If anyone can think of a better way to pop their Palais Theatre (Melbourne) cherry then seeing American progressive rock outfit Dream Theater perform live for the first time, please let me know! This is what I was fortunate enough to experience last night with a near SOLD OUT crowd. Here celebrating their Images, Words & Beyond 25th Anniversary Tour, Dream Theater were set to deliver one of the best performances that Melbourne has ever seen. Upon arriving the atmosphere was so palpable, with lines extending well near the main streets of St Kilda, with every Dream Theater fan just as eager as myself to see the rockers put on a killer show.
There were no supporting acts, this was purely a Dream Theater only gig, and there’s nothing wrong with that whatsoever. As the doors opened, the droves of fans split into two factions; those who wanted to grab their Dream Theater merchandise early, and those who wanted to get some alcohol into their system as quickly as possible. Seats were filling up quickly, with the ushers barely having enough time to get back to the doors to help out the next set of fans. Those who had already entered the theatre in eager anticipation for the Theater (see what I did there?) were treated to some Classics like Ozzy Osbourne’s ‘Mr. Crowley’, and Metallica’s ‘Master of Puppets’. The atmosphere was absolutely electric, and if there were any tension in the air, you’d require less than a knife to cut it!
The background music faded to obscurity, the lights dimmed, and the Melbourne crowd went into an absolute frenzy, fuelled with the anticipation of seeing Dream Theater walk out onto that stage for what was about to be a 2 Act, 3+ hours of absolute bliss. The roars of the crowd lifted as silhouettes of the band began to slowly emerge from the shadows; Jordan Rudess (keyboards), John Petrucci (guitars/backing vocals), John Myung (bass), Mike Mangini (drums/percussion), and finally James LaBrie (lead vocals).
The stage was illuminated once more, and Dream Theater launched right into it, setting up the pace for the show ahead opening with ‘The Dark Eternal Night’. Devil horns were being thrust in the air, hair of random fans surrounding you whipping you in the face, some fans were even already up out of their seats jumping about. Those in attendance were treated to some absolutely brilliant theatrics and lighting effects, which would continue throughout the entire show.
Dream Theater slightly changed the tempo of the show early, following up the opening performance with ‘The Bigger Picture’. The tempo might have slowed down a notch, but the crowd surely hadn’t, with the swarm of fans singing along to every word from beginning to end. Then the first of many instrumental masterpieces was brought to light, with ‘Hell’s Kitchen’ being the first of many instrumental-only performances of the night. During these moments, I found myself closing my eyes and allowing the music to transcend my soul to the astral plane. It was phenomenal. This was also the first of many moments where we got to see Petrucci give us a Master Class in playing the guitar – there’s no doubt why he’s so highly renowned. His golden licks had the crowd on their feet.
Perfectly seguing into ‘Our New World’, LaBrie returned to the stage to give us another demonstration of those soothing vocals that he possesses, slightly shifting the tempo of the show once more. For those of you who are unfamiliar with Dream Theater’s work, they’re a perfect combination of both ends of the tempo spectrum; delivering slow melodies, as well as tenacious masterpieces.
LaBrie, at the song’s conclusion, took the time to address the crowd, riling them up even more (if that were even possible!). Turning attention to a comical moment that happened only moments before they came out on stage, telling the story of hunting down a large blowfly in the change rooms with a towel, leaving the crowd in absolute hysterics. He then turned attention to bassist Myung, speaking of their 25 year friendship, and Myung wanting to take the time to pay tribute to one of his idols, Jaco Pastorius. The crowd were then treated to ‘Portrait of Tracy’ (Myung’s bass solo), which had the crowd cheering with admiration. The man is an absolute master of his craft! The other members of Dream Theater slowly started re-emerging on stage as the solo very seamlessly segued into ‘As I Am’, which had the Melbourne crowd up on their feet! LaBrie’s vocals were as powerful as they were when the song was first produced, and the instrumentals around him were absolutely superb. The crowd were treated to a little surprise in the bridge of the song, with an excerpt of Metallica’s ‘Enter Sandman’.
The first act was rounded out with ‘Breaking All Illusions’, leading into the intermission with a strong performance. People left to refuel on alcohol, take a toilet break, and everything in between before rushing their seats for what was sure to be a mind-blowing second act, if the first was anything to liken itself to. As the final seats were filled, a radio track known as ‘Happy New Year 1992’ played throughout Palais Theatre, teasing music tracks and television acts of the year that Dream Theater gained world-wide critical acclaim for their release of ‘Pull Me Under’, which was the song that opened the second act. Instantaneously, the entire theatre (baring those in the first few rows of the balcony who couldn’t – boy did LaBrie rip into them!) were on their feet in what was the biggest showing of support to Dream Theater of the night. The roof by this point had been absolutely ripped off, and thrown halfway across St Kilda Beach! Not once person sat for the remainder of the show, which was a huge showing of admiration and respect for Dream Theater!
‘Another Day’ followed up the cult classic, before shifting to an extended version of ‘Take the Time’, which saw Petrucci deliver a brilliant guitar solo that had pools of saliva forming at the feet of every fan in the crowd (well, myself at least!). His talent is mind blowing. The tempo of the show was dialed down yet again, with the band returning to the stage for a rendition of ‘Surrounded’, which saw the arms of the Melbourne crowd swaying back and forth in support. A few couples in the crowd started cuddling up to one another as well.
‘Metropolis Pt 1: The Miracle and the Sleeper’ lifted the tempo once more, with sublime performances by all members, before shifting to a drum solo from Mangini; his elaborate kit setup was like nothing I’ve seen before, and the maniacal tenacity he displayed throughout the solo was jaw-droppingly brilliant. If the Melbourne crowd weren’t on their feet in its entirely beforehand, they surely were once he had finished!
‘Under a Glass Moon’ followed, before an extended, masterful keyboard intro from Rudess (that would have made Beethoven weep) segued into ‘Wait for Sleep’, with a spotlight hitting LaBrie in what was a vulnerably brilliant performance from the front man. The crowd burst with applause at the conclusion of the song, before the band returned to complete the second act with a brilliant performance of ‘Learning to Live’.
In typical fashion, they thanked the Melbourne crowd, and disappeared into darkness, with the words ‘encore’ being shouted from the masses. They returned (of course), treating us to an encore performance of the title track of 1995 LP ‘A Change of Seasons’. The 23-minute masterpiece spoke volumes to just how good Dream Theater really are. The music finished, the lights hit, and Dream Theater bowed to a thunderous applause, not one person sitting in their seats or cheering the musical masters.
Leaving the venue, conversations of ‘that’s the best show I’ve seen them perform in 25 years’, and even ‘that’s the best live show I’ve ever witness’ were heard from some members in the crowd. Dream Theater more than delivered. Masterful instrumental performances, brilliant vocal talent, and overall mesmerizing sounds; take a bow, Dream Theater, you guys were absolutely phenomenal!
Those who attended witnessed absolute brilliants; for who missed them this time around, never fear! LaBrie did sneak in a quick mention of hopefully seeing us all again soon, so there’s still hope!
The Dark Eternal Night
The Bigger Picture
The Gift of Music
Our New World
Portrait of Tracy
(Jaco Pastorius cover)
(John Myung bass solo)
As I Am
(Bridged with an excerpt of Metallica’s ‘Enter Sandman’)
Breaking All Illusions
Happy New Year 1992 – Intro Tape
Pull Me Under
Take the Time
(Extended outro with a John Petrucci guitar solo)
Metropolis Pt 1: The Miracle and the Sleeper
(with a drum solo from Mike Mangini)
Under a Glass Moon
Wait for Sleep
(with an extended keyboard intro from Jordan Rudess)
Learning to Live
A Change of Seasons: I The Crimson Sunrise
A Change of Seasons: II Innocence
A Change of Seasons: III Carpe Diem
A Change of Seasons: IV The Darkest of Winters
A Change of Seasons: V Another World
A Change of Seasons: VI The Inevitable Summer
A Change of Seasons: VII The Crimson Sunset
Photos by Paul Tadday