Dream Theater Live at High Voltage 2011 Review

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Dream Theater at High Voltage 2011

SETLIST

~ Dream is Collapsing (Intro by Hans Zimmer)

~ Under a Glass Moon
~ These Walls
~ Forsaken
~ Endless Sacrifice
~ Drum Solo (Mike Mangini)
~ The Ytse Jam
~ Peruvian Skies
~ The Great Debate
~ On the Backs of Angels
~ Caught In a Web
~ Through My Words
~ Fatal Tragedy
~ The Count of Tuscany

ENCORE

~ Learning To Live

There are few bands around like Dream Theater. Actually, in all honesty, there isn’t anybody quite like Dream Theater. Despite their virtuoso technical abilities, there are other players on the planet who can match them and sometimes out-play them, difficult as that might be to believe… But one of the reasons Dream Theater are so legendary, and one of the reasons that we love them so, is just the downright brilliance of their song-writing, which is quite simply second to only a tiny few.

Opening with the epic ‘Under a Glass Moon’ (although in reality all of their songs are epic) the band power into the finger-twiddling; this is also the first time we’ve seen Dream Theater with the addition of a new member. For those who’ve been living near Neptune for the last few months, founder and original backbone Mike Portnoy left the band under somewhat unceremonious and bitter terms. Whilst many questioned the next step from this point, I think few probably believed it would be the end. To cut a long story short; they held auditions, went back to what they already knew and the new drummer was selected to be Portnoy’s friend Mike Mangini.

Newer material such as ‘These Walls’ (‘Octavarium’), ‘Forsaken’ (‘Systematic Chaos’) and ‘Endless Sacrifice’ (‘Train of Thought’) suggested we’d be treated to a spattering of the entire back-catalogue. In part, I imagine this was to put Mangini through his paces in the live environments Dream Theater are used to. Speckled chants of ‘MAN-GINI’ had drifted through since the start and now it was his turn to shine with a classically impressive drum-solo. I’ve seen many, and I think I’ve seen only one better, but nevertheless his prowess and skills were laid out and we all loved it. Drum-solos have a place in many people’s minds but tonight’s was well worth the beer-fuelled ogle.

Mike Mangini of Dream Theater on stage at High Voltage
The fastest drummer in the world, Mike Mangini

Crowd-pleaser ‘The Ytse Jam’ preceded a trip back to ‘Falling into Infinity’ with ‘Peruvian Skies’ (a glorious song) and ‘The Great Debate’ from the mind-melting ‘Six Degrees of Inner Turbulence’. Fortunately again for the assembled throng of meat-and-two-sweats we got to hear something that is a rare treat at a Dream Theater performance (note the choice of word there); a new song! ‘On the Backs of Angels’ is taken from the forthcoming album ‘A Dramatic Turn of Events’ and it’s naturally a cracker; this is also the first Dream Theater album featuring diddly-squish from Portnoy. Even suggesting such a creation would have seen laughable a few years ago, but I never thought I’d see Mustaine enjoying weiner-snitzles with Ulrich either so there we go…

Whilst each member of the band is well regarded for their ‘taking-the-piss’ skills on their respective instruments (and in all likelihood any other instrument their touch), their all take their moments to stand out too. As ‘Caught in a Web’ blasts out and slowly demoleculises every chemical bond in the audience I feel that tingle that only a few bands can still muster in me when I see them; and the sheer savageness of the talent and song-writing that becomes so apparent watching Dream Theater it again reminds me of just why I was looking forward to this so much. As if seeing Judas Priest and meeting and watching Neurosis wasn’t enough of a reason for me to struggle getting my trousers on for the next week, now I was wetting myself to Dream Theater…

James Labrie and John Petrucci from DT on stage at High Voltage 2011
Labrie & Petrucci: Progtastic

The standard double of ‘Through My Words’ / ‘Fatal Tragedy’ followed and for once I didn’t feel that LaBrie was letting the band down. It’s not a secret that I have always felt he is the weak link in the chain, and there have been too many times I’ve seen him struggle. Tonight though, he’s doing a pretty smashing job. This is highlighted especially as a majestic ‘The Count of Tuscany’ accompanies the red-kissed sky.

‘Learning to Live’ is the encore song; there’s no ‘Home’, or even ‘Pull Me Under’, but I think few care. Some don’t even care for much considering most had headbanged their brain to jibbery-mush before the end of the third song. I would sit and watch, or stand and thrash, to Dream Theater forever if I could. I know for certain they could, and probably would too just to stand there laughing as if to say “HA, 3 months solid playing and still I’m 10,000 times better than you are if you were 1,000 times better than you are now”. But I guess that’s what helps them headline festivals, and blow thousands of happy people into orbit in the process.

9/10