But the show that really impressed me was the show I didn't review: the Winery Dogs at the Granada Theater. I had the pleasure of interviewing their drummer, Mike Portnoy, for DC9 as a show preview. He was friendly and open with me, making the interview flow very well. I didn't want to ask any direct questions about Dream Theater, but did share about his past while focusing on the present with the Winery Dogs.
Coming into the show on Saturday night, I had a feeling I would enjoy the show. The tunes on the band's self-titled debut are enjoyable, bluesy pop rock songs. But I did not expect to see a crowd so charged by the band's set. People were going crazy at the sight of the band, with everyone raising arms and fists, yelling loudly, before they even played a note.
Immediately with the first tune, "Elevate," I saw how joyous Mike, Billy Sheehan and Richie Kotzen were together. Smiles, constant eye contact, jamming -- all of those sights. The band ended up playing almost two hours of material, which is impressive as the band has only one album. There was a bass solo and a solo acoustic tune by Richie, but no drum solo by Portnoy. Which, even though I'm a huge fan of Portnoy's, I was fine with. The guy played his ass off the entire time that I didn't need to see a solo.
The most important thing I came away with was seeing firsthand how Portnoy has successfully moved on from Dream Theater, the band he will probably always be remembered for. His departure from the band a few years ago was shocking, on the level of, "What if Lars Ulrich left Metallica?" And as happy as I am to see Dream Theater carry on with a world-class drummer named Mike Mangini, I get agitated by people who leave comments on Portnoy's social media platforms about how he should rejoin Dream Theater. No, Dream Theater isn't the same without Portnoy, but he and the band parted ways, and they do not wish to reunite.
I accept the fact that there are many who will never truly accept Mike's departure from Dream Theater. The Internet is a great place to vent those thoughts, but I try to not spend too much time reading them. I'm much happier to see Portnoy play with guys he is genuinely excited to play with, playing music that is in his wheelhouse, and still being an active, fan-friendly personality. (Yes, I got a picture with him after the show.)
Fans often think their words will truly make business decisions reverse and longstanding feelings subside, and the band they want to see will return in its purist form. The thing is, bands are made of humans, and not all humans get along. Add in business dealings and it gets really divisive, especially if someone cannot legally rejoin a band, even if he co-founded it.
I like to use the adage of, if people want all of the original members of their favorite band to reunite, they probably want divorced parents to remarry as well. Nevermind how the divorcees have found new partners they can tolerate and be happy with, when it comes to bands that are crystallized in fans' minds with studio albums and documented live performances, fans want to relive that magic again and again. There is no such thing as a final encore in their eyes.