With Mike Portnoy long departed and the new Dream Theater lineup proving, via the album A Dramatic Turn of Events, that the group is as vital as ever, this Blu-ray edition of Live At Budokan could not come at a more convenient time for fans––it’s a perfect reminder that the quintet has long been dedicated to musical excellence and to providing fans with vivid and wholly worthwhile aural and visual experiences.
Filmed in early 2004 and issued later that year as a triple CD and double DVD, Live At Budokan finds the band riding high after on the success of the 2003 Train of Thought album. This release has material from across the Dream Theater canon but leans on Train of Thought and 2002’s impressive double album Six Degrees of Inner Turbulence.
A particular highlight of this set is “Instrumedley”, which features elements of the band’s classics “The Dance of Eternity”, “Ytse Jam” and “Hell’s Kitchen” as well as “When the Water Breaks”, “Paradigm Shift”, and “Universal Mind” from Liquid Tension Experiment, the project featuring Dream Theater’s John Petrucci, Mike Portnoy and Jordan Rudess teamed up with bass/Chapman stick legend Tony Levin. There’s also the nearly 20-minute “In the Name of God”, “Endless Sacrifice”, and “Pull Me Under”, the group’s early “hit”, found on the 1992 release Images and Words.
Stalwarts know the pleasure of seeing the group flawlessly execute this labor-intensive music and performances of “Hollow Years”, “The Test That Stumped Them All” and “New Millennium” all offer a feast for both the eyes and the ears. The inclusion of Jordan Rudess’s keyboard solo is a reminder of why he is, for many/most fans the keyboardist for the band. (He is the third in a succession––Kevin Moore and Derek Sherinian preceded him.)
If nearly three hours of concert footage wasn’t enough, the band carefully compiled over an hour of bonus footage that includes a nearly half-hour documentary of the Japanese tour as well as Portnoy’s 12-minute drum solo plus insights into the keyboard and guitar worlds of Rudess and Petrucci––plus a multi-angle bonus of the aforementioned “Instrumedley”.
Like the Canadian trio Rush––one of the few progressive rock legends Dream Theater has never mounted a major tour with––this New York outfit has consistently given fans the greatest value for their dollar. Novices might find four hours of material a little more than overwhelming, but souvenirs such as this are rarely if ever designed for the newcomer.
Those who missed out on the album and DVD the first time around will be wise to grab this one––it’s the best of the band’s live lot from an era (although 2006’s Score comes very close) in which Dream Theater seemed incapable of doing wrong. In fact, one might argue that in career that is inching its toward 30 years, this is one of the rare acts that have made few, if any, career blunders. All you have to do is watch Live At Budokan and you quickly understand why.