Dream Theater,
Train Of Thought World Tour 2004
January 17th, Hammersmith Apollo, London, UK
January 18th, Ahoy, Rotterdam, The Netherlands
January 27th, Palladium, Cologne, Germany

By Charlie Farrell, Bart Jan van der Vorst and Martien Koolen

January 17th, Hammersmith Apollo, London, UK by Charlie Farrell

The beginning of a new year brings us another European Tour by Dream Theater but unlike two years ago, when the tour coincided with the release of 6 Degrees of Inner Turbulence, the new album Train of Thought has already been in the shops for a couple of months. Given the cheers which greeted the new material that the band performed live, it would appear that the majority of the audience approve of the band's new, heavier direction, though the response to the Train of Thought in the press has by no means been unanimous, as a quick look at the DPRP Round Table review and the DPRP forum will reveal.

As one of those who hadn't been bowled over by the latest disk, I approached this London concert with a certain sense of trepidation. I had elected to dispose of my tickets for the Manchester show and my heart sank even further after catching sight of the setlist for that evening's show. However the band were to confound me once more, by conjouring up a spectacular show which blew away my doubts.

At around 7:30PM, the house lights went out, the covers were removed from Mike Portnoy's drumkit and the large video screens suspended from above the stage flickered to life. A short 5 minute resume of the band's career from its earliest days filled the screen, with excerpts of the band's videos interspersed with images of the band's CD releases (save for the 'Live at the Marquee' EP). Besides the ever-present Messrs Portnoy, Myung and Petrucci, we were treated to short cameos from the bands various keyboard players and vocalists and an entertaining resume of the fashions and hairstyles of the last 15 or so years. As the band's audience continues to expand all the time, this was a clever way of both reminding the audience of the band's history and of the availability of its back-catalogue.

Train of Thought's opener As I Am kicked off the set in suitably lively manner. Though unimpressive on disk, it has just the right mix of heaviness matched with an easilly remembered chorus that means it connects quickly with the crowd who get involved from the very start. In no time at all, the band move on to Beyond This Life from the extreemly popular Scenes From A Memory disk, once again greeted with huge cheers. While it slowed down the pace a little, it ended with one of those jaw-dropping instrumental jams that Dream Theater throw up every now and then, with both Jordan Rudess and John Petrucci displaying the full range of their chops. From the mood of the audience and the performance of the band up to this point, it was clear that this was going to be no ordinary gig.

The first set contained just short of half of the new album, each new song being followed by something a little older, often re-arranged slightly, with Jordan Rudess gradually making the band's entire back-catalogue his own. Caught in a Web, showed the band's inventiveness and their willingness to revisit and re-enliven old numbers. Mike Portnoy even threw in a brief drum solo, something he hasn't done for a while - and at this stage, we were only four songs into the set!!!

After a 15 minute break, during which Opeth's Damnation played over the P.A., the second set kicked off with a nice tasteful keyboard solo from Jordan Rudess, then suddenly the video screen was illuminated with a modified image of the cover of Queen's A Night At The Opera and the entire band launched into Death on 2 Legs. It was totally unexpected as there had been no pre-tour speculation regarding Dream Theater doing one of their now famous, 'Cover album' gigs. While A Night At The Opera is a fine album, the crowd were clearly there to see and hear Dream Theater play their own music, so it was something of a relief that this was the only ‘cover’ to appear during the evening’s set.

They returned to the new album with Honor Thy Father and while it is by no means may favourite song from the new disk, it is another that sounded much better live. After that they took a trip back in time to, first of all, Another Day from the ever-popular Images and Words album and then even further back to their first disk for Only a Matter of Time. At recent concerts it has been clear that the UK audience is certainly familiar with the material from Scenes from a Memory and more recent album, as well as, to some extent Falling Into Infinity, but has often shown a level of unfamiliarity with anything older, with the exception of the ubiquitous Pull Me Under and Metropolis Part 1. It was therefore very refreshing to see the crowd singing along to Another Day and it seems that have now caught up with this classic, though the fan-base still seems unfamiliar with When Dream and Day Unite.

The remainder of the show featured one opus after another. A Mind Beside Itself, rarely played in its entirety since the Awake tour in 1996 was first up, including an "electric" version of Silent Man followed by a truly amazing In The Name of God, its extended ending leaving the crowd stunned as the musicians left the stage.

They were called back a further 2 times, delivering initially a very tasty Trial of Tears (another tune which hasn’t been aired in a while) and finally a wonderful Metropolis Part 1 that was every bit as brilliant as the recorded version. I could go on and on about how good the show was but as we filed out of the venue, there was no desire to express the sense of satisfaction in words. One only had to look any member of the audience in the eyes to know that they too had experienced something special.

It is rare that I am part of a London audience that is as enthusiastic and passionate as the one that was present at the Hammersmith Apollo on this occasion. The band seemed to sense their fervour and fed off it, spurring themselves to probably the best performance that I've witnessed from them in almost 20 Dream Theater concerts since 1996. Try as one might to find fault in this band, it is impossible to avoid acknowledging that Dream Theater is a team of amazing musicians that time after time is able to produce performances that exceed one's expectations. I guess that after this, I'll be renewing my fanclub subscription once again.

January 18th, Ahoy, Rotterdam, The Netherlands by Bart Jan van der Vorst

I must say that I went to this gig with rather mixed feelings. After all, I'm not overly fond of the new album, and I was thinking whether Dream Theater perhaps had 'lost it'. The fact that the band was once again playing the countries' largest hayshed, the Ahoy in Rotterdam, didn't particularly help either. The Ahoy is notorious for its terrible sound, but unfortunately it is the only arena of this size in the country, so pretty much every artist that can attract over 5000 people will play here. And so did Dream Theater, for the second time in their career.

On the 2004 tour the band is playing nothing but "an evening with..." gigs, meaning 3-hour plus shows with an intermission and no support act.

The stage was well set-up, with three large video screens at the back above the band. When the show started a video depicting the history of Dream Theater was shown on these screens. Quite funny to see what the band looked like in 1986, and I was amazed just how much video footage there is available from the earliest days of the band. The years counted up from 1986 to 2004, showcasing all the releases by the band with live footage and promo videos.

When 2004 appeared on the screen the band kicked in with As I Am, from their latest album Train Of Thought. Although I find this a rather mediocre track in itself, it worked excellent live - especially the massive beginning of the song works well as a set-opener. One of the things that immediately became clear was that James LaBrie's voice was in excellent shape tonight.
Like on the album, the band segued straight into This Dying Soul, which is in fact one of my least favourite on the album.

Fortunately the band had decided to play as much old material as new material (even though the entire new album was played) and the kicked in with Under A Glass Moon, off the Images And Words album, followed by Hollow Years, which featured a very extended guitarsolo and had the promo video playing on the screens above the stage.

We were then treated to a section of the epic Six Degrees Of Inner Turbulence, which ended all too briefly. I would have liked them to play the entire second half of the song, but this was not to be. Instead, we were treated to 20 minutes of a different album: Scenes From A Memory. They played a very extended Beyond This Life, which featured a very cool duel between John Petrucci and Jordan Rudess. You could see them really having fun at this, trying to play melodies that the other wouldn't be able to copy.
The song segued (like on the album) into Through Her Eyes. I wonder if they've played that song since the Scenes... tour. At least, I was happy, because I had never seen them do this song live before (missed the Scenes... tour, that's why)

They went back to their latest effort with Honor Thy Father, and the first set ended with another surprise, which hadn't been played live in a long time: Trial Of Tears

There then was a 15 minute intermission, before the band took the stage again for yet another hour and a half of sheer power.

When the band returned, some windy sound effects started. My mate and I looked at eachother and reacted in the way every self-respecting prog fan is supposed to react when hearing synthesised wind effects: DUM-DA-DUM-DA-DUM -- as in Pink Floyd One Of These Days dum-da-dum-da-dum. Much to our surprise (and joy!) John Myung then indeed started playing that familiar bass-riff. A kick-ass version of One Of These Days followed, with footage from Floyd's Live In Pompeii on the videoscreens.

Even more surprising was the song that followed: The Ones Who Help To Set The Sun, from their 1989 debute When Dream And Day Unite.

The band seemed to have made it their goal to play many songs that they hadn't played live in a long while, as they continued with Caught In A Web, which featured a drum-solo in the middle, just like they did during the 1994 Awake tour. It is always fun to see Mike Portnoy at work, and as boring as drum solos usually are, it was amazing to see him whirl around that massive drumkit of his. Two cameras set up behind the drumkit made sure all his movements could clearly be followed on the videoscreens. One particularly cool moment was when he managed to hit each and every part of his kit in just one continuous fill, swapping seats as he went!
A show-off? Definitely! But that's what their music is all about, right?

The excellent The Great Debate came next, followed by two more tracks from their latest: Vacant and Stream Of Consciousness. The latter is a track I certainly don't like on their latest album, as it is just a rehash of their previous work. This became even more clear when hearing it live, so late in the set. All the while I kept wondering if they hadn't played this before tonight. A pity really, as this was the only downpoint in the entire concert.

The set ended with the obligatory Pull Me Under, after which the band came back for two encores: In The Name Of God, which was as I had predicted in my review of Train Of Thought, a great live track, and the even more obligatory Metropolis part 1.

In all this was another fantastic Dream Theater gig. 3 hours and 15 minutes of top-notch music, proving that despite a weak album, they can still deliver!
This tour, even more than on previous tours, the setlist changes from night to night. For any normal band this would result in underrehearsed performances - not so for Dream Theater, as these guys manage to deliver from night to night. It is really incredible what they do.
Initially I was planning on getting tickets for the Brussels gig as well, but in the end I decided not to after hearing the album. A couple of weeks later, having read the setlists of the gigs on the tour, I now so regret this desision, as the Brussels gig was probably the one gig where they played pretty much all my favourites: the second half of Six Degrees, the A Mind Besides Itself trilogy and the whole of A Change Of Seasons. Oh well, can't win em all. There's talk of another European leg at the end of the year, so I'll be sure to visit more gigs then.

January 27th, Palladium, Cologne, Germany by Martien Koolen

Well, the new Dream Theater cd Train Of Thought really seems to have divided the fans. Some find the album an absolute "horror piece", while others - like yours truly - think it is the most progressive album that these guys have made so far. Anyway, there was an endless queue outside The Palladium, waiting to get in on time. Seeing this I wonder if all the people made it to hear Dream Theater kick off with "As I Am".keep your tongue in!

The show started with the already familiar video presentation of the Dream Theater albums and their musical development through the years; from 1989(with first singer Charlie Dominici) until 2003. Right from the start I noticed that the German audience was much quieter and less enthusiastic than the Dutch audience in Rotterdam. So Mike started screaming that they should make more noise and start to move, but it really did not happen. This despite the fact that DT started this show with two killer tracks from the new album: As I Am and This Dying Soul.

Of course the band also took a trip down memory lane; like e.g. with songs like The Mirror, Trial Of Tears, New Millennium or Erotomania. DT also built in a few "slower" tracks (resting points), like the wonderful melodic Through Her Eyes or probably the first Dream Theater ballad ever : Another Day , from their very successful second album Images & Words.

Nevertheless I preferred the new songs this evening. Endless Sacrifice and Honor Thy Father really proved that the new song material is excellent live stuff. But the best track of this evening was without any doubt In The Name Of God; this song really shook my world, words cannot describe this experience. The sound quality was absolutely better than in Rotterdam, but I must admit that James had again some problems with his singing. Especially during songs like Voices or Another Day his tongue kept "popping" up, and he started screaming instead of singing.

There were no real surprises in the set list here (no covers this time). The only surprise was the appearance of Jordan during the encore Metropolis Part 1 ; he was dressed up with a clown's hat and a red nose

Dream Theater is still the ultimate live prog metal band and the pleasant thing about them is, that they change their set list every night, so that you never see the same show. Even if you go four or five times, and that is something I really appreciate. See you all again on the next evening with Dream Theater.


January 17th:

As I am
Beyond This Life
Endless Sacrifice
Caught in a Web
This Dying Soul
The Great Debate
Finally Free

Jordan Solo
Death on 2 Legs
Honor Thy Father
Another Day
Only a Matter of Time
The Silent Man
In the Name of God

Trial of Tears

Metropolis Part 1

January 18th:

As I Am
This Dying Soul
Under A Glass Moon
Hollow Years
War Inside My Head
The Test That Stumped Them All
Beyond This Life
Through Her Eyes
Honor Thy Father
Trial Of Tears

One Of These Days
The Ones Who Help To Set The Sun
Caught In A Web
The Great Debate
Stream Of Consciousness
Pull Me Under

In The Name Of God

Metropolis part 1

January 27th:

As I Am
This Dying Soul
The Mirror
Through Her Eyes
Another Day
The Great Debate
Endless Sacrifice
Trial Of Tears

New Millennium
Honor Thy Father
Only A Matter Of Time
The Silent Man
In The Name Of God

Metropolis Part 1

Photos by Bart Jan van der Vorst for DPRP © 2004


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