Dream Theater + TesseracT
@ The OVO Arena, UK
23rd April 2022
Review and pictures by Graham Hilling
Opening for Dream Theater on the UK leg on their “Top of the World” tour are TesseracT from Milton Keynes. They’re a pretty good choice for an opener, playing progressive metal with enough complexity and downright weird time signatures to keep a Dream Theater audience engaged and happy.
Up front and centre of their sound is the bass of Amos Williams and the vocals of Daniel Tompkins. The vocal range of Tompkins is truly impressive. The dual guitars of Acle Kahney and James Monteith fill out the sound nicely and the driving rhythms are provided by Jay Postones.
To be honest, my previous outings to see Tesseract have left me a little cold, I’ve never really engaged properly with their sound. Tonight is a different matter though, maybe it is the impressive sound in the Arena (much respect in the direction of the Soundesk) or maybe my ears have just matured but this evening they do sound like a like a band ready to move up a gear.
It’s a pretty short set composed mainly of songs from the 2013 album “Altered State”, with a couple of songs from the last album, “Sonder”. Amos Williams bass drives the sound throughout and he’s clearly enjoying himself and is a man who knows his way around his instrument. Daniel Tompkins is also clearly enjoying himself, not holding back on the vocals at all and stomping around the stage like he owns it.
Almost before it has begun, the set is finished and Tesseract leave the stage to well deserved applause. At this point the arena is about half full, the centre is rammed but the sides of the arena less so. There’s enough people to make the gig feel well attended but clearly well short of capacity, clearly people are still nervous about Covid and attending gigs.
Of Matter – Proxy
Of Matter – Retrospect
Beneath My Skin
Of Energy – Singularity
Of Energy – Embers
Of Mind – Nocturne
So the scene is set for Dream Theater. The stage backdrop is one massive screen for moving image projections, depicting impossible dreamscapes related to each song and these continue throughout the set this evening. This could actually be a distraction but the videos have been well chosen to integrate with the songs in the set and actually compliment the performance very well. Soon the lights go down and the crowd roars as Dream Theater take to the stage.
Opening with “The Alien” from the current album, “A View from the Top of the World” it is clear that this is going to be a fantastic display of musicianship and mind bogglingly complex arrangements. “The Alien” has just landed Dream Theater with a Grammy and you can see why. It is catchy, complex and layered in equal proportion.
The guitar of John Petrucci, who is now sporting a beard of biblical proportions, sings away. He really is a master of the fretboard in every sense of the word. The solos are clever and emotional with only a slight tinge of over indulgence.
That’s not to say everyone else in the band are not masters of their own instruments. Of all of the bands I have seen, Dream Theater really are absolute supremos in the muso department. John Myung, the quiet man, on bass along with Mike Mangini on drums lay down a solid rhythm section, playing some of the strangest time signatures and most elaborate patterns possible. Indeed, some of the bass lines even follow the lead lines of Petrucci.
Completing the lineup are Jordan Rudess on keys and James LaBrie on vocals. Rudess, an undeniable master of the ivories, standing astride a revolving and swivelling keyboard, occasionally donning a keytar to shred alongside Petrucci. Indeed, he can hold his own in this battle with the two of them trading solo lines aplenty. Sometimes it is even difficult to tell what is guitar and what is keyboard!
The familiar vocals of LaBrie complete the sound perfectly, with him clearly enjoying being back performing live and in front of an adoring and appreciative crowd. The backtrack for “6:00” starts the second song of the set and then “Awaken the Master”, which cranks up the heaviness and riffdom . We then travel back in time to 2003 for “Endless Sacrifice” followed by “Bridges in the Sky” from the 2011 album “A Dramatic Turn of Events”. Both are lapped up by the crowd and both are performed flawlessly.
We’re then brought bang up to date with “Invisible Monster”, in my opinion probably the best track on the current album and very well received this evening. It brings together many elements, rather malevolent overtones, catchy chorus and beautiful solos to create what is the highlight of the evening for me.
The set concludes with the title track from the current album “A View from the Top of the World”, a masterpiece of prog, which wraps up so many ideas and musicality into a single opus that the result is astounding. It should also be noted that the sound in the arena tonight has been top notch in my opinion – I attend so many gigs where a great performance is marred by muddy or boomy sound. No such complaints tonight though, everything is clear and perfectly balanced and a pleasure to listen to even without the visuals!
A short break and then the (almost) inevitable rendition of “The Count of Tuscany”. The guitar of John Petrucci here creates a sonic soundscape which fills the arena, if you close your eyes you could be transported to another world. The song sees LaBrie conducting the crowd and, once again, clearly loving being on a stage again. So, an incredible performance, Dream Theater have lived up to expectations, musicianship of the highest order, great sound and a set that show cases the current album perfectly.
Only 10 songs this evening but the songs are so long that we’ve had nearly 2 hours of solid music. If you thought that Dream Theater were too proggy for your listening pleasure, I would urge you to take a listen, sure, it is prog (as you’d expect) but it almost transcends the genre, there’s enough heaviness here for most people too! Well worth an investment of your time.
Dream Theater setlist:
Awaken the Master
Bridges in the Sky
About to Crash
The Ministry of Lost Souls
A View From the Top of the World
The Count of Tuscany