ICE HALL, HELSINKI
REVIEW BY MARKO SYRJÄLÄ AND ARTO LEHTINEN
PICTURES BY MARKO SYRJÄLÄ
To be honest, I’m not the biggest fan of tours where bands perform their classic albums in their entirety. The reason for that is quite simple; there are only a handful of albums without fillers by any band, and Dream Theater makes no exception here. The theme of this tour is to celebrate the 25th anniversary of the band’s classic IMAGES AND WORDS album. There’s no denying that the release is one of the most significant releases in the group’s history. The band’s second studio album was the first Dream Theater album to feature James LaBrie on vocals. It is also the band’s most commercially successful release to date, including songs “Pull Me Under,” “Take the Time,” and “Another Day,” which are among the band’s best-known songs. Therefore, the whole idea of playing the entire IMAGES AND WORDS turned out to be a good choice. Dream Theater pulled such a good number of Helsinki attendance because the album is still ageless and means a lot for many people.
The concert was divided into two separate sections. The first section, Act 1, was a kind of “Best of” set where the band performed mixed songs from their various albums. “The Dark Eternal Night” opened the show, followed by “Bigger Picture” and “Hell’s Kitchen.” It was great that the band had decided to play the obvious hits and songs that they have played only rarely, if never before. The latest Dream Theater album, THE ASTONISHING, was present with two tracks. To be honest, I was happy that this tour is not based on the new album. It’s just my opinion, but I think that the album is a gigantic monster, and it’s tough to adapt as a whole. But two tracks off from the album worked fine. Sometimes less is more.
When I’m thinking about the whole back catalog of the band, few albums are better than the other ones. My personal Dream Theater favorite releases are METROPOLIS PT. 2 and TRAIN OF THOUGHT. Unfortunately, the set didn’t include any songs from the first-mentioned album, but the latter was present with “As I Am.” The track was the heaviest song on the set, but it was also the show’s definite highlight. Surprisingly another highlight was the instrumental “Portrait of Tracy,” performed by bassist John Myung.
Dream Theater is not a band that is known for its bombastic live shows or stage activity. This time everything was even more minimalistic than ever before. The lights and stage setup were stripped down and simple. Except for Mike Mangini’s drum kit and Jordan Rudess’s rotating keyboard stand, there were not many visible things to follow on the stage. The band mainly concentrated on playing and just stood on their spots. LaBrie certainly did his best, but it needs to be said that the man is not a Bruce Dickinson on stage. Despite that, the Act 1 was an impressive performance, and the eight-song set was musically interesting enough through the whole 75 minutes.
The concert is advertised as a special event because Dream Theater’s purpose was to play the entire classic IMAGES AND WORDS album that catapulted the band into the level of neverending success. Back in the day, the promo video by “Pull Me Under” being on the rotation of MTV indeed drew more and more attention from the metal audience to the progressive approach of this New York outfit.
After the intermission, the familiar riffs of “Pull Me Under” started roaring out of the loudspeakers. It was funny to see that majority of the crowd was then still having beers in the bar and eating the pizza slices. Obviously, many got a bit surprised by the unexpected start as the people started rushing back to the venue. Even though the song itself is one of the softer tracks on the album, it now sounded crushing heavy.
As promised, the whole album was performed, and songs were played in the same order as they appear on the album. Frankly, it was splendid to hear songs such as “Another Day,” “Take The Time.” Finally, “Learning To Live” concluded the saga. Of course, Mangini’s solo was the part of “Metropolis Pt 1”. Originally “A Change Of Seasons” was planned for the IMAGES AND WORDS album, but obviously, a record label wasn’t thrilled about the idea to put out a double album. Therefore the 23-minute song with the six different parts was released on a separate mini-cd. Therefore Dream Theater performed the 23-minute giant as the last song in the set.
The frontman James LaBrie recalled the recording process of IMAGES AND WORDS by telling a lot of previously untold stories. He also recalled when Dream Theater made the first visit to Finland by playing at the Tavastia club with Fates Warning. But as for LaBrie’s voice, well, to tell the truth, he isn’t 30 years old anymore. He has reached the middle-aged man’s status in the ’50s, so it wasn’t a surprise to hear the changes in his tune. Of course, Labrie’s voice raises different types of opinions and responses, but to be honest, his voice occasionally sounded out of tune through the set. Instead, the current drummer Mike Mangini is amazing and a tremendously phenomenal drummer with his own style. Whereas guitar wizard John Petrucci and Myung mainly concentrated on playing their instruments.
However, Dream Theater definitely got into the heavier direction on several albums after IMAGES AND WORDS. If Dream Theater had continued playing in that approach, it would have led them more and more into the softer and even melodic approach. The album is very listener-friendly with catchy riffs and amazing keyboard work by Kevin Moore. Hopefully, this will be a once-in-lifetime tour, and Dream Theater won’t touch the record this way ever again.
After a concert of almost three hours, Dream Theater left the stage with style. It is easy to be short about this show’s negative things: not much, except LaBrie’s slight vocal problems and perhaps the whole band’s minimal interaction with the audience, which could have bothered people who were not that familiar with the band or IMAGES AND WORDS before. About the positive things, there’s much more to say. The album’s live performance turned out to be as exciting and dramatic as the album originally is. The other stuff was powerful, and especially the “A Change of Seasons” saga was something that you don’t hear played live too often. This review is reasonable to finish by saying that this was a brilliant performance and one of the most intensive concerts for a long time.
The Dark Eternal Night
The Bigger Picture
The Gift of Music
Our New World
Portrait of Tracy
As I Am
Breaking All Illusions
Happy New Year 1992 – Intro Tape
Pull Me Under
Take the Time
Metropolis Pt. 1: The Miracle and the Sleeper
Under a Glass Moon
Wait for Sleep
Learning to Live
A Change of Seasons: I The Crimson Sunrise
A Change of Seasons: II Innocence
A Change of Seasons: III Carpe Diem
A Change of Seasons: IV The Darkest of Winters
A Change of Seasons: V Another World
A Change of Seasons: VI The Inevitable Summer
A Change of Seasons: VII The Crimson Sunset