March 15, 2022(Orlando FL.)
When you hear the name Dream Theater you automatically think of incredible musicianship, complex arrangements, and of course the undisputed kings of progressive rock. Of course, these accolades are all very much true. What you also get is a band that can translate all that skill and complexity into an amazing evening of live music. For all those fans that were able to snatch up a ticket at the Hard Rock Live in Orlando FL. they would get to find out just how true it is.
As the appointed time grew nearer the packed house grew restless. Everyone was excited to see the band. After all it has been over two years since they have been out on the road. With the release of their latest album A View From The Top Of The World, there was even more reason to be excited, as everyone would get a chance to some of this new material live. Finally, keyboard player Jordan Rudess, bassist John Myung, drummer Mike Mangini, and guitarist John Petrucci made their way out on stage to the cheers of the crowd.
With a beautifully lit stage and a giant video screen taking up nearly all of the area at the back of the stage, the band launched into “The Alien” off of their latest album. With the video screen displaying the song title, you would have to think these guys were from another world with just how good they were playing. For having a couple of years off due to a pandemic, they showed absolutely no signs of rust. Indeed, everything you would expect Dream Theater would be, was right there in everyone’s face. At the two minute mark of the song when the lyrics were supposed to start lead singer Jamie LaBrie ran out on stage and started singing. With the full band finally all together everyone cheered again.
If you were hoping for a quick breather in between songs, you weren’t going to get one. Almost immediately Mike Mangini launched into the “6:00”. His polyrhythmic drumming was on full display right from the get-go, which fed nicely into Jordan Rudess’s sublime keyboard work. While everyone is well aware of John Petrucci’s guitar prowess, Rudess is very much his equal on his instrument of choice. His keyboard solo during the song was otherworldly.
In-between songs, LaBrie took a few seconds to acknowledge the crowd and let everyone know how much they missed playing live and how much they appreciated everyone coming out to the show. In a more comical moment, he looked at his hand and said, “where are my rings?” While looking out at the crowd he said, “All right give ‘em back”. He then introduced the next song “Awaken The Master”. With the deep chunky tuned down guitar work flying out of Petrucci’s eight string guitar it really did seem like someone had awakened the master.
“Endless Sacrifice” was a total masterclass. As most Dream Theater songs tend to have extended instrumental sections, this number really let every member showcase their abilities. Even John Myung got in on the action. As he usually stays to the side of the stage to ply his trade, during this song he went to center stage and jammed out with Petrucci. Just watching those two play together face to face was worth the price of admission. Not to be left out, Rudess stepped away from his keyboards, strapped on a keytar and joined everyone center stage. Now that was a memorable moment!
While the music rightfully deserves to be the main focus of the show, the use of the video screens added a really cool extra dimension to the show. During “Bridges In The Sky”, there was images of dragons flying through ruins which matched up perfectly with Petrucci’s muscular guitar work. Whether they chose to use fractals or images from their recent album cover, every choice was perfectly suited to the song. For a band that focuses so much on the quality and technicality of their music, they also understand the importance of visual impact in a concert.
After performing eight of the most technically demanding and intricate songs, if you thought the band would take a breather and play something less demanding, you obviously don’t know Dream Theater. They went completely the other way with the title track to their latest album A View From The Top Of The World. Yes, they played a song that clocks in at some twenty minutes in length and sounded better than the recorded version in the process. This epic song is divided into several movements replete with time signature changes for which they are so well known. Whether it was LaBrie’s vocal work which started some four minutes after the song began, to the dream like section where it was just Petrucci and Rudess on stage, to Mangini’s rapid fire drum work, this song showcased everything that this band is capable of. As they played the final notes of the song, they all left the stage for a well-earned breather.
What do you do to follow up an epic song and close out an incredible show? You follow it up with another epic song, or at least that is what Dream Theater does! The final song of the night was “Count Of Tuscany”. Yet another song that is some twenty minutes long. Structurally it is similar to the previous song that it is broken into several movements. Beginning with some of Petrucci’s finest guitar work, it flows dreamily between the different parts of the song. Halfway through the song, with just Rudess and Petrucci on stage they created some of the most ethereal music of the night. After that point, the rest of the band rejoined them on stage. The tempo and energy built the rest of the way with LaBrie coaxing the willing audience to join him with the singing duties. As the song ended with a flourish, the packed house cheered in appreciation as the band took their bows and waved as they left the stage.
If there is one band that is as close to musical perfection, it is Dream Theater. Their genre defining music is breathtaking as it complex. Most progressive rock bands that create this style of music can do it with the help of a recording studio, but precious few dare to take it live. Dream Theater is the only one that not only can reproduce their brilliant, recorded work live, but somehow make it sound even better. Tonight’s performance at the Hard Rock Live showed just how true this is.
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Hard Rock Live: