[Staff photographer Andrei Chlytchkov’s latest assignment was to get close to Dream Theatre at the Sony Centre April 3 in Toronto. Text by L. Benny Sanders. – AC]
Dream Theater brought the heat to The SonyCentre for the Performing Arts in Toronto. Founding members, guitarist John Petrucci
A voice had the effect of a hypnotist calming his subject as a massive video screen lit up. Just as the house lights went down, I texted a photo of the stage to my offspring and Shay, realizing that I was at the concert, sent me this message “Untethered Angel is awesome but the lyrics are pretty dark”.
This was the tune Dream Theater opened with. “Chaos and fear have left you hanging by a thread/As you argue with the voice inside your head.”
The entire audience was on their feet from the moment that this song began and no one sat down until the intermission some 35 minutes later.
The band played their first set based on tracks from the new album Distance Over Time” (the unit’s 14th studio offering) released this past February 22 (my son Jonah’s 15th birthday). The follow-up tunes were “Paralyzed”, “Fall Into the Light” and “Barstool Warrior” mirroring the CD itself.
Diverting from the album, they performed “In the Presence of Enemies” from the 2007 release Systematic Chaos. This initial set was closed with “Pale Blue Dot” (the title referring to our planet Earth) a song inspired by the writings of astronomer Carl Sagan. Each of the songs was accompanied by a unique video projected behind the band. Most are available online and are worth the watch even if you missed the concert. Check them out.
I was a bit overwhelmed by the performances by these guys, being my first time seeing them live. I got hints of Rush, ELP, Metallica and Pink Floyd and the whole time it was an incredibly sophisticated conversation between various members of the band. LaBrie paid a special nod to Toronto (a place he lived for a time) and made a joke that coming back to Canada keeps adding the word “eh” to his vocabulary.
Intermission: I spoke with two friends who were sitting in the “M” row (I was in “N”) who flew in from New Brunswick (Moncton and St. John) just to see this concert. They told me that they, like many of the other attendees, wanted to experience the second set, Dream Theater’s celebration of the 20th anniversary of its fifth studio album, Metropolis Pt. 2: Scenes from a Memory.
The second set was that album played in its entirety. This collection, voted the best concept work by a band in a poll by Rolling Stone magazine in 2012, was Dream Theater’s first concept album. During the set, LaBrie spoke of recording the tracks in 1999 and that there was something missing. He (jokingly) told us that walking down the street during a break, he saw a homeless guy busking using a K-Mart keyboard and as a result, invited Rudess to join the band to complete their sound.
During the set, all members of the Dream Theater had their solo moments, and some of the best ones came when Petrucci and Rudess battled it out during “The Dance of Eternity.” The lighting effects singled out each warrior so succinctly that it was almost as if each was the only person in the hall.
Petrucci was never more amazing than here and Rudess (with his keyboard strapped over his shoulder, Edgar Winter style) was as incredible as any I’ve ever seen. In the latter moments of the set, the audience sprang up and created an almost 3,000 person ‘wave’ as the video screen showed a reverse snowstorm to complete the “Scenes from a Memory”. As this portion ended, the voice of the hypnotist released us from our traces, and it was over but for the encore “Pull Me Under.”
A final note: as far as the intricately of the show itself, I would suggest that Steve Baird should be considered the sixth member of the band. The lighting wizard creates all of his performance, without the use of computer sequencing, by hand and head alone. To truly understand the precision of his contribution to the amazing look of the concert, one has to witness his art live. It was the