Dream Theater

"Along for the Ride" world tour

Dream Theater are without doubt the canonical contemporary example of progressive metal with almost three decades experience, with very successful periods under the Atlantic and Roadrunner labels. Melbourne's show at The Palais Theatre was the second-last destination of their "Along for the Ride" world tour, which started in Portugal in January, journeyed to North America in March, back to Europe in July, then to South America in September and finally to the Asia-Pacific in October. As with previous tours, there was no opening act, but rather the band performed with two one-hour sets, punctuated by a set of amusing faux advertisements, and concluding with a half-hour encore. The crowd was enormous, as were the ticket prices, but less should not be expected for one of the world's most impressive acts.

Individual members of Dream Theater are often highly rated by music critics and fans, and individual songs often include impressive opportunities for semi-solo performances. It is inevitable then that a review of individual performances occur. Founding bassist John Myung, once voted greatest bassist of all time by MusicRadar, provided a surprisingly unimpressive performance. In comparison John Petrucci, named number two metal guitarist by Joel McIver and ranked 17th best guitarist of all time by Guitar World readers, was astounding. The diversity of his progression and speed was truly astounding, and he was very well supported by Jordan Rudess on keyboards and keytar. One suspects that Rudess is undergoing transformation into a Deep One, as he clearly has octopus tentacles for fingers.

Relative newcomer to the band as drummer Mike Mangini, also famous for once setting five World's Fastest Drummer records, was surrounded by the skins and cymbals in an almost comical tower. His performance was so good that one could be forgiven that like the classic idiot-savant, he has done absolutely nothing else with his life except play drums (which isn't true of course, but the resemblance holds). Finally vocalist James LaBrie certainly took up the role of front-man with gusto and engaged in good and friendly banter with the crowd - his singing however, was punctuated with hisses and shouts with a limited vocal range, although to be fair his howls could certainly hold a note, albeit in the singular.

Nevertheless, as a whole perform the band certainly did. They were sensible enough to have the right collection of speakers and mixing arrangement for the particular arrangement of the venue, which has caught other international acts out in the past (see a review of Simple Minds by yours truly), resulting in a mixing sound that was faultless. The show of light and colour was overwhelming, in the style of classic space rock and glam. The diversity of the style was also notable, with the performance spanning many years of work, starting with the famous single 'The Enemy Inside' (2013), and continuing with pieces like 'The Shattered Fortress' (2009), 'On The Backs Of Angels' (2011), relatively new item 'The Looking Glass' (2014), the ballad 'Along For The Ride' (2013), all the way back to the sombre and almost Gothic 'Space-Dye Vest' (1994), 'Overture 1928' (1999) and the rather extraordinarily diverse (indeed, one of the complex songs in rock history) 'The Dance Of Eternity' (2013).

Some alleged of the marketed influences to Dream Theater are dubious to say the least; a few minutes of ethereal orchestral sounds and accompanying film clip does not make one the metal version of 'Tales from Topographic Oceans' by Yes, nor does the occasional psychedelic progressive riff justify a claim of influence from Pink Floyd. More legitimate are comparisons between Rush and Iron Maiden.

Overall, Dream Theater provide a performance that is overwhelming in all respects. They are one of the few bands that one can say sound better live than their studio albums, and look better than their videos. As a metal supergroup, with some of the best musicians who walk the earth, everything they do is on an epic scale. In a case of reality imitating fiction, “These go to to eleven”. But from such heady heights, can they retain their feet on the ground? Or will there be another angry rebellion in sound by those in small clubs who use music as a hammer to beat the world into shape, rather than a mirror to reflect idealised narratives?

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