Dream Theater Wembley Arena/Wolverhampton Civic Hall 14th and 15th February 2014
I've had a week now to try and get the enormity of last weekend into words and I think I'm going to struggle.
Seeing one of if not your favourite band 2 nights in succession for nearly 3 hours a night would be enough,but throw in a meet and greet with the best guitarist on the planet and staying behind afterwards to meet 4 out of 5 band members then you are talking off the scale.
Four months after the release of their quite fantastic self titled cd Dream Theater brought their " Along For The Ride " world tour to the UK. Happily the band have resurrected their evening with shows so it is all Dream Theater split into 3 parts.
First part was for 75 minutes and they played.
False Awakening Suite ( intro with video showing every cd cover rolling into the next )
The Enemy Inside
The Shattered Fortress
On The Backs Of Angels
The Looking Glass
Trial Of Tears
Enigma Machine (including drum solo )
Along For The Ride
Breaking all Illussions
Part 2 was for 65 minutes and they played 5 tracks from the Awake cd celebrating its 20th anniversary
Lifting Shadows Off A Dream
Space Dye Vest
The Illumination Theory
Part 3 was the encore of 25 minutes and it was all from the Scenes Of A Memory cd celebrating its 15th anniversary
Strange Deja Vu
The Dance Of Eternity
With a superb sound for both nights and with a superb light show , including a huge screen at the back showing close ups of all members , videos and also at the interval a hilarious compilation of youtube clips and assorted band member action toys and the quite mad Triangle Man !! So good to see the band who are seen as such musos taking the mickey out of themselves!!
With this being the second tour with Mike Mangini it had the feel of the band spreading their wings. Every band member is at the top of their game and with us being so close at the second show just a joy to see how the band feed off each other and drive themselves ever higher.
All five new songs were excellent and went down well in the live setting. From the double bass attack of " The Enemy Inside " to the Rush style riff and rhythm of " The Looking Glass " to the balladic "Along For The Ride" to the mind blowing musicianship of instrumental " The Enigma Machine " all were greeted like long lost friends. Mangini's solo was excellent and I loved the way he carried it on then 2 beats and the band kicked in. Tight as ever.
The highlight though was the 22 minute " The Illumination Theory " . From the heavy early riff, through the mid song orchestration leading onto the band just dazzling us with musicianship from another planet. This shows them reaching out and showing the world that there is so much more to come from the band and taking things to levels that few if any can match.
Part one of the show had most of the new music in it. It also had " The Shattered Fortess" 's live debut which had a wonderful John Petrucci guitar solo. An excellent return for " Trial Of Tears " which had an extended Petrucci solo and the very prophetic words of " It's raining " considering the biblical weather outside the venue.
2 songs from Mangini's debut cd finished the first set. The Grammy nominated " On The Backs Of Angels " and for me the best song of the last 10 years " Breaking All Illusions ". It has light and shade and the best guitar solo maybe ever. Melodic , slow , shred ,it tells it's own story and a solo that can have me in tears. The Wolverhampton show's solo was improvised and from what I've seen the only time he has done it on this tour. To watch it from only 8 yards away was quite mind blowing.
Part two had a welcome return to the second half of the " Awake " cd." The Mirror" 's heavy riff had necks in the building nodding before " Lie " which had an extended solo from Petrucci which towards the end showed why he won the recent best shredder on the planet award.
" Lifting Shadows " gave James Labrie a chance to shine which I have to say he did all night. Over the last couple of tours James's voice has improved live immeasurably.
" Space Dye Vest " is a strange choice for a live song which was saved by a new extended Petrucci solo at the end of the song.
The encore was another welcome return to 4 songs from " Scenes Of A Memory " which was played like a medley and the only issue was they could have played all the cd but then we would have been up to a near 3 and a half hour show !!
" Dance Of Eternity " showed the band in all their glory. The way every member has their chance to shine from Jordan Ruddess's keyboard solo's to Mangini's extra fills to the quite wonderful John Myung's bass battle with Petrucci. Myung's fingers move as quick as Petrucci's.
Then they were gone though they said they will return this year towards the end of the tour as they have had such a great time in the UK.
This was so much more than two gigs. We had the trip home from Wembley in near hurricane force winds. Through flooded roads and having to avoid trees that had fallen.
Day two had an early rise to go to Birmingham to a John Petrucci meet and greet. After a , at times hilarious journey which again included near hurricane force winds and bits falling off Ollie's van. We arrived in Birmingham and a queue around the block. After an hour and 45 minutes we finally met the great man on a stage at the end of the shop. One of his aides took photos while we had a quick chat and he signed my copy of " Live At Luna Park ".
Before the show we met up a great young man Stephan who had come down from Stoke who was originally from India and this was his first ever gig. A thoroughly nice young man.
After the show we hung around for nearly 2 hours and met 2 lovely people from Belfast Martina and John , one who wanted to stay and meet them and one who didn't!!
At last Petrucci came out and signed a couple of more bits before Labrie,Myung and Ruddess all signed my " Live At Luna Park " book.
It's great to see a band that care as much as we do about them.
An epic 2 shows and everything inbetween too.
A truly special time and a most wonderful band.
Here is a chance to relive the shows with a youtube full concert from the date in Zurich.