Once upon a time, if my brother (hi Steevil) and I wanted to listen to Dream Theater we had to order the CDs as imports from the cool old Dutch dude who ran a CD store in our local main street. Forty bucks later we’d have ‘Images & Words’ or ‘Awake.’ This was the height of grunge and such musical tastes were frowned upon by my peers but I didn’t give a feck. Dream Theater were my band. They represented how I felt, what I thought about and how I liked to play.
Cut to today, and Dream Theater CDs are readily available in stores. And not only that – they’ve even started coming all the way down to Australia to prog our socks off at regular intervals. Their first ever tour of Australia was in January 2008 and already they’re back.
My evening started quite awesomely indeed with a 15-minute one-on-one chat with John Petrucci backstage at the Palais in St Kilda a few hours before the gig. You’ll be able to read that interview here later this week so I won’t spoil it for ya, suffice to say that JP was really friendly and talkative and it was so cool to have a chunk of his time to talk guitar geek stuff. Another of those “If the 15 year old me knew this would happen someday he’d probably pass out” moments.
Anyway, on to the gig. Pain Of Salvation were the support. I haven’t listened to them too much but it was cool to see them. They somehow manage to blend proggy rhythms with anthemic melodies without sounding trite at either. I was glad I saw them (and it’s great to see a band using Laboga amps on stage – check them out some time, especially the Mr Hector head), and I’ll definitely check them out further. Vocalist Daniel Gildenlöw has one hell of a high range. Good lord.
As for Dream Theater, the setlist wasn’t as all-encompassing as last year’s shows, where they took great pains to give Australia a “Sorry we’ve never played here before” show. Instead they dipped a little deeper into the catalog, in addition to three songs from this year’s kickass ‘Black Clouds And Silver Linings’ album. The show was bookended by the opening and closing tracks. Nice touch.
1. A Nightmare To Remember
2. A Rite Of Passage
3. Hollow Years
6. Keyboard Solo
8. Solitary Shell
9. In The Name Of God
10. Encore: The Count Of Tuscany
It was cool to hear Hollow Years live (what was with that bit they added to the pre-chorus? Threw off my singalong!), while it was a little bit jarring to hear Erotomania and Voices without The Silent Man following them up and rounding off the ‘A Mind Beside Itself’ trilogy. Forsaken was suitably epic, with the animated, vampire-laden video playing in the background. Solitary Shell was played at almost double the tempo but somehow it worked. In The Name Of God was one of my least-listened to tracks from Train Of Thought but one could never grizzle about having to hear that incredible solo breakdown.
Highlights included Jordan Rudess’s wizard (I won’t spoil it for you if you haven’t caught this tour yet) and iPod solos, Mike Portnoy’s wander around his drum kit during a low-key interlude, and trying to figure out what James LaBrie might be doing when ducking behind John Petrucci’s amps during extended instrumental sections. My guess is that he has a Nintendo Wii back there and is trying to beat his high score in bowling. Petrucci’s tone was monstrously huge, no doubt due in part to his new DiMarzio Crunch Lab and LiquiFire pickups, and he played with all the precision and fire we’ve grown to expect from him. Fun fact: Petrucci is using his B rig in Australia, which is based on the Mesa Boogie Mark IV amp.
If I were to pick my own ideal Dream Theater setlist, it’d probably look a lot different to this one. But that’s probably why I enjoyed this gig so much – they didn’t play what I expected, and there were three tracks that I would call completely left-field choices (Hollow Years, Solitary Shell and In The Name Of God). It takes balls to play a mere 10 songs over two hours and not play more obvious tracks. And in my mind the setlist went a long way towards making up for the many, many years Dream Theater never toured Australia, by saying “Hey, you got all the big stuff last time, but now we’re buddies, we all know each other, and we’re gonna go a little deeper into the catalog.”
Tickets are still available for tonight’s second Melbourne show.
Remaining Australian tour dates:
Dec 08, 2009: Melbourne, Palais Theatre
Dec 09, 2009: Adelaide, Thebarton Theatre
Dec 12, 2009: Perth, Metro City
LINK: Dream Theater at Roadrunner Records Australia.