Posted by Killer Turtle on Sat, 10 Nov 2007.
James LaBrie (vocals)
Mike Portnoy (drums, backing vocals)
John Petrucci (guitar, backing vocals)
John Myung (bass)
Jordan Rudess (keyboards, Haken Continuum, Zen Riffer)
Intro – 2007: An Ant Odyssey
The Dark Eternal Night
Take the Time
In The Presence Of Enemies (The Heretic and the Dark Master)
Trial of Tears
Learning to Live
In The Name Of God
After having ordered tickets for this show as soon as they were available, it was finally the date of the show. Following some ‘interesting’ travel problems (a closure of a section of the East Lancs, and a highly delayed train from St Helens Junction to Manchester Victoria) the 5 of us in our group arrived at the venue. We arrived late (due to the above travel problems) and so didn’t have to wait in a queue to get in, and headed pretty much straight to the merch stand to buy whatever memorabilia we wished, before going into the concert hall, just in time for the last one and a half of the songs that the support band, Symphony X, played. Not having heard much of their music beforehand, and not really being a fan of what I had heard, missing their set list didn’t bother me too much, but it would have been nice to see them.
Once Symphony X had finished, we waited for Dream Theater to come on. 3 of us decided to try and move forward to get a better view, and then split up again into a 2 and a 1 further forward (just to make finding each other afterwards more difficult, it would seem). After spending a short while waiting in anticipation, we got to see some of the set design that had been put up. Most noticeable was the large traffic light hanging down above the middle of the stage, right at the front. This was the traffic light from the special edition album cover, for those who’ve seen it. At the time, it was red. After a short time longer waiting, that seemed to stretch out greatly, it turned amber, the lights went out and the intro movie began on a screen at the back of the stage, with music from various songs from the bands (extensive) back catalogue. This also gave us the opportunity to see the rest of the on stage props, including ants crawling over Petrucci’s amps and a large road sign with the Majesty symbol on it, as shown on the front of the Systematic Chaos album cover.
And then, the intro movie ends. The traffic light turned green. And then, the guitar slide that marks the beginning of Constant Motion started, and a spotlight lit up John Petrucci as he played the opening riff. There was a huge cheer from the crowd, followed by the rest of the band joining in, and so the concert was properly underway. When James LaBrie walked onto the stage, he was armed, as on the Constant Motion video, with a full microphone stand rather than just a microphone, as he had on previous tours. This he used to great effect by swinging it around the stage, and also pulling off some rather metal poses as well. It also helped him get the crowd involved, as he could thrust the whole thing into the crowd so they could scream into the microphone. He was sporting his new beard as well, and so the whole metal look was strengthened even more.
Following Constant Motion, they continued with the loud and high tempo theme with Panic Attack, and then gave the crowd pause for breath whilst LaBrie welcomed the audience, saying that nothing mattered except what was going on in the room at the time. And then he had to amend it by saying ‘well, maybe some things do’ when someone in the audience decided to ‘donate’ their undergarments to the band (hopefully not the ones they’d be wearing…).
Carrying on with the proceedings, they gave the crowd more of a break with Endless Sacrifice. Well, up until the chorus, anyway, when things went back to being wild. Thankfully, my death metal voice didn’t make an appearance for the chorus this time around, unlike during Download. Although I’m sure Bratpack would have loved to have been deafened.
After another quiet verse and more loud parts (including a fairly awesome instrumental section) they moved onto one of their heaviest songs, The Dark Eternal Night. Certainly, it features the dirtiest guitar sound they’ve used to date. During this song, the screen behind the band played an animation similar in style and concept to the Octavarium animation (except longer, it lasted the full song rather than just for a section of it). This featured the band as N.A.D.S, which stands for the North American Dream Squad (N.A.D.S. was also the working name for the song throughout the album’s creation). The video was, like the Octavarium animation, very well done, and featured the band facing off against a huge dragon, with each member having some sort of special. Also, Mike Portnoy was equipped with a rolling drum kit (using his 2 bass drums as wheels). Sadly, unlike the Octavarium animation, they didn’t combine to form a giant octopus. Never mind, eh?
Home, Misunderstood and Take the Time followed. All excellent songs, I especially like the pre-chorus to Misunderstood. Nothing really to report on the live versions of the songs, except that I preferred the live version of Home to the version on the album, which I thought dragged a bit (which I know at least one person will disagree with). However they (and some previous and subsequent songs) allowed Jordan Rudess to show off with his new toy… the Zen Riffer. A rather nice looking piece of kit, it’s similar to a keytar, but with more functions, and it looks cooler. More importantly, it allows Rudess to come to the front of the stage during sections of some of the songs, and shred alongside the two Johns in full view of the audience. This was great to watch, especially one shredding section in which Petrucci and Rudess played a ridiculous unison together. As stated, great to watch, and also goes to show how technically proficient these people are.
Next up, the song I’ve wanted to hear properly in full since the release of Systematic Chaos, the band’s new 25 minute epic, In The Presence Of Enemies. This was my favourite track on the album, but unfortunately they decided to split it into two parts on the album (part 1 as the first track and part 2 as the last). And now it was going to be played in full! As expected, it was a great song, and was performed well. They also got a bit of crowd participation in, getting the audience to do the chant just before the start of section IV of the song (The Slaughter of the Damned, about 15 minutes into the song)
After the grand ending of In The Presence Of Enemies, the stage went dark, the traffic light changed back to red and the band left the stage. After much cheering for and encore, we saw the light turn green again, and the intro to Trial of Tears started. Thus began the 5 song medley that the band has been ending its songs with on this tour. Of course, as with whenever they play Trial of Tears, they changed New York City in the line of the chorus that goes ‘It’s raining on the streets of New York City’ to Manchester (obviously it’s not always changed to Manchester specifically), which elicited a rather positive reaction from the crowd. They carried on with the other songs in the medley, and ended with the fifth and final part of Octavarium (Razor’s Edge). This part of the song has a particularly epic and majestic sound to it, and was an excellent choice as an ending to a show. The band signed off in their usual fashion, by lining up at the front of the stage to take a bow. They left the stage amidst a huge round of applause, and so ended the show. Time to go and find the others, find the taxi, and get home for some much needed recuperation.
Overall, it was a great concert from a fantastic band, who I’d definitely see live again!