Live at Ice Hall, HELSINKI
American progressive metal masters Dream Theater arrived once again Finland to please its constantly crowing fan base. Although band has recently released new album BLACK CLOUDS AND SILVER LININGS this current tour was advertised under banner Progressive Nation 2009.
REVIEW AND PICTURES BY MARKO SYRJÄLÄ
In a manner this tour is a kind of travelling festival which also includes several other bands which are more or less known for their progressive style of music. This time other bands included Swedish Opeth who plays progressive death metal and a traditional prog rock band Big Elf. Unfortunately the fourth band Unexpected Quest was forced to cancel its Helsinki show but there was no replacement here. Earlier this year Dream Theater did U.S leg of Progressive Nation -tour and then other bands also included Zappa Plays Zappa and Scale the Summit. The story says that all these bands are personally chosen by Dream Theater drummer Mike Portnoy so for sure this is such a unique tour both for the bands and for the audience.
Although progressive rock bands don’t nowadays sell millions of albums or stay on the top of singles charts or MTV airplay they still seem to have huge following in concert situations. Dream Theater does still sell enough albums to make it worth to release them but the fact presumably is that most of the income consists of touring. On the other hand, releasing a new album gives band a good reason for another tour … That’s how it goes nowadays. Progressive Nation -tour has been quite successful everywhere and Finland didn’t caused an expectation here. Helsinki’s old Ice Hall was about 90 % full which means that there were about 6000 ticket sold for the show. Unfortunately I had to skip over all the supporting bands for schedule reasons so I now jump directly into beginning of Dream Theater show.
The intro of "Nightmare To Remember", 16 minute long opening track of new album, started the show around 09:20 PM. Drummer Mike Portnoy was the first to show up on stage behind his massive drum kit and soon he was followed by guitarist John Petrucci, bassist John Myong and keyboardist Jordan Rudess. Band played foursome some "Nightmare to Remember" instrumental parts before lead vocalist James LaBrie joined them and band was its full form. Like said before Dream Theater’s progressive rock isn’t the easiest music to listen especially if you’re not a fan of their sensational playing skills and some ultra complex compositions but it clearly seemed that a majority of audience were true fans of both. After epic opening track band went into "Hollow Years" from their 1997 album FALLING INTO INFINITY. It was great addition to the set list because for reason or another they haven’t played too much material from that album since its release. Instrumental track "Erotomania", from bands classic AWAKE, presented again some amazing playing by messieurs’ Petrucci, Myong, Rudess and Portnoy. LaBrie soon returned to stage and band went to another AWAKEN track "Voices". Nice keyboard solo by Jordan Rudess followed and it included some funny animations running on background screen. Mr. Rudess is well known about his huge interest of new technology and I think that he has created these computer based animations by himself? Heavy track "Forsaken" from bands previous SYSTEMATIC CHAOS was played next before it was time to jump into more emotional stuff with "The Spirit Carries On". This balladesque song, which is off from bands admirable METROPOLIS prt 2: THE SCENES FROM A MEMORY, was a true highlight of the show and especially James LaBrie did excellent work with vocals here. In the past I’ve seen many Dream Theater shows and James has often been a slight question mark. Although he always for sure tries to give his very best, sometimes his voice has been completely shot for whatever reason and the whole show has suffered a lot because of that. Now there was no any sight of any kind of problems and James did sound excellent. This was the very first show of bands European tour, so maybe that gives an explanation for this positive appreciation?
"As I Am" was the last song from the actual set. It comes off from bands heaviest album TRAIN OF THOUGHT and it was guitarist John Petrucci’s turn to shine. He clearly enjoyed playing this heavy tune and in the middle he did some great, though a little overlong, solos. Overall his performance was nearly perfect as always before. Actually the only thing that now was different to his previous visits in here was his new improved outlook which now resembles Zakk Wylde. "As I Am" went through smoothly and in the end whole band settled in the front of stage and thanked audience. The main show was over and crowd started furiously shout encores. It’s always fun to listen when people keep on anticipating which song band is going to do as an encore and when we are talking about Dream Theater you actually never know what to expect. Unlike almost any other bands this group is well known about their habit to change set lists almost daily. Personally I was waiting for something like "6:00" or "Pull Me Under" which both are bands best known songs but instead of any obvious choice band decided to do another track from their new BLACK CLOUDS AND SILVER LININGS -album. "The Count of Tuscany", another 19 minute epic song, was the last song of the set and although most of the audience seemed to like it somehow did leave me a little cold here. I mean, it’s a good song, but I wouldn’t put it on the last song there. Instead of playing three or four "hit" songs there they now did that one gigantic epos and left everything else off … Well, like said before you never know what to except from these guys?
Overall this show was really good, convincing and above all entertaining. Bands performance was good, set list included both new material but also some less played songs. Stage structure and especially lightning and stage screens looked really cool but there are some things which had to be mentioned here … The show was a way shorter than these guys usually do. If I count right it last about 95 minutes and that’s like one hour less than what they’ve done in the past but that was probably because there were so many bands on the bill this time. Another disappointment was that now, for the first time when I’ve seen Dream Theater, Mike Portnoy didn’t do his famous drum solo at all. But that was about it. Thank you and hope to see you again with full show next time!
SET LIST FROM HELSINKI SHOW !!
A RITE OF PASSAGE
THE SPIRIT CARRIES ON
AS I AM
THE COUNT OF TUSCANY
MORE PICTURES FROM THE SHOW