, and Lie. They weren't just dropping the bottom out though, they did play a few of their slower ballads, like Another Day, Trail of Tears, and Finally Free. A strange trend that I saw was that they didn't play any of the 'classics' that I would have expected to hear at one of their shows, especially since they played for a solid 3 hours. They didn't play Pull Me Under, Metropolis, Under a Glass Moon, Learning to Live, none of the Mind Beside Itself songs, Lines in the Sand, or Home. I can understand that bands get sick of playing the same songs all the time, but at least two or three of those songs are always in order.

Even though they didn't play all of the favorites, it was still an incredible show. A couple of the people that went with our groups had never seen Dream Theater before, and I do believe that they were sufficiently impressed. If you've got any appreciation for music, I don't see how it's possible to not to be in awe of the sheer skill level they posess. I can't wait for the next time they come around. I'll be there. Grade: A+

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