Mixed emotions went through this reviewer’s mind as United States rockers Dream Theater kicked off its show at the KL Convention Centre on Monday night.
Sure, there was no disputing the technical excellence of the progressive metal outfit which is both a pioneer and a reigning dominant force of its sub-genre, that curious marriage of progressive rock complexity and heavy metal’s sonic onslaught.
Yet, and this is quite a major confession, a couple of years ago, when trimming my CD collection, I had decided to sell my four Dream Theater CDs.
The truth was I had not been in the mood to listen to them for years.
That decision came back to haunt me when Dream Theater put on an exquisite show before 2,500 ecstatic fans, thanks to organisers IME Asia.
It helped that the band was playing the Images, Words & Beyond 25th Anniversary Tour, which paid homage to its ground-breaking record Images And Words (1992), which is still my favourite Dream Theater album despite not being one of the four I owned!
The current line-up of James LaBrie (vocals), John Petrucci (guitars), Jordan Rudess (keyboards), John Myung (bass) and Mike Mangini (drums) flexed its collective musical muscle from the very start, and rarely let up for nearly three hours of intense riffing and the odd delicate touch.
The band kicked off with a ferocious rendition of The Dark Eternal Night, which was a real statement of intent. Other highlights included Hell’s Kitchen and The Bigger Picture before the band mixed things up with a few tangents such as a Myung bass solo take on piece by legendary jazz bassist Jaco Pastorius, which was full of harmonics. There were also nods to the Beatles (with Lucy In The Sky With Diamonds) and Metallica (Enter Sandman) revealing the diversity of the band’s creative influences.
With Petrucci’s power riffing and Mangini’s pounding drums to the fore, Dream Theater really rolled back the years. LaBrie established an early rapport with the audience and some of the more striking visual images included Rudesss swivelling keyboards, Mangini’s relentless pounding on his massive kit that included a whole extra set of percussion items above his head, and those moments when Petrucci and Myung stood next to next other, locking in incredibly fast, furious, fluid lines like it was no big deal.
Another highlight was the beautiful Breaking All Illusions all with its 80s synth feel, syncopated keyboard runs from Rudess and a masterful emotional bluesy solo from Petrucci.
To this reviewer, things then reached another level when the band launched into the Images And Words material after the intermission. Rudess came into his own with his take on the keyboard lines and the bold songwriting was truly felt on epics like Pull Me Under (the closest the band got to a radio hit), Learning To Live, Take The Time and Metropolis, Part 1. The lengthy Petrucci solo during Take The Time was a real highlight as was Mangini’s drum extravaganza in the midst of Metropolis.
When it came to the encore, Dream Theater was stingy. Just the one song. One song that ran for over 20 minutes!
The mind-blowing piece was the 23-minute A Change Of Seasons, which I believe to be the best suite the band ever recorded.
I was there with a classmate of mine, and as I turned to my right and saw my 20-year-old son headbanging with HIS classmate, I knew the torch had truly been passed.
Ultimately Dream Theater held a passionate crowd in thrall, and it really felt like a moment of metal history was made in Malaysia.