Dream Theater always delivers the best for its fans. This new Blu-ray release, which captures the band live on its Dramatic Tour of Events jaunt, exemplifies this by not only giving listeners/viewers roughly three hours of footage that spans the progressive metal band’s career, but also offers surprises, something that might be unthinkable at this point in the band’s career. As usual, Dream Theater pulls through.
Drummer Mike Mangini, then out for his first trek in the throne vacated by Mike Portnoy, wows with his performance, playing with a sensitivity and a strong sense of the melodic, two elements Portnoy did not use to this great an extent. Guitarist John Petrucci seems positively animated throughout and vocalist James LaBrie seems to have become more of a formidable presence with this new lineup. The pair, along with bassist John Myung and keyboardist Jordan Rudess, stalk the stage, smile, thrash and generally play the living daylights out of each of the umpteen songs here. The group is less brooding and foreboding than on past video releases and the change is a welcome one.
Highlights include “6:00”, rendered here with a newcomer’s unbridled passion, the acoustic “The Silent Man” and “Beneath the Surface”, and the blazing “The Root of All Evil”. Mangini’s drum solo, which arrives early in the show, transcends the form as he focuses on composition while also managing to impress with his considerable showmanship. Rudess and Petrucci are both naturally afforded solos as well and neither disappoints, both men drawing from the broad musical vocabulary that makes Dream Theater’s sound run deeper than the aforementioned progressive metal tag. LaBrie shines throughout, though his greatest moment is arguably during “The Spirit Carries On”, which demonstrates his ability not only to sing a song but to live it.
If there’s one thing that Live At Luna Park demonstrates it’s how wide-ranging Dream Theater actually is musically and how well the members play as an ensemble. Detractors have long held that the music is little more than a series of changes from one odd time signature or another, or with a series of solos gluing everything together, but that’s hardly the case. Each note and each passage is carefully place, the consideration the group takes evident in pieces such as “Caught In a Web”, “Wait for Sleep” and “Far from Heaven”.
The video is shot with breathtaking clarity, to the point that we begin to feel that we are almost at the show. It’s the dividing line between a band eager to issue product and a band interested in making a statement even if with a form (the live album) that seems a throwback to a bygone era. There are few bands working in the realm that Dream Theater works and doing it on the scale that this outfit has for more than two decades now. Only Rush can be seen as a viable competitor, evidence that this is an unstoppable band with plenty of good years left together.
Bonus features on this release include a trailer, a glimpse of life behind the scenes, a multi-angle look at “Outcry”, and a short documentary. This last is perhaps the most telling. There has been gossip in the past about the band members not getting along (Portnoy said in an interview conducted after he’d left that at the end of his last tour with the group that one member showed up at band/crew dinner wearing earbuds and refused to speak to anyone) but here we see everyone in good spirits and seemingly genuine in their shared affection. (That Mangini may be progressive music’s most affable figure surely doesn’t hurt.)
This is a band truly reinvigorated, revitalized, and ready, as its new drummer has said, for many wonderful things to come in the second half of its career.
We all know how critical it is to keep independent voices alive and strong on the Internet. Please consider a donation to support our work as independent cultural critics and historians. Your donation will help PopMatters stay viable through these changing and challenging times. Thanks everyone.
// Short Ends and Leader
"Alex Garland’s Ex Machina is a darkly funny and philosophical cyberpunk locked-room thriller that tangles with the greatest sci-fi puzzle: What does it mean to be human?READ the article