Posted on March 10, 2010 -
I was 28 when I first heard of this band. A friend of mine was on holiday in England in 1992 and had sent me a letter in which he raved about a band called “Dream Theater” who he thought I’d like.
Having grown up on Genesis and Rush (with a healthy helping of Kansas and Jethro Tull) during the late 70’s and early 80’s, Marillion (ably supported in my collection by Simple Minds, Big Country, Waterboys and U2) in the Mid 80’s and (at the time) my latest “can’t get enough of” band… King’s X, I knew that my friend knew my taste well and immediately started to ring around the local CD shops to see if anyone had the CD “Images and Words”. Fortunately one store had heard of the CD and had a couple of copies.
Later that week I picked it up and from the first notes of “Pull Me under” I was hooked.
14 years later and here we are with a 20th Annivesary tour live set (which just fits on 2 CD’s for the car by putting “Six Degrees”, “Ocatavarium” and “Metrpolois” onto a second disc). (As I do most of my listening in the car to and from work).
For me this set is just brilliant. When I first saw the set list I thought there were a number of tracks missing from what I thought would “represent” Dream Theater over 20 years. However the set is superb in that it represents the bands history and their latest album with only a couple of tracks that appear on other live albums and the “previously” unreleased tracks are sheer brilliance.
1. Root of all evil (From Octavarium, 2005) – Stunning version.
2. Walk beside you (From Octavarium, 2005) – a lot more energy than the studio version.
3. Another Won (previously unreleased from 1985 – stunning – like a “Rush” meets “Iron Maiden” and uniquely Dream Theater. Far exceeded my expectations.
4. Afterlife (From When Night and Day unite, 1989) – great track (I’ve never heard the studio album). Far exceeded my expectations.
5. Under a glass moon (From Images and Words, 1992) – Really stunning, was never a big fan of this song, am now!
6. Innocence Faded (From Awake, 1994). Superb version, again enjoyed much more than the studio version.
7. Raise the Knife (previously unreleased from 1996 – really love this song, the band are in great form on this, sound like they are really enjoying doing it. Far exceeded my expectations.
8. Spirit Carries on (From Scenes from a memory, 1999)- the first of 3 songs that have been released live before (this one as part of Live from New York 2000). This is a 9 minute version that is superbly played.
The Orchestra kicks in from here on in….
9. Six Degrees of inner turbulence (the full 42 minute, 8 part version, from Six Degrees…, 2002).
(Parts III, IV, V and VI were on “Live at Budokhan (2004).
I. (Overture – Nice intro with Orchestra). II.(About to Crash – Stunning with band and Orchestra). III. (War inside my head – again, great with band and orchestra). IV. (Test that stumped them all – for me the definitive version, Mike’s drumming here is just brilliant). V. (Goodnight Kiss – again great interplay band and Orchestra). VI. (Solitary Shell – the very “Solisbury Hill” (Peter Gabriel) like track, superb, hard to get out of my head. VII. (About to Crash (Reprise) – Excellent instrumental, perfect for band and orchestra, comes across really well. VIII. (Losing Time / Grand Finale). Rock on lads! This is just great, it’s got all the excitement of the ending of 2112 (Rush) combined with an Orchestra. The band and Orchestra are having an absolute blast here. If I had to define the ultimate Rock / Orchestra “finale” this is it. I can see the progression and hard work that Dream Theater have put in over the years and for me it peaks here and again near the end of Octavarium and the whole of Metroplolis (read on…).
10. Vacant (from Train of thought, 2004). The “quiet” tune from the ultra heavy TOT album. This is beautifully played and sung, feels , to me, like part one of the “intermission” type tracks!
11. The Answer lies within (from Octavarium, 2005). Part two of the “intermission”. Beautiful.
12. Sacrificed Sons (from Ocatavarium, 2005). Back into it again, great version of this track with Orchestra and band working superbly together. Again, I feel, superior to Studio version.
13. Octavarium (from Octavarium 2005). I find the keyboard / guitar solo intro (7 minutes) to this one a little too long (reminds me of Pink Floyd’s “Shine On”. (Would have preferred 2-3 minutes max). Also does remind me quite a bit in parts (particularly the vocal style) to IQ’s 24 minute classic “Harvest” (from Dark Matter, 2004). (Which in itself is very reminiscent of Genesis “Suppers Ready”). Anyway, just minor thoughts in the context of this 27 minute epic. From the 7th minute on this absolutely exceeds all expectations. I think it has much more power than the studio version. It was made for the ultimate pairing of Rock and Orchestra with the 23 minute mark hitting an emotional high for me.
14. Metropolis (from Images and Words, 1992). (A version appeared on Live from New York, 2000). Have to confess, never a huge fan of this one. (“Pull Me Under”, Take the time” and “Learning to Live” were my faves from I&W). Have to say though, this sums up the whole set. At first glance I thought, mmmm thought there’d be more of the stuff I like, and in the end, wow, I’m glad they put on a whole lot of stuff I wouldn’t have chosen myself!. This track absolutely rocks, definitely now a big favorite. Totally exceeded all expectations. Check it out especially from around the 5 minute mark – Rock / Classical / Band and Orchestra – I’ve not heard better !
Dream Theater have exceeded all my expectations with this release. I’d go so far as to say that I’d add “Another Won”, “Afterlife” and “Raise the knife” to my favorite DT tracks.
In regards to “six Degrees” and “Octavarium specifically, the blending of Rock and classical in this live context with an Orchestra is breathtaking. These two tracks are, to me, “Classical Rock Masterpieces” (in terms of variety / complexity / originality / highest caliber musicianship).
This music as with much of Dream Theater’s output over the years is right up there with …. (to think of a few) …
- Caravan, “For Richard” (live Version from “New Symphonia” 1974) (original 1970).
- Emerson Lake and Palmer, “Tarkus” (title track from “Tarkus” 1971)
- Yes , “Close to the Edge” – (title track from “Close to the Edge” 1972).
- Jethro Tull, “Thick as a Brick” (Live version from “Bursting Out” 1978) (Original 1972).
- Genesis, “Suppers Ready” (Live version from “Seconds Out” 1977) (Original 1972).
- Gentle Giant “Octopus” (Live version from “Playing the fool” 1976) (Original 1972).
- Mike Oldfield, “Tubular Bells”, (Live Version on “Exposed” 1979) (Original 1973).
- Lynyrd Skynrd “Free Bird” (Live version from “One more from the Road” 1976). (Original 1973).
- Rush, “Cygnus X-1″ from “Hemispheres” (1978).
- Tangerine Dream, “Tangram Part 1″ (Title track from “Tangram” 1980).
- Frankie goes to Hollywood, “Welcome to the pleasuredome”
(title track from “Welcome to the pleasuredome” 1984).
- Marillion, “Misplaced Childhood” from (1985).
- Queensryche “Operation Mindcrime” (Live version from 1991). (Original 1988).
- Dream Theater “Learning to Live” from “Images and Words” (1992)
- Dream Theater, “Scenes from a Memory” from (1999).
- Spock Beard, “At the end of the day” from “V” (2000).
- Flower Kings “The Truth will set you free” from “Behold the Future” (2002).
- Green Day “Jesus of Suburbia” from “American Idiot (2004).
Further thought would no doubt reveal more than these classic 18 “top of mind” favorites. Music, that to me, pushes the musical boundaries in terms of complexity yet still rocks with an abundance of melody and harmony, a difficult thing to accomplish without 100% dedication to create something new, endless practice and commitment. In this live context with an Orchestra, the setting is brilliant.
In recent years newer bands such as Flower Kings, Spock’s Beard, Muse, Gomez, Mercury Rev, Elbow, Coldplay, Evermore, and The Flaming Lips (from “Soft Bulletin” (1999) onwards) have held my interest, together with any new releases from Dream Theater, Marillion and Rush. This Dream Theater release is a classic.
In summary Dream Theater are are band of extremely talented musicians who can play really complex stuff yet enable it to rock and with melody, harmony and a swagger that defies classification. Hearing what they can play (and seeing it via the DVD) confirms it, these guys are real! Individually they are fantastic musicians, for me the best of the best and together they make something that is simply out of this world. Superb – a stunning 2 Hrs 40 minutes of music, well worth it.
Certainly one of my favourite live albums over the last 35 years (here are some of my other favourites over the past 35 years …
- “How the West was won” from Led Zeppelin (1972)
- “Made in Japan” from Deep Purple (1972)
- “Yessongs” from Yes (1973)
- “Welcome back my friends” from ELP (1973)
- “Too late to stop now” from Van Morrison (1974)
- “On your feet or on your knees” from Blue Oyster Cult (1975)
- “Live in London” from Bruce Springsteen (1975)
- “One more from the Road” from Lynyrd Skynrd (1976)
- “Frampton comes alive” from Peter Frampton (1976)
- “Live Bullet” from Bob Seger (1976)
- “Seconds Out” from Genesis (1977)
- “A Live Record” from Camel (1978)
- “Bursting Out Live” from Jethro Tull (1978)
- “Two for the Show” from Kansas (1978)
- “Playing the fool” Gentle Giant (1978)
- “Waiting fro Columbus” from Little Feat (1978)
- “Strangers in the Night” from UFO (1979)
- “Live Rust” from Neil Young (1979).
- “Paris” from Supertramp (1980).
- “Exit…Stage left” from Rush (1981)
- “Under a blood red sky” from U2 (1983)
- “Stop making sense” from Talking Heads (1984)
- “Live in the city of Light” from Simple Minds (1986)
- “Live adventures of the Waterboys” from the Waterboys (1986)
- “Operation Livecrime” from Queensryche (1991)
- “Without a safety Net” from Big Country (1992)
- “Secret World Live” from Peter Gabriel (1994)
- “Together in Concert” from Tim Finn, Dave Dobbyn, Bic Runga (2000)
- “Live Scenes from New York” from Dream Theater (2000)
- “Hullabaloo” from Muse (2002)
- “Out West” from Gomez (2005)
- “Instant Delivery” from Flower Kings (2006).
- “Okonokos” from My Morning Jacket (2006)
If this sounds remotely like your sort of music, then go for it. I hope you enjoy it as much as I did.