–by Sean Derrick
Progressive rock band Dream Theater brought their “Distance Over Time Tour” to Stifel Theater in Saint Louis Wednesday for a nearly three-hour epic performance that left fans amazed and exhausted at the same time.
The band played selections from only four of their fourteen albums: one each from Black Clouds and Silver Linings and Systematic Chaos, five from their most recent release – Distance Over Time, and what everyone was waiting for – the opus Metropolis, Part 2: Scenes From a Memory performed in its entirety.
This being the 20th anniversary of the band’s first concept album fans have been treated to the album performed in full for the first time since they toured in support of the album at the end of the last century.
The show was split into two parts with the first being a selection of six songs off the three aforementioned albums, followed by a 20-minute intermission. (Dream Theater is known for their monstrous 10-20 minute songs as the norm, rather than the exception.)
Dream Theater utilized a simple three-tiered stage with a giant video screen behind them and a pretty simple lighting system. But let’s face it, fans of this band aren’t there to see an elaborate light show.
They want to hear the intricate flow of what would normally be a chaotic cacophony of sound, but in Dream Theater’s hands it becomes a beautifully organized dance of complex arrangements and odd-time signatures that pirouette around your ears in perfect symmetry.
Trying to follow along with each note can be a dizzying effort, but incredibly satisfying at the same time. It’s not unlike listening when all five themes from Mozart’s “Symphony No. 41: Jupiter” come together simultaneously, a sheer bombastic ride that makes you think you are on a runaway train, only to come away unscathed and exhilarated.
Or some songs trick you into a false sense of comfort, sort of a modern version of Vivaldi’s “Symphony in G Minor, RV 157” where you are lulled peacefully at one moment, then BAM! The music takes a wild turn that jolts you awake and feeds your adrenaline for more.
Only that instead of having 15-50 musicians Dream Theater does it with four incredibly accomplished musicians and a fabulous vocalist to rip away any sense you may have of what a “normal” song would be, injecting it with steroids, ten energy drinks, and presents it back on amps that go to “11”. (Ok, I couldn’t help the Spinal Tap reference there).
But what Dream Theater really does is perfection personified every night, and their Saint Louis show was no exception.
Vocalist James LaBrie only spoke to the crowd in length once, after “Through Her Eyes” describing the premise of the album and how it deals with reincarnation and a past life love triangle that ends in a murder-suicide.
The only glitch in the entire night came during “A Nightmare to Remember” when LaBrie’s throat became so dry it affected a verse and he had to get some water. A verse. One verse, and he was visibly upset with that. The entire band (John Myung-bass, John Petrucci-guitar, Jordan Rudess-keyboards, and Mike Mangini-drums) are perfectionists and masters of their craft, just like the great classical composers were. Yes, I would call Dream Theater modern day metal symphonic composers, unmatched by anyone in the music scene.
Some touching parts of the show occurred at the beginning of “Pale Blue Dot” where the band played a recording of the great Carl Sagan giving his famous Pale Blue Dot speech.
And during “Through her Eyes” various tombstones were shown on the screen the names “Bowie”, “Cornell” and “Zappa” were etched in the three tombstones. The crowd realized that they were in fact Easter Egg references to the late David Bowie, Chris Cornell, and Frank Zappa, and roared with approval. Very cool.
Any fan that appreciates the true craftmanship of musicians should check out Dream Theater live. What better time than to do that for this tour where you get the full “Scenes From a memory’ experience.
You can check out Dream Theater at the dates below, and be sure to check out the photo gallery from the show after the setlist below.
10/08 – Charleston, SC @ North Charleston Performing Arts Center
10/09 – Asheville, NC @ Thomas Wolfe Auditorium
10/11 – New Brunswick, NJ @ State Theatre New Jersey
10/12 – Albany, NY @ Palace Theatre – Albany
10/15 – Brookville, NY @ Tilles Center for the Performing Arts at LIU Post
10/17 – Chattanooga, TN @ Tivoli Theatre
10/18 – Memphis, TN @ Graceland Soundstage at Elvis Presley’s Memphis
10/19 – Biloxi, MS @ Hard Rock Hotel & Casino Biloxi
10/22 – San Antonio, TX @ Majestic Theatre – San Antonio
10/23 – El Paso, TX @ Abraham Chavez Theatre
10/24 – Mesa, AZ @ Mesa Arts Center – Ikeda Theatre
10/26 – Tucson, AZ @ Tucson Music Hall
10/27 – El Cajon, CA @ Magnolia Performing Arts Center
10/28 – Riverside, CA @ Fox Performing Arts Center
10/30 – San Jose, CA @ San Jose Civic
11/01 – Reno, NV @ Grand Theatre at The Grand Sierra Resort
11/04 – Omaha, NE @ Orpheum Theater – Omaha
11/05 – Madison, WI @ Capitol Theater – Madison
11/06 – Cincinnati, OH @ Taft Theatre
11/09 – Syracuse, NY @ Crouse Hinds Theater
11/11 – Kitchener, ON @ Centre In the Square
Dream Theater Setlist:
A Nightmare to Remember
In the Presence of Enemies, Part 1
Pale Blue Dot
Act 2: Metropolis, Part 2: Scenes From a Memory
Strange Déjà Vu
Through My Words
Beyond This Life
Through Her Eyes
The Dance of Eternity
One Last Time
The Spirit Carries On
At Wit’s End