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  DREAM THEATER CELEBRATE SILVER ANNIVERSARY OF SEMINAL ALBUM WITH GOLDEN PERFORMANCE
Dream Theater: Hammersmith Odeon

andy rawll
Words and Pictures: Andy Rawll



dream theater

The breakthrough second album by these prog Metal titans is revered as the release that expertly melds the dense arrangements and technical virtuosity of progressive rock with the melodic accessibility and aggression of power Metal. Although, you cannot credit these New York natives for inventing the prog Metal genre, they are most certainly the band responsible for bringing it mainstream recognition.

It's somewhat startling that twenty-five years have already passed since the release of 'Images And Words' and the launch of the band's greatest hit, 'Pull Me Under', when the heavy rotation on MTV and national radio would have the opposite effect, pushing them onwards and upwards.

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In line with the tricky time signatures associated with the band's music, it was appropriate that tonight would be a performance of three halves. The first set consisted of a judicious selection of songs from six albums, the oldest being the infernal instrumental 'Hells Kitchen' from 1997s 'Falling Into Infinity' to a pairing of the best tracks from last year's two hour behemoth 'The Astonishing'. James La Brie's marmite voice was on top form and the toast of the town, flawlessly switching from rich croon to powerful upper register cries throughout the show.

The emphasis here was on their more recent albums and punchy tracks, like show-opener 'Dark Eternal Night' as there was a surfeit of proggy goodness to come in the later sets. The set's one-two finale of Sabbath-meets-Sandman 'As I Am' and the Yes-on-Meth of 'Breaking All Illusions' were simply stunning. This also provided Mike Mangini with the opportunity to really stretch-out in a way that I'd not witnessed on previous tours and more than fills the oversize boots of his now long-departed namesake, Mr Portnoy.

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Then there were the six string Johns. The brooding artistry of flighty-fingered bassist Myung was exemplified by his short bass solo, when he perfectly executed one of Jaco's most challenging compositions with its complex chordal inversions, dissonant passing notes and extensive use of harmonics, which acted as an extended intro for 'As I Am'. John Petrucci with his ripped mountain man physique, but zen-like demeanour, somehow manages to imbue his stunningly precise, hyper-speed guitar technique with soulful phrasing and soaring melody with the solo on 'Our New World' particularly astonishing.

A complete performance of 'Images And Words' then followed after a short intermission and surpassed expectations. Although, the recorded version still sounds terrific, live, the depths and dynamics of the uniformly great songs acquire another dimension. The arpeggio introduction of 'Pull Me Under' remains as thrilling as ever and brings the famous Hammersmith choir to its feet and we are soon roaring those words just like we're back at a 90s rock night.

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The prog power balladry of 'Another Day' proves that 'Jimmy The Cheese' has lost none of his vocal range, but thankfully the Kenny G cheese of the sax solo on the record is not reproduced. 'Take The Time' remains one of the highpoints of the album, with its funky intro, power Metal chorus and brilliant instrumental section. In hindsight, 'Surrounded' almost anticipates the Marillion meets Queensryche vibe of 'Finally Free' including the fantastic 'Light-to-Dark-to-Light' vocal refrain.

Which brings us neatly to the 'Metropolis Pt1' the formal predecessor to 'Scenes', which has lost none its power and allows the wizardly majesty of keyboard maestro Jordan Rudess to shine. 'Under A Glass Moon' has the unstoppable momentum of Rush jamming a Dixie Dreggs song with Iron Maiden and Petrucci again executes a mind and string bending solo, that Rudess just about manages to follow. Beautiful ballad 'Wait Of Sleep' acts as gentle relief before the band eases into final track 'Learning To Live' with its many changes of pace and direction that acts as a synopsis of the entire album in its individual ten minutes of magnificence.

dream theater

The final act of this three hour triumph was the extended encore of 'A Change Of Seasons'. In fact, it was originally envisaged that this twenty minute piece could be squeezed onto the 'Images And Words' album, just within the maximum run-time possible on a single CD. In the end, this idea was aborted and this companion piece was eventually released two years later with a set of live cover songs to bulk out that standalone release to a respectable length.

It was great to finally hear this complete piece performed live. It's a fine piece of music with the first three parts as good as anything Dream Theater have written before or since. However, for me the second half is not quite as compelling and given that this piece was being played as an encore for what had already been a phenomenal show, I felt that the momentum was slightly lost during this mid-section.

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Overall, the theatrical drama of this three act mid-spring night's dream was superbly realised. Some might comment that a return to the relatively intimate confines of the iconic Hammersmith venue, having stepped up to Wembley arena for most of their tours since 2007, indicates that their appeal is becoming more selective. In fact, the smaller capacity was counter balanced by the proportionally higher ticket prices, which were more than justified given the fabulously loud and clear sound, the raucously reverential atmosphere and not forgetting the comfy seats.

On balance, this was probably the best show by Dream Theater that I've seen since I first got caught in their web at the Forum in 1997. The pacing, the playlist, the performances, the sound and the atmosphere were all pretty much perfect. Their only challenge is what to do next? Do they look forward and extend the 'Astonishing' concept further? Do they look back and plot a sequel to 'Images And Words' or do they start a new chapter? Whatever, they do they certainly won't rush into it and should take their own advice and 'Take The Time'.

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Setlist:
Act One:
Dark Eternal Night (Systematic Chaos)
The Bigger Picture (Dream Theater)
Hell's Kitchen (Falling into Infinity)
The Gift of Music (The Astonishing)
Our New World (The Astonishing)
Portrait of Tracy (Jaco cover played by John Myung)
As I Am (Train Of Thought)
Breaking All Illusions (A Dramatic Turn Of Events)

Act Two: 'Images And Words':
Pull Me Under
Another Day
Take The Time
Surrounded
Metropolis Pt. 1: The Miracle And The Sleeper
Under A Glass Moon
Wait For Sleep
Learning To Live

Act Three: A Change Of Seasons:
I The Crimson Sunrise
II Innocence
III Carpe Diem
IV The Darkest Of Winters
V Another World
VI The Inevitable Summer
VII The Crimson Sunset

dream theater

dream theater

dream theater

dream theater

dream theater

dream theater

2nd May 2017









 

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