Dream Theater Hammersmith Apollo 23-4-17
Anniversaries for albums can be a chance for a band to fill a gap in their careers but after last years The Astonishing double cd and year long tour Dream Theater are doing this as much for themselves as they are for their fans.
Their second album Images And Words is 25 years old and the air of anticipation as we entered was tangible.There were a few empty seats though as the ticket price of £96 had even rabid fans checking their bank balances.
At 8 o'clock sharp the house lights dropped and after a short intro the band kicked into The Dark Eternal Night with the large lighting rig in full flow although it took a couple of songs for the sound to be top notch.
Every band member played their part with the band interplay quite astounding and from the huge smiles on all concerned the band are obviously enjoying the experience.
The first set of band favourites lasted an hour with never played before instrumental Hells Kitchen off Falling Into Infinity a welcome addition with John Petrucci showing why many in attendance think he is the best guitarist on the planet.I love that at a Dream Theater show you have the Petrucci fans to his side of the venue and after a solo many stand to applaud while the rest applaud with hands above their heads.Petrucci is an incredible guitarist with his solos a thing of beauty with everyone present spellbound with his speed,dexterity tone and each one telling it's own story.
We also had 2 from The Astonishing with New World's guitar riff and groove a real winner.
As I Am I love with it's heavy guitar riff getting the whole place going with nodding heads and fists raised everywhere and the guitat solo from Petrucci well wow is the only word as he shredded the solo and a standing ovation followed.When the album Train Of Thought came out the band were pilloried for the fact it was their Metallica album so to break out near the end into Enter Sandman was a impressive.I would love to know their thoughts or was it just an admission of guilt.
Ending the first set was the simply epic Breaking All Illusions a song I adore.The way the song ebbs and flows is wonderful and the mid song part as it dips led to the in my opinion the best guitar solo of this century.Petrucci took us on a journey as the solo builds to an amazing crescendo and the hairs on my neck stood to attention before the crowd stood to applaud a man who is simply the best there is.
After a short intermission and it was Images And Words time and over the course of 75 minutes we were treated to a once in a lifetime show that will be hard to beat.
Pull Me Under the bands biggest hit is a stunning opener and the chorus was sang back by all as Mike Mangini on drums showed one and for all he is not just a Mike Portnoy replacement but his own man with a quite superb display of power.Watching the man his hands never stop moving and he manages to keep up the same beat although he changes his style and technique at all times and again a smile never leaves his face.
John Myung is as dependable on bass as ever with his hands a blur at times as he keeps his head down and just does what John Myung does.
Jordan Rudess is a master of the keys and he never ceases to amaze and again the interplay with Mangini and Petrucci is outstanding and some of his ad libs just make you smile.
James LaBrie on vocals does an incredible job managing to hit 99% of the notes he could 25 years ago although personally I prefer it when the pace slows as his melodic tones and range show him to be one of the best vocalist's there is.
His vocals at the start of Take The Time,Surrounded and Waiting For Sleep were superb spine tingling in fact.Take The Time had a lengthy extended guitar solo from Petrucci that had us all in raptures.
The picked intro to Another Day had hairs on my neck raised again and James outstanding vocal was superb frankly it was all a life highlight and after a wonderful Learning To Live soon over although to encore with the 25 minute A Change Of Seasons was just brilliant.Originally it was going to be on Images And Words and tonight was the perfect set closer with a song that ebbed and flowed with LaBrie again superb on the quieter moments and more staggering band interplay and of course Petrucci blowing our minds with more soloing out of the top drawer.
For 2 hours 40 minutes this was a joy and for me Dream Theater can and do no wrong and this was a sheer joy from start to finish.
As a long time fan thank you and I can't wait for more chapters of stunning musicianship from the in my opinion the best prog band on the planet.