October 18, 2011

Live Review: Dream Theater 10/15/11

Dream Theater At The Palace Theater
Albany, New York
October, 15, 2011

On October 15th, the Palace Theater in Albany saw the return of Dream Theater, supporting their latest creation with a world tour. The Palace Theater is a gorgeous venue, looking more appropriate for an opera rather than a metal concert. Regardless, a large fan base was attracted to the show, with a healthy mixture of long-time fans and casual listeners who were sure to be converted by the end of the night. A Dream Theater show isn’t just a concert - it’s an experience, hence the reason I’ve seen them every year since 2008.
Opening that night was a band called Periphery, whom I was totally unfamiliar with. The band wasn’t exactly bad, but it wasn’t very enjoyable. Singing or screaming, I couldn’t understand a word Spencer Sotelo (vocals) was singing, a shame considering his awesome vocal range. However, the biggest criticism I had was their excessive use of samples. A lot of bands use samples, but Periphery used samples to the point where the “raw” feeling of a live show was gone. I might as well have sat home and listened to their album. Honestly, for most of their show my eyes were fixed on the drummer. He had such wild energy, and because of his large size, he looked like a troll behind a toy drum set. It was both amusing and jaw dropping. Maybe it was my anxiousness for Dream Theater, but I simply did not enjoy Periphery’s music.
Within a half hour after Periphery left the stage, three screens comprised of what looked like 3D cubes were raised into the air projecting a video of the North American Dream Squad arriving to the stage. In standard Dream Theater fashion, the introduction was very cinematic and by the time the opening drone of “Bridges in the Sky” began, I knew this show was going to be incredible. But soon enough, there was a technical bump, and John Petrucci’s guitar signal was gone when James LaBrie came in to sing. This silence lasted all the way until the chorus, where order was restored and we continued rocking as if nothing ever happened.
One thing I’ve always loved about Dream Theater shows is the set list. No matter how many times you go, there’s always something new to hear. For instance, I’ve been to 3 shows prior to this, and out of the 15 songs played this time, only one was a repeat from a previous show. You get a sneak peak of the whole discography, perfect for newcomers, and always gratifying for the hardcore fan. The big surprises this night were “The Ytse Jam” (preceded by a stunning drum solo courtesy of Mike Mangini) and “Wait For Sleep,” an often overlooked gem from Images and Words. And of course, they played 6 of the 9 songs from A Dramatic Turn of Events. Particularly impressive was “Build Me Up, Break Me Down", where LaBrie flexed his golden pipes in a way he hasn’t done since Octavarium.
If anyone remembers the tour following Systematic Chaos, LaBrie had a rough time singing live, which can be heard on the Chaos in Motion 2007–2008 DVD. Fortunately, he’s only been improving since those days. When I saw them for the Black Clouds & Silver Linings tour, I was very impressed with LaBrie’s improvement. But this year he has kicked it up yet another notch, and also has a few surprises. At the end of “Build Me Up, Break Me Down,” he let out with a scream that wouldn’t be out of place on a Judas Priest album. Jaws dropped in the crowd, as we couldn’t believe our ears. He did it a few other times, especially in “Caught in a Web,” which is already difficult to sing.
The only problem I have at a Dream Theater show is deciding what to watch. If I’m not watching LaBrie swing his mic stand around, I’m watching John Petrucci effortlessly tear it up on his guitar. Or I might be watching Mike Mangini with that never-ending grin on his face. Or maybe I’ll watch the animations projected on the three screens in the background. There’s so much energy and effort put into these shows that every aspect deserves my full attention, but I simply do not have enough eyes to do so. That’s hardly a problem; I just have another reason to see them again.
-Austin Hannaleck
Bridges in the Sky
These Walls
Build Me Up, Break Me Down
Endless Sacrifice
Drum Solo
The Ytse Jam
Wait For Sleep
Far From Heaven
On the Backs of Angels
Caught in a Web
Through My Words
Fatal Tragedy
Breaking All Illusions
Pull Me Under (Encore)

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