Saturday, 23 July 2011

Dream Theater: O2 Academy, Leeds, 22/7/11

Here's the setlist, and what a setlist it was... it got more and more exciting for me as the night went on!

Under A Glass Moon
These Walls (I know, right?? At last!)
Endless SacrificeDrum Solo!!Ytse Jam Peruvian Skies (Oh, man...)
The Great Debate (...O...M...G...!!!!!!)
On The Backs Of Angels
Caught In A Web (OH Yeah...!!)
Through My Words/Fatal Tragedy (At this point I realised that a dream had come true...)
The Count of Tuscany (Can you believe it??)

Metropolis (What else?)

So, I arrived about ten minutes before doors opened... and despite joining the end of a queue that circled the entire length of the building, actually found it very easy indeed to walk very close to the front as soon as I got inside!

There was this support act, Eden's Curse... they were pretty cool, admittedly. I really liked the singer, he had an amazing voice and attitude, and it was great to see such diversity among the band members themselves. He told a very inspiring story about how he first heard about DT... on MTV, funnily enough, back in 1990 when Pull Me Under was starting to get some serious rotation, and how that drove him on in his quest to rock.

The term "sausage fest" often pops in to my head when attending a rock gig and this occasion was no exception. The only girls I saw there were the girlfriends of some of the guys, who may or may not have been dragged along. But, who cares... right? We're all there for the music, aren't we?

There wasn't as much of a grandiose opening to this set compared to the last time I saw them on the Black Clouds tour. No curtain in sight!! Still, it was very exciting seeing the 5 members eventually pop out of their hiding places... I started to scream and jump up and down when I saw JP...

The intro tape was an extract from "Dream is Collapsing" by Hans Zimmer. I must say, it's really for me not to wonder if things like this choice of music and album concepts for "A Dramatic Turn of Events" have anything to do with Mike Portnoy's leaving of the band... I'm still highly skeptical of Mike Mangini becoming a member for good. But the guy deserves every chance, so I waited excitedly for him and the others to show me what the new DT is capable of.

They launched into Under A Glass Moon, and I quickly realised that this feels exactly the same as previous gigs... in a good way, because the fact that MM was playing MP's drum parts absolutely BANG ON... you could just shut your eyes and you wouldn't be able to tell it was someone else playing those parts.

I was there very pleasantly surprised to hear the intro sample to These Walls... I had been just about convinced that they never ever would play this song live or had totally forgotten about it! It then got me excited thinking about what other hidden gems could emerge...

The drum solo was absolutely NUTS. Just like I was hoping. Like other Mangini solos I had witnessed... he seems to just groove for the first few minutes, but then it just gets absolutely insane. Every jaw in the room hit the floor. Just YouTube the guy, seriously... I can't tell you in words how sick this guy is at drums (Not because it's a secret, but because I lack the necessary literary articulative capacity).

I wasn't too impressed with the inclusion of Forsaken and Peruvian Skies, to be frank... I always found those songs kind of underwhelming and they didn't do too much for me live here, either. But some of the other songs the band chose to play SERIOUSLY made up for that...

I went crazy for Ytse Jam, as I would have done for any song off of When Dream And Day Unite!! And The Great Debate... a highly underrated track, a fantastically insane piece of music that goes down and absolute storm live (imagine screaming "LIFE TO SAVE LIFE...!!!").

On The Backs of Angels. I was wondering when they were going to get to playing the new track... it usually happens earlier in the set. Still, I had only listened to this track once thus far as I wish for it to be fresh when I hear the whole album in September. It seemed better than I remembered it, and I have a feeling that my appreciation for it will grow with the number of listens I give it!

Caught in a Web was sick, duh. Always is. ALWAYS. I never get tired of this one.


I got my wish. I heard Jordan being to play the first few notes of Through My Words... and realised that this would almost certainly lead into Fatal Tragedy. Guys... this is a song I have ALWAYS wanted to experience live. It never happened in my first 5 DT shows... tonight was a magical first. It made me night.

Following that was a big surprise. The Count Of Tuscany. I had thought that they almost certainly wouldn't play this, having done it to death on the last tour. But it was absolutely fantastic, just as always. I remembered that there was a little bit of a different melody in the first part of the swirly-dreamy-volume-swelly-guitar and dreamy keyboards section, which I really enjoyed. The whole twenty minute epic was magical... and I realised that this is quite possibly the single greatest piece the band have ever written. And who'd have thought it would come in such a late stage in their career... and how even more thought-provoking is the fact that it is technically the last recorded DT song before MP decided to step down (well, actually, wait... there was Raw Dog. But... that's not a proper album track. So, yeah.).

Metropolis. Pretty much the standard DT encore we've all seen loads of times. People don't seem to get tired of this song.. I myself would much prefer Learning to Live any day! But this is the play-it-safe classic DT encore that most of the fans go wild for.

So, it was a fantastic gig and I found it got more and more enjoyable as it went on. It was great being close to the front once again, and being able to make eye contact with James Labrie every time he sang down to us lot!! Speaking of James... his singing was absolutely amazing, I don't recall ever being so impressed by it on any other live performance I've seen. He went REAL high a couple of times.
John, John and Jordan were at their usual impossibly high standard. Speaking of Jordan, check out MusicRadar's poll for greatest keyboard player of all time that just happened.

And finally, Mike Mangini. Let it be clearly stated by me that I think the guy is absolutely on fire... there is no more any human being on earth could have done at this point to fill those big shoes he has to fill.

But... is this really right?

MP and the others went through so much, and I couldn't help thinking that it was MP's undying fire and passion for music that kept DT shows exciting for me again and again, so it doesn't ever just seem like the band playing a bunch of their songs. The synergy of those five performers together always made it so much more than that. Some people might well say "who cares, he's only the drummer", but that's just not right... those people are unfortunately really missing the point. Still, I hold mighty respect for both DT to carry on with their passion and even more so for Mike than having to sacrifice his place in the band which had been his baby for 25 years, just to do what he felt like he was forced into doing.

I shall remain optimistic and reserve total judgement until hearing the next album i.e. the one after A Dramatic Turn of Events, by which time hopefully MM should have some creative input. Still, very much looking forward to hearing ADToE and to attending all future shows that I can!!


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