DREAM THEATER: Manchester Apollo 13.02.2014

Along for the Ride tour

‘An Evening With Dream Theater’ does pretty much what it says on the tin. A more epic and dramatic evening full of astonishing musical excellence and interplay you couldn’t wish for. But that almost goes with the territory from Dream Theater.

In the business and at the top of their game for their third decade as a band, the current tour also gave them chance to showcase a couple of anniversaries from their recorded output and make sure that the show was a fair reflection for those who’d been, in the name of the song, along for the ride.

Dream Theater's James LaBrie

With a production to match, enigma coded amps and a metallic grey industrial flavour to the lighting and backdrops which varied between showing close ups of the onstage action and visuals to support the music, it was a game of three halves – well, maybe make that the traditional two halves and a healthy dose of extra time. Om A Memory’ album now fifteen years old, the full half hour encore was dedicated to some of its main pieces – wonderful to hear ‘Overture 1928’ which naturally picks up on some of the most memorable musical themes as it opened the encores and led into ‘Strange Déjà vu’ and the complexity of the instrumental ‘Dance Of Eternity’ – another chance for John Petrucci to step forward and shred one of his trademark Majesty model guitars alongside John Myung and a fine way to cap and evening with the climactic ‘Finally Free’.
Earlier on, a first half based around the new material from the self titled album had made up a hour long set which allowed the band to celebrate their highly complex chops both in the arrangements and in various solo slots – Mike Mangini’s drum solo being part of the extended workout in the instrumental ‘The Enigma Machine’ – even Jordan Rudess making his way out from his rotating keyboard a couple of times with his suitably metallic shaped Zen Riffer. Amongst the workout son the lengthier ‘Trail Of Tears’ and ‘Breaking All Illusions’, there was room for some of the more mainstream side of Dream Theater. ‘The Looking Glass’ has been deemed worthy of being a lead track (in the old days, often referred to as a ‘single’) with an accompanying video to back it up, and there’s also ‘Along For The Ride’, which as well as being quite a stirring call to arms for the DT faithful, also has that element of big ballad about it to appeal to the more casual listener.

Dream Theater's John Myung

A hilarious set of spoof adverts (the DT action figures would surely be a big seller) and voice over visuals had kept the interval crowd entertained to the extent that few seemed ready for John Petrucci’s arrival onstage to start the second half with the monster riff of ‘The Mirror’ – the first of several songs from the second half of the ‘Awake’ album which celebrates its twentieth anniversary this year and a chance to air some material which has lain dormant for sometime – ‘Space Dye Vest’ anyone? It was the suitably epic new album closer ‘Illumination Theory’ which also closed the main set – moving through a number of themes, from its grand opening into an instrumental workout and a hard riffing section to a more ambient part with suitably abstract visuals and then into what comes across as an English classical piece before a typical Dream Theater big ending – James Labrie encouraging the arm waving and delivering Petrucci’s lyrics with suitable emotion before the man himself delivers one of his typically stirring solos. Although his speed is more than impressive it’s the sort of solo which wrings out the passion and sentiment in much the same way as those few notes in ‘The Spirit Carries On’ do when less is so much more.

Dream Theater's John Petrucci

It sometimes seems that the fact that for many, the attraction of Dream Theater is in their that as musicians, they are push the boundaries of expertise; sure, they play at speeds and in combinations between them that as fans and mere mortals, we can only stand and stare. The current phase of their career sees them not only content to take a more lighthearted look at themselves, but also to celebrate their legacy and combine their harder edges and technical proficiency with a more mainstream and commercial acumen. What’s impossible to argue with is that they certainly deliver the goods in spades.

Read our interview with guitarist John Petrucci here.

Setlist:

False Awakening Suite
The Enemy Inside
The Shattered Fortress
On the Backs of Angels
The Looking Glass
Trial of Tears
Enigma Machine (With drum solo by Mike Mangini)
Along for the Ride
Breaking All Illusions
Act II
The Mirror
Lie
Lifting Shadows Off a Dream
Scarred
Space-Dye Vest
Illumination Theory
Encore:
Overture 1928
Strange Déjà Vu
The Dance of Eternity
Finally Free
Illumination Theory (Outro)

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