If there was ever any need to verify an artist’s previous visit to a particular town, none was more convincing than Dream Theater’s James LaBrie when speaking about the group’s first time in Rochester, NY in 1992. Snowed in and unable to leave, he spoke of eating lots of chicken wings and drinking too much vodka… Has he been here before, or what? Someone get that man a Garbage Plate!

20 years later, Western NY was privy to a rare treat on June 15th, as the progressive rock legends, for some reason, selected Rochester for their Summer Tour Opener. Not something we see too often around our parts, the group was in fine form as they celebrated their latest, absolutely epic release, “A Dramatic Turn Of Events.” If you haven’t heard it yet, you’re doing yourself a musical disservice.

In my opinion, Dream Theater has always had a polarizing effect on fans, much the same way Rush does. But no problem here, Rush and Dream Theater both RULE! If you don’t like it, tough cookies. Though the Main Street Armory was only about half full when the group took the stage, the crowd was packed with die-hards seething with anticipation.

The best part about Dream Theater is there is no room for fluff… Everyone in the group is a master of his instrument, and they play for absolute keeps when performing live… They are in complete control of their performances. James LaBrie’s wide vocal range is as impressive as any instrument on the stage, and he offered a friendly, energetic performance to dazzle the crowd! John Petrucci’s guitar scribbling is simply mind boggling, and he demonstrates not only technical prowess, but tasteful, complex melodic writing. Couple this with keyboard extraordinaire Jordan Ruddess’ ability to follow not only the rhythm, but the leads, on everything the guitar is doing, and you’ve got yourself a whirlwind of sonic possibilities. Better yet, all of their songs are true to form when played live, played as recorded. The band spent zero time jamming and embellishing… There’s simply no need.

Filling out the group is one of the most solid rhythm sections on the planet. John Myung’s bass playing ability is second to none, and just watching his fingers move up and down the board during the performance made me tired. And Mike Mangini, the selected drummer after a series of incredible auditions (a highlight of the cd/dvd package currently on sale) to fill former hitter Mike Portnoy’s shoes, assures the pulse, energy, and flashy percussion playing Dream Theater fans expect live and in the studio. Mangini’s mammoth kit was in full use, and at any given time he could be seen reaching for any number of tom toms, cymbals, or auxillary percussion. The guy is a monster!

Though I know I’ll take heat for it, Mangini is a MUCH better drummer than Portnoy, and not nearly as ostentatious as the latter. Hate away, fan-boys… The proof is punishing.

Their sound in concert is as triumphant and epic live as it is recorded. Even the most somber sounding track on the new record ends on a hopeful note. It’s much more of a feeling than something I can express in words, but Dream Theater’s ability to write musical content with such emotionality should be met with universal applause. Playing half of the new album in addition to several selections off earlier releases, Dream Theater has managed to work up a formula for songwriting that is unparalleled in their field.

Unfortunately, as is often the case at Main Street Armory, the sound left much to be desired… The venue’s high, vaulted ceiling always detracts from the sonic potential of the performers they bring in. I’ve encountered this several times at the venue before, but it’s always better to see the show and deal than miss out. For much of the set, the bottom end was lower than bass drum, and one could only feel a thud rather than the melodic content. The songs, while tight, were often muffled when they hit the audience.

But the show was still great, and time melted away. Sometimes you find yourself just wanting the band to be finished so you can say you saw the show, and this was the exact opposite. This experience was not laborious at all… I loved every minute.

Upon exiting the venue, I began contemplating a trip to Toronto the following evening to see the performance again, but hopes were dashed as my passport was 2 hours away. If you get the chance, definitely go see the show… The band is ready to rock! It’s worth every cent of $45!

http://www.dreamtheater.net/