When I wrapped up my interview with John Petrucci a few weeks ago, I mentioned that their show at Verizon was going to be my first time to see the band. He sounded surprised, given how much I knew about the band's history.
Well, I had my reasons. Many reasons, actually. The biggest one was how there was a tremendous gap between my initial exposure to the band and my rekindling of appreciating their music. And their vocal, fervent fans really weirded me out for years.
Like a lot of people, Dream Theater came into my life with Images and Words. My enthusiasm carried over to their 1994 follow-up, Awake. Then the band slipped off my radar completely a couple of years later. I knew they were still making records, but I had no interest in hearing them. I was too much into the raw passion and melody found in pop-punk and post-hardcore than anything remotely resembling progressive rock. Dream Theater could rock, but their love of odd-time signatures and dozens of changes per song didn't grab me like a Face to Face song.
Not helping matters was how nerdy elitists clung to Dream Theater and endlessly championed them online and in person. In my eyes, going to a DT show was like entering the Math Olympics at a Guitar Center with a few breaks to play Magic: The Gathering. Completely alien to my world of DIY punk shows, I never imagined seeing the famed five-piece.
Things turned around when I fell in deep with prog-fused hardcore found in The Dillinger Escape Plan and The Mars Volta. The passion I was attracted to was there, and these guys could play a ton of notes or just a little - and it all worked out. Thus, a few years later, after Mike Portnoy quit Dream Theater, I decided to play a lot of catch-up with their music. Turns out, they put a steady string of great records, and my desire to see them live reached Ludicrous Speed.
Keeping this all in the back of my head, I walked into Verizon Theatre on Monday night hoping for a good show. I figured I'd hear some funny, nerdy discussions about technical prowess, the band's post-Portnoy work, and so on, as well. Instead, things turned out to be a much, much better than anything I could imagine.
-If there is one word to describe most DT fans, it's "nice." Not creepy-nice. Nice, as in, genuinely friendly and courteous.
-Milling around the lobby area, I saw a roaming T-shirt museum of previous DT tours. Harking back to Images and Words to Scenes from a Memory to Train of Thought, guys showed their stripes as longtime fans.
-Lots of fathers and sons together at this show. Near the restrooms, I overheard a teenager talk to his father about how much money he could earn as a concert promoter. Number-crunching aloud, lots of money was talked about. I didn't hear anything about taxes and service fees though.
-Dream Theater fans come across as well-spoken and well-educated. They also seem to have a lot of money to throw around, especially like a friend of mine who has seen them five times on this tour cycle (including dates in Phoenix, Chicago, and Paris).
-Overheard en route to my seat, as Pink Floyd's "Learning to Fly" played on the PA: "At least they play good music. They should play Rush."
-Twenty minutes into opener Crimson Projeckt's set, a male and female in my row got up and went to the lobby. "I don't like them," the woman said. "I have a headache now," the man said. Still, plenty of people stayed to listen to the dystopian prog of this King Crimson offshoot.
-Taking a bathroom break before Dream Theater, a guy my age asked me at the towel dispenser, "What did you think of Crimson Projeckt? Best. Opener. Ever!"
-Dream Theater played non-stop for almost two hours. Five of their 14 songs were from A Dramatic Turn of Events. Those sounded great, newest member Mike Mangini handled everything effortlessly and passionately, and older songs like "A Fortune in Lies" and "Surrounded" were absolutely killer.
-John Petrucci had not one, but two moments where his guitar didn't generate any sound. You could say it was a Spinal Tap moment, but hey, go easy on this. It's not like he had a violin or a miniature Stonehenge next to him.
-Did have a good chuckle as I walked out and heard a group of guys talking about the bass drum tone and another couple of guys complaining about the lack of older songs. You can't please all DT fans.
Here's the full setlist:
"Bridges in the Sky"
"The Dark Eternal Night"
"This is the Life"
"The Root of All Evil"
"Lost Not Forgotten"
"A Fortune in Lies"
"On the Backs of Angels"
"War Inside My Head"
"The Test That Stumped Them All"
"The Spirit Carries On"
"Breaking All Illusions"
"Metropolis Part 1"