On their second night in a row at London’s Hammersmith Apollo, progressive metal masters Dream Theater put on one of their famous “evening with” shows; a near three-hour spectacle showcasing their majestic compositions. Tonight’s event is focused around last year’s Distance Over Time for the first half of the show, with a performance of Metropolis, Part 2: Scenes From a Memory (1999) from start to finish the main event to follow.
Entering their impressive stage setup – rather than a backdrop the band has a screen where bespoke animations accompany each track – following an instrumental and introductory video, roars greet the group from those seated on both levels of the venue. Starting their set with Distance Over Time’s opener “Untethered Angel,” the guys hit their stride immediately; something which is unsurprising given their profile and near 35 years of experience. The opening track, and indeed their whole set, shines a light on how much guitarist John Petrucci’s harmonized vocals add to the band’s sound; something which is more subtle on record but in a live environment rounds out James LaBrie’s more powerfully delivered leads perfectly.
The video for “Untethered Angel” shows Dream Theater in the studio during the recording of Distance Over Time:
Such is the clarity of Petrucci’s guitar tone and quality of playing that, combined with the stage show and lighting, an almost synesthetic effect is created for those in attendance, seen most clearly in the slower parts in the middle of “Fall into the Light.” The studio release of Distance Over Time showed drummer Mike Mangini allowing his personality to shine through more than in his earlier efforts with the band (this being his fourth), and on stage he embodies this – Mangini’s kit looks like an entire drum showroom has been mounted to six frames surrounding him in a crescent, where he can strike in almost any direction and hit a piece of percussion hardware. It’s an impressive setup and, even further back in the auditorium, you can see the enjoyment and passion he puts into playing each track.
A brief departure from the stage and break for both band and audience follows their opening hour, before returning to play one of the finest progressive albums ever released in its entirety. The only descriptions which could be made of their performance of Scenes… would be a string of superlatives; the trio of Petrucci, Jordan Rudess on keyboards (and occasionally keytar) and John Myung on bass particularly outstanding when ripping through the intensely complex instrumental passages in “Home” and “The Dance of Eternity.” LaBrie takes centre stage when each track calls for it (departing to let his band members shine in instrumentals) and performs the vocals faithfully to the album, with only a brief pause to speak with the audience between Act One and Two and calling for more interaction from the crowd for “Home.”
Reaching the album’s penultimate track in “The Spirit Carries On,” all in the room are now on their feet singing along, with phone lights waving in the air for the band’s greatest ballad. There is a degree of civility due to the track and the group’s nature in their music, but this is the closest an audience can come to outright losing their minds in appreciation of true mastery on stage in front of them in a seated venue. Entering “Finally Free” there is no question of those here tonight returning to their seats, and the closing passage of narration is often obscured by clapping and cheering from the crowd (as well as premature shouting of ‘Open your eyes Nicholas’ which gets a few chuckles).
I’m very fortunate to have been to a lot of concerts and not many of them leave you with that ‘holy shit’ feeling tonight did. To borrow the phrase the person sat next to be used: I knew it was going to be good, but I didn’t realize it would be this good. Thankfully, tonight’s show was recorded for a DVD so I, those in attendance and fans around the world can relive the experience again in the future. 20 years after Scenes From A Memory was released, 35 years since their inception, Dream Theater are absolutely spectacular and show no signs of slowing down. Go and see them as soon as you can.
Check out this previous live performance of “The Dance of Eternity” from back in 2015 for a glimpse of the incredible show Dream Theater put on:
Dream Theater’s London Setlist: Set One
01. Untethered Angel
02. A Nightmare to Remember
03. Fall into the Light
04. Barstool Warrior
05. In the Presence of Enemies, Part I
06. Pale Blue Dot Set Two – Metropolis, Part 2: Scenes from a Memory
07. Act I: Scene One: Regression
08. Act I: Scene Two: I. Overture 1928
09. Act I: Scene Two: II. Strange Déjà Vu
10. Act I: Scene Three: I. Through My Words
11. Act I: Scene Three: II. Fatal Tragedy
12. Act I: Scene Four: Beyond This Life
13. Act I: Scene Five: Through Her Eyes
14. Act II: Scene Six: Home
15. Act II: Scene Seven: I. The Dance of Eternity
16. Act II: Scene Seven: II. One Last Time
17. Act II: Scene Eight: The Spirit Carries On
18. Act II: Scene Nine: Finally Free Encore
19. At Wit’s End