From a technical standpoint, Dream Theater has certainly
raised the bar of what a Rock band can accomplish.
The achievements of this band are amply displayed in the
two-DVD set, “Dream Theater: Live at Budokan 2004,”
which was released by the Warner/Atlantic label.
Formed in 1985, Dream Theater has increased the length
of their concerts over the years, and Disc One of this set
contains one with a two-hour and 50-minute running time!
In fact, it was probably actually closer to three hours,
because Mike Portnoy’s drum solo was relegated to one
of the bonus features on Disc Two. In the Rock world,
concerts of this length are rare.
Dream Theater has been labeled as a “Progressive Metal”
band, which I suppose is as good a moniker as any;
although, much of their concept oriented music is anything
but Metal. But Metal music was certainly featured in this
concert, particularly the opening song of the show,
a “Thrash oriented” tune in best sense of the term.
When this concert was shot, the three core members of
the band included drummer Mike Portnoy,
guitarist John Petrucci and bassist John Myung, all of whom
were Berklee School of Music alumni. As a young boy,
keyboard player Jordan Rudess spent some time at Juilliard.
I’d say this illustrates their impeccable credentials as
musicians. Believe me, there were many instances,
such as during the tune, “Instrumedley,” where these
four players exhibited jaw-dropping virtuosity.
This particular concert was given in support of their 2003
album, “Trains of Thought.” Presumably, many of the
tunes from this disc were performed during the show.
Prior to watching this DVD set, I’d only heard their
two-CD release from 2002, “Six Degrees of
Inner Turbulence.” Therefore, I’m new to this band;
however, I have seen a G3 DVD in which Petrucci played
with Joe Satriani and Steve Vai.
Dream Theater’s music has been labeled as overindulgent
at times, referred to by some as “virtuosity for its own sake.”
Still, these players command a lot respect from me
and despite its length, this concert delivered the goods
like few others. These guys are an abject lesson in what
can be achieved in a Hard Rock format, Progressive or not,
when the players are highly trained musicians. In short,
these guys can play just about anything!
The unenviable task of hanging with these monsters
fell to vocalist James Labrie and on this occasion, he was
relegated to second class status, since much of the music
performed was instrumental. While his voice often
sounded impressive, he strained frequently and sang
a bit flat, at times. How awesome would a Rock singer
have to be to rank as a true “peer” of these four
musicians? If such a vocalist exists, I’d love to hear him or her.
In terms of sound recording and camera work, this
production was generally topnotch, although Myung’s bass
was a bit submerged in the mix and lacked definition.
This is a shame, because his playing is a cut or two
(or three!) above most of the other bassists I’ve seen.
He often doubled John Petrucci’s fretwork at the octave,
playing a six-string bass, as well as a Chapman Stick
for one or two songs.
The approximately 85-minute bonus disc is well worth
watching. It features interviews with the band members,
with the exception of Myung, and has footage of Petrucci
and Rudess discussing their “rigs,” among other things.
Overall, this is a first-class DVD set and a great
introduction to a phenomenal band. Even if their music isn’t
your cup of tea, you should check it out. There’s something
on tap here for just about all Rock tastes!