Saturday, 9th June 2007
City Hall, Newcastle, UK
We arrived in Newcastle around 7:30 pm and I feared we might have missed the support act, as according to the concert ticket the start time was at the unusually early time of 7:00pm. However as we entered the main concert room it became apparent that things were perhaps running a little behind schedule.
Support for the evening were To-Mera who played a brief but tight set, which for some obscure reason appeared also to be cut short. So the band played a set just shy of half an hour and to a generally appreciative audience. The sound was OK (more on this later) although I did struggle to hear vocalist Julie Kiss above the barrage of drums, which I hasten to add was not the fault of drummer Paul Westwood. Instrumentally the band were tight and I enjoyed the mixture of technically choppy metal riffs interspersed with off kilter jazzy interludes. As I said it was a shame that the vocals were lost in the mix along with the keyboards and as I’d only heard bits and pieces from the band previously it was difficult to get into the music. Highlight of their set was a track called Blood.
Considering To-Mera’s set was cut short and the stage was cleared very quickly for Dream Theater, I did start to become mildly irritated that it took over an hour for Dream Theater to appear on stage. But the band finally entered the stage at around 9:10 pm to a rapturous applause and opening up with a couple of tracks from "Scenes From A Memory" namely Overture 1928 and Strange Deja Vu. They were immediately on the button and both Mike Portnoy and John Myung set a standard for the rhythm section that was maintained through the evening. "Octavarium" was represented by Panic Attack and a brief opportunity for the audience to hear John Myung – his bass work here demonstrating what a unique and fine player he is, just a pity he was lost in the mix for most of the evening. The brief exchanges between Petrucci and Rudess were also an indication of what was to come.
James LaBrie worked the audience well whipping them up, although for me, Mike Portnoy most surely take some of the plaudits from behind the kit – constantly smiling and rising from his kit whenever the opportunity presented itself to get the audience more involved.
Following on from Panic Attack were two tracks from the new album, Constant Motion and Forsaken. I’d only had a few listens to "Systematic Chaos" prior to the gig so was unfamiliar with the material. Although as the two tracks selected are my least favourite from the album - certainly Constant Motion’s Metallica vibe was lost on me.
At this juncture James LaBrie announced as this was the fifteenth anniversary of its’ release they were going to perform the entirety of "Images & Words", which certainly went down well with the already enthusiastic audience, (me included). So with John Petrucci’s heavily affected picked chords and Jordan Rudess’ wispish keyboards we moved into Pull Me Under. LaBrie inciting the audience to join in on the infectious chorus lines – believe me they needed little encouragement. At the this point the evening took a distinct upturn and more audience singing this time around with the power ballad Another Day. Not only as it provided some respite in the sound.
I know I’m normally quite critical about sound quality at gigs, and certainly must have become an expert on the acoustics at City Hall, but the sound on the evening was crap to put it bluntly, possibly the worst I’d heard since Steve Via’s performance during the Sex & Religion Tour. Not wanting to sound like an old f**t here but the volume was ridiculous – I know, I know, ‘metal’ music needs to be loud, but it still needs to defined and not so distorted that all of the clarity has been lost. Especially for a band as intricate as Dream Theater. I could go on here pointing out what was bad about the sound, however I will just conclude by saying that whoever was behind the console that evening needs shooting. Rant over!
So Another Day features Petrucci’s melodic solo themes and it was nice to see him perform this (and even hear it) at last. Rudess took on the sax parts and certainly this was the beginning of what turned out to be a memorable evening. Now I’ve never been overly keen on Take The Time, but the performance here was very good with Mike Portnoy’s drumming excelling and even sharing of the lead vocal parts with LaBrie. The tricky middle instrumental part worked really well and the band were on fire by this point. I re-listened to the album, when I eventually got my hearing back, and this is one track that took on a new life for me after the gig.
Surrounded offered another respite in the music and with LaBrie’s vocals finally coming out of the rafters this was one track that came over really well. I much prefer James voice when he’s in the lower registers as he is so much more expressive there.
Metropolis - Part 1 was the track I really wanted to hear as it was in fact the song that first turned me on to the band. I wasn’t disappointed – the middle instrumental section was awesome. Considering Rudess didn’t play on the original album I was impressed by the fact that he captured the original keyboard sounds. I think his playing goes without saying. Under A Glass Moon was just great (sorry I’ve ran out of things to say) as were the band’s performance of the last two tracks. Rudess’ revolving keyboard set-up which had rotated all evening finally cut properly through the mix, which was a blessing for Learning To Live.
We returned to Scenes From A Memory for the conclusion of the evening and Home. Although my mind was wandering at this point, not wholly convinced that the NCP car park was now really 24 hours and I was more conscious of not getting locked in (as I had been once before). So with the bows duly taken on stage the lights came up and with the mad dash to the car park an opportunity to “shout” at my friends and get their views on the evening. And as James LaBrie had mentioned more UK dates in the fall (autumn in the UK) would we be returning. Yeah! If they sack the f***ing sound engineer.
Finally I think the set-list is correct although there was so much to absorb on the evening I apologise for any inaccuracies.
Strange Deja Vu
Pull Me Under
Take The Time
Metropolis – Part 1
Under A Glass Moon
Wait For Sleep
Learning To Live
Dream Theater Official Website
Dream Theater MySpace
To-Mera Official Website