The Dream Theater machine has already rolled for a year, after the release of their latest album last February. In mid-January they returned to their European fans, starting off in Amsterdam, coming to Norway for two concerts, the first in Trondheim, the second in Oslo Spektrum, which I attended.
The concert is a 2-part show, where the first hour or so is dedicated to their latest album, Distance Over Time, and a couple of other songs from previous releases. The other half is a 20-year celebration of the fan favorite Metropolis Pt. 2: Scenes from a Memory.
Before their first set begins, a video rolls on the screen behind the drum kit, showing a sci-fi setting of some astronauts with the instrumental ambient piece Atlas. I wonder if this soundscape is something they have cooked together in their “spare time”, but it turns out it is written by Nick Phoenix and Thomas J. Bergersen. Two producers who owns the LA-based production music company Two Steps from Hell, that provides works for movies and trailers. Dream Theater have individual videos for every song they play tonight, with a full video for the entire Scene from a Memory-set.
They start off their first set playing the opener from their latest release, Untethered Angel. I haven’t listened too much to Distance over Time, because they’ve shown a lack of creativity, reusing much of the same materials from their six previous albums. In this sense, they should take a closer look on why Scenes from a Memory is a fan favorite. The music on this record is much more varied than what they have produced after this, bringing in elements they’ve since have abandoned. I’m not saying they’re playing crappy music, as everyone in the band is top notch musicians, but there have to be room, even for a band like Dream Theater, to expand their sound, exploring new possibilities, instead of plagiarizing and reusing their own material album after album.
James LaBrie has a very good stage personality as usual, speaking to every single one of us, frequently runs off to the back of the stage every time there is a longer instrumental part. Petrucci and Rudess shows off their skill in their respective instruments, something they do quite a lot during the evening, shifting between keyboard and guitar solos, as fans of the band have become used to over the years. Myung and Mangini providing the underlayer to the songs, Mangini even get an opportunity to show off his speed at the drums on one occasion, as he had the world record for single strokes in one minute until to 2013, with 1,203.
I can’t hear any sour tones or mistakes throughout the concert, though LaBrie is clearly getting older and though his falsetto is on point as usual, there are a few inaccuracies here and there, especially in the beginning of the first set. The follow-up song is A Night to Remember taken from Black Clouds & Silver Linings, before they go on to play to more tracks from DoT, giving the audience a taste of their great musicianship. The band plays the track In Presence of Enemies, Part 1, taken from the 2007-album Chaos in Motion, before they finish the first hour with Pale Blue Dot, appropriately with the recorded voice of Carl Sagan in the beginning of the song.
After a 20-minute break, round number 2 is set to begin. LaBrie starts off by talking a bit about Scene from a Memory. He tells this wasn’t just their first concept album, but also the first album keyboardist Jordan Rudess contributed on. Alongside Train of Thought, this is my favorite album by the band. I did a back-to-back listening of the album a day before the concert, but listening it to in a live setting, it reignited my interest in it, and especially my favorite track, Home.
The story told on Scenes from a Memory is loosely based on the 1991-movie Dead Again, the second film Kenneth Branagh directed, starring himself, Andy Garcia, Emma Thompson, and the late Robin Williams. Metropolis Pt. 1: The Miracle and the Sleeper can be found on the band’s second album, Images and Words, released in 1992. Dream Theater initially added the phrase “Part 1” as joke, but as the fans kept asking about the second part, they began writing a 20-minute instrumental piece that were supposed to be part 2 and included on the album Falling to Infinity.
The story on Scenes from a Memory consists of five characters: Nicholas, Victoria Page, Julian Baynes (the Sleeper), his twin brother, Senator Edward Baynes (the Miracle), and the hypnotherapist.
Nicholas, who is living in 1999, have flashbacks of an earlier life, and he seeks out a hypnotherapist for regression therapy, finding answers to his troubled dreams. Through his therapy sessions he finds out that he was a woman, Victoria Page, who died under mysterious circumstances in the year 1928, and he decides to uncover what happened. Vague images and voices give him bits and pieces of what happened to the woman.
In a newspaper, he research about to the murder, about a man who shoots himself mumbling something about love. The scene was witnessed by an unnamed source, and the case was closed as a tragic homicide/suicide between to lovers. It turns out the witness was Senator Edward Baynes, the brother of the deceased man, Julian, who was a drug addict and a gambler, and Victoria Page had been the mistress of the senator for a short while. The two brothers had a psychic connection to each other, so they knew each other thoughts.
When the senator finds out that Victoria is having a love affair with his brother, he goes to the house, and breaks in. He first kills his brother, then Victoria. He plants a suicide note in his brother’s pocket and runs from the scene.
After reliving the murderous night as Victoria, Nicholas drives home. Back at his house he turns on the TV, where John F. Kennedy Jr’s death dominates the news. He turns it off, putting on the record player instead. A door opens, and an intruder walks in. It is the hypnotherapist, as the reincarnation of Edward Baynes, who tells him: “Open your eyes, Nicholas”. He gasps, and the record is knocked from the turntable, leaving only static.
The last time I attended a Dream Theater concert was during their 2014 tour, then writing for the now shut down music mag Hissig. I had a great time then, and today was no difference, probably better as I got to hear my favorite album in one go. A great experience, indeed, and one I urge any fan of progressive metal to attend.