July 18, 2010

Dream Theater and Charred Walls of the Damned With Ripper Owens At The Palladium-Worcester, Mass. July 10, 2010

It was a scorcher inside The Worcester Palladium on Saturday night. People were constantly getting up to buy water, and the staff were taking turns holding doors open to get some ventilation in the venue. I could only imagine how hot it was below in the pit where there was no elbow room. It certainly wasn’t a good looking place; paint was peeling of the ceiling, countless chairs were broken on the balcony, and there were a number of holes in the walls. None of these conditions mattered however, because Dream Theater was about to perform. The crowd was growing increasingly restless, as it had been over 30 minutes since Charred Walls of the Damned finished their set. But the moment we heard the crash of thunder followed by light piano, all tensions vanished.

The curtain dramatically dropped as the rest of the band joined in to accompany Jordan Rudess on “A Nightmare to Remember”, a roaring introduction. Immediately noticeable was the quality of the mix. Charred Walls of the Damned sounded muddy, and the only instrument that really stood out of the mix was the drums. Suffice to say, it wasn’t an enjoyable set. Thankfully, with Dream Theater, you could hear every instrument with clarity. Surprisingly, James’ voice sounded just as good as last year during the Black Clouds & Silver Linings Tour. It’s hard to believe that after all of this touring that he has managed to sound as great as he does, considering his past vocal accidents.

After a stunning intro, the ball kept rolling with adrenaline fueled performances of “Constant Motion” and “A Rite of Passage”. On the 2 hour ride tothe show, I mentioned how I really wanted to hear “Home” played. The moment I heard the Eastern-inspired riff, I was thrilled. The song is an absolute workout for Rudess and John Petrucci, but they were in sync the entire time. Taking into account the speed and concentration needed to play that song, it is baffling to see them perform such a feat live. 
One of the highlights of their recent shows has to be their extended version of “Hollow Years”. Petrucci and Rudess have a beautiful improvised intro, before they break into the memorable sound of the studio version’s opening. Throwing in some new lyrics and extended solos, they presented a fresh but familiar song. The crowd was speechless, so mesmerized by the song, in fact, that I didn’t hear a word uttered from anyone around me for the length of it. I only hope I can get a version of this song for my iPod, because it is far superior to the original. Its reasons like this that you come to a Dream Theater show. You never know what to expect, but the outcome is nothing short of spectacular.

Speaking of unexpected, there was a bit of humor that has never been in any of the previous DT shows I have attended. For instance, in “A Nightmare to Remember” where Mike is supposed to sing, he sang half his part, but said “C is for cookie, cookie is for C” for the remainder of his lines. During the closing song “Pull Me Under”, the band sped up the second verse and James couldn’t keep up. They kept going faster and faster, and eventually James mumbled and stopped singing until they reached the chorus where they resumed normal timing. It was little things like this that made the show even more entertaining.
Of course they had to make an explosive ending as well. The crowd went nuts when “Pull Me Under” began, but after a lengthy Keytar/Guitar battle, no one expected the song to transition into   “Metropolis”. It was a truly impressive way to end the set. The sweat soaked band then left the stage as we eagerly awaited the encore, which was “The Count of Tuscany”. Just when you think the musicians would be tired out from such a long night, they played the encore with as much energy as they did when they began the show.
Going to see that show, you wouldn’t know that the band has been touring for over a year. None of the members missed a beat, and they put on a magnificent show. Dream Theater are at the top of their game, and I highly recommend you go see them if the chance arises.

A.H. Keith-MuzikReviews.com Contributor

Set List:
A Nightmare to Remember
Constant Motion
A Rite of Passage
Hollow Years
The Mirror
Panic Attack
As I Am
Pull Me Under/Metropolis
The Count of Tuscany

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