Once in a Livetime
Released: 1998, East West
Reviewer: Nathan Robinson
This double-CD live album is everything you can expect from Dream Theater…great performances, great sound, great songs, and a very lengthy set! The recording was done back in June, 1998 in Paris, France on their "Touring Into Infinity" world tour. Disc one, running a whopping 76 minutes, opens with parts I and II of "A Change of Seasons" and man is it HEAVY! Yes! Dream Theater have succeeded in creating another very heavy recording! After being spoiled by the absolutely perfect heavy-ass production of "Awake", I was let down when I heard "Falling Into Infinity", which had a weak guitar sound similar to "Images and Words". But "Once in a Livetime" sounds spectacular! And if the opening chords of "Puppies on Acid" ( "The Mirror") doesn't have you strapping on your air guitar and banging your head, then something is definitely wrong with you! Man this is so fucking heavy! Too bad they didn't play the whole song though. "Just Let Me Breathe" gets a breath of new life on this album, because it's just that much heavier! Long runners "Voices" and "Take the Time" are played excellently and in full form. James' voice seems to be failing him a little when he tries to attain those high notes though. "Lines in the Sand" is played in all it's 13 minute glory, complete with a raunchy keyboard intro courtesy of Derek. This song sounds killer live. "Scarred" appears with a nice long atmospheric guitar/keyboard introduction. The end of the song segues right into "A Change of Seasons IV", which then leads right into "Ytse Jam", the only "old" song present. With this sound, it would have been great to hear some other really old songs.
Disc two clocks in even longer at 78 minutes, opening with the 14 minute "Trial of Tears". "Hollow Years" follows, seeing John switching to his classical guitar and playing a great introduction to the song. DT continue the mellow mood by playing "Take Away My Pain", with even an appearance of some saxophone. Cool, but I'd rather not hear it as it makes this track sound like an "easy-listening" or "soft-rock" song. But no fear, DT dive immediately into "Caught in a Web" and, you guessed it, man is it HEAVY! And so is "Lie"…simply awesome! "Peruvian Skies" is played excellent, remaining as atmospheric as it is on album. The staple "Pull Me Under" also appears, but I'm sure you knew that already. The encore brings forth an abbreviated version of "Metropolis", and surprisingly enough "Learning to Live". Closing the disc is "A Change of Seasons VII", a perfect closer.
Being the virtuoso musicians they are, Derek, Mike, and John P. each have their solos included on the discs. Great stuff, although they do drag on a little too long. And you can count on some variations here and there in the songs…maybe a different intro or outro, sometimes just changing the way something's played, or throwing in some other band's music for fun. All of this, plus the great track listing, sound, and lengthy set make this double live album very interesting and a must for Dream Theater fans. Even for those unfamiliar with them, this wouldn't be a bad starting point, although I would suggest "Awake" above all.