Friday, 19th February 2016
Palladium, London, the UK
In a genteel red velveted all seated venue, the ghosts of vaudeville comedy and variety looked down from the ornate carvings of
the hallowed walls of The London Palladium and muttered disapprovingly about the forthcoming cacophony which would soon
assault the very structural integrity of a building first opened in 1910.
The curious audience of Frank Herbert read middle aged men, the occasional hirsute rocker and a surprising number of
winter coat clad ladies wot lunch all quietly chatted as if the curtain would soon rise upon a long
running whodunnit rather than a performance from America's undisputed Gods of prog metal.
It's a brave manoeuvre for a band to just play the contents of their latest album and this is exactly what happened tonight. With only a handful of unsold seats, the majority loved it and clapped and cheered with respectful awe more than anything.
One inebriated German kept shouting
"Play zum orld stuff! Plezzze!" And then switched to Pull Me Under ..a request I would have gladly
granted had a large pool of water been available.
The frankly epic new double album from Dream Theater entitled The Astonishing is to be played in and
around smallish theatrical venues of Europe and this was the UK Capital's choice, in only the second performance of it's run.
A futuristic dystopian concept that was brought to life via some very elaborate and thoughtfully animated
back projections that complimented the complex narrative and introduced the listener / viewer to
the eight protagonists that are all "played" by singer James La Brie. He had a lot to remember and
his contribution was to be applauded, though overshadowed (of course!) by the great sight of
Mike Mangini drumming like The Muppet's Animal all whist providing his own back percussion - great.
On the subject of the drums, I was cringing at the thought that we'd be subjected to that horrid "click" on
the kick but no, a really cracking sound mix from that and the whole band in fact, very faithful to the sonic grandeur of the recorded version.
The album contains short electronic blasts of effects which eminate from the NOMACS (noise machines)
and these on screen flying objects start the concert before the band strolled onto a relatively
sparse stage to play the instrumental Dystopian Overture, a piece that (like all classically inspired music)
is repeated throughout the album.
The Gift of Music (the official single) introduced the afore mentioned vocalist and the
two hours (with interval) never strays from perfection.
The many orchestral and choir parts were obviously "on tape" (or whatever piece of clever
science is involved), but are so seamlessly mixed into the live band that all is forgiven.
Jordan Rudness's famous tilting and panning keyboard was used as a grand piano for most of
the performance, with occasional organ and synth patches.
As a means of story telling, The Astoshing is quite ballad led with Act of Fayth ,Ravenskill,
and Chosen being dangerously close to AOR, causing one shout of "boring!" from a gentleman
in the stalls, but that was just plain rude! the guy was singing his heart out!
Back to the "visuals". It was like watching a cross between "The War of the Worlds" and David
Lynch's interpretation of "Dune", especially in the costume and design department.
Highlights of the first half was the song A New Beginning as the tempo was upped from slow
rock to something faster - and the first time John Petrucci lets rip with a great solo which
morphs into the familiar call and response from the keyboard. More polite applause then an overpriced beer in the interval.
2nd Act reprised the main theme with 2285 Entr'act then Moment of Betrayal continued the
classic Dream Theater sonic wall of familiarity...
More story telling and ballads then The Path That Divides and The Walking Shadow continued
the norm until Irish influenced (with violin)Hymn of a Thousand Voices was another great visual
with Mangini almost juggling his Pom Pom topped sticks, ending with a huge choir.
Queen like Our New World got the feet tapping which "ended" the concert. Guitars were
held up signifying "the end" of proceedings, but the "the encore" was actually the
last track Astonishing. A finale that concluded the story which might have been a disappointment
to some of the less appreciative of the crowd, but mostly induced a heart felt swaying of arms to the epic optimism of it all.
The sign outside the venue clearly stated that the performance was to be "The Astonishing -Live",
so anyone who expected a "greatest hits" package should wait until this band become another
act on the "chicken in the basket" tour of holiday camps. Meanwhile, here is a band maturing beyond
it's years and providing a beautiful rendition of their current very prog album.
Thank you for your hard work and foresight- Astonishing.
Dream Theater Official Website