Live Review | Dream Theater @ Brisbane Convention Centre 3 December 2009 with Pain of Salvation

By: Hannah Collins

With the Majesty symbol out in force, The Brisbane convention centre slowly begins to fill as fans old and new await a set of mammoth proportions.

Dream TheaterThe venue is still relatively empty as support act, Pain Of Salvation (Sweden) begin to play. The 5 piece, consisting of Daniel Gildenlöw (vocals/guitar), John Hallgren (Backing vocals/Guitar) , Fredrik Hermansson (synthesizers) Léo Margarit (drums/backing vocals) and Per Schelander (bass guitar/backing vocals) announce themselves as “A Swedish band, with a French drummer… somewhat like Meshugga, but with notes”… an interesting analogy.

Their sound comprises of powerfully accentuated guitar work, progressive yet full, with a large and differential vocal range, being contributed to by the excessive use of backing vocals from three different members of the band. Although submitting to be a backup vocalist only, Hallgren seems to have a larger more substantial vocal sound, not only contributing to backup but taking whole sections of songs to claim as his own with his husky larger than life undertones.

Frederik’s synth is fitting, opening certain songs with a fairytale uplift of what we know as the common version of a piano’s sound; not at all common when played by P.O.S. Their breaks move from melodic and sexy ballads to the brutality of blast beat incorporated prog metal with prominent bassy undertones. They put on a short, but thorough performance, with a short fall in stage presence, until Hallgren moves his mane of dreds across stage to jam with Schelander for a couple of songs. They play a new song, “Condition”, not yet available in recorded format, much to the audiences delight and as quickly as they came, they’re gone, to ready the stage for the main act.

As there’s only one support, it’s pretty much half time. Considering there’s no alcoholic beverages allowed in the auditorium, everyone makes their way back out to the centre’s foyer bar for a quick top up. Looking around at a sea of metal shirts with very prominent names displayed, I wonder why on earth this venue has been chosen over others that would perhaps, be much more fitting to a gig of this scale and genre.

Back inside the auditorium, Dream Theater’s gear is set and waiting for an explosion of musical finesse. The lights go out and it’s pitch black, the sound of Petrucci’s guitar comes screaming out from behind a curtain tied to runners above the stage. With a blast of the bass drum, the curtain is dropped revealing the band behind. They continue to play over screams and cheers of eager listeners, Labrie making his way to centre stage. He picks up the mic stand and waves it around his head like a madman. With the lights pumping, we break into an almost immediate guitar solo, heavy and hard. It’s Dream Theater of old, now on tour to promote their 11th Studio Album, Back clouds and Silver Linings.

You can’t miss the giant video screen at the rear with Petrucci now displayed via a live feed. All band members have been positioned next to cameras to capture the highlights of the show on the big screen, blending them with footage of old gigs and film clips. The set in total was two hours long. Petrucci more than adequately lives up to his name as one of today’s premier guitarists. In between songs, D.T exhibits the technical musical precision they’re world renowned for. Mixing extended, elaborated intro’s with both extensive Piano and Guitar solo’s the set is no short of extreme. A little put off by the fact Petrucci’s wearing a shirt that sparkles; it does nothing to deter me from the epic wonder that stands on stage before me. Dream Theater.

Having never been a huge fan, tonight I’ve been converted by the saturating display of musical prowess and musicianship these men have shown. Classic hits and new singles mixed with a fantastic lighting scheme and pumped up improvisation between songs, I begin to become lost for words. The set just keeps getting bigger, the sounds becoming far more larger than life by the minute, each man having his own solid influence over the song’s directions.

Never realizing Portnoy did backing vocals for the band, I was amazed when even the drummer was given a minute to throw his vocal ability into the spotlight. For anyone who’s not seem Dream Theater live, even if you’re not a giant fan of their musical style, you’ll never get past the power and finesse of one of the longest lasting influences of technical prog metal to date.

Labrie continues to entice the crowd to interact, periodically laying off the chorus for other’s to sing, holding his mike stand out over the audience to capture the choir down front. Watching Myong on bass is also a phenomenon unto itself. His finger picking is almost as fast as Petrucie’s fingering, the sound achievement = amazing. Towards the end of the set, the solos and elaborate musical collaborations are longer lasting than those played earlier in the night. Keyboardist Rudess has spent most of the night standing behind a rotating keyboard, spinning it around and around as he plays. 53 years old and well trained in classical piano, Rudess broke into synthesisers and progressive rock in his early days and he displays more talent now than ever before. Half an hour to go, he dons his showcase Zen Riffer Keytar and steps away from the podium to partake in the jam on main stage. When back behind his main set up, his use of an Ipod Touch and Kaos pad among some of his other gadgets, allow use of sounds not yet grasped by many other electric keyboardists in today’s rotation. During his solo’s you can only see a blur as his fingers trace the keyboard like a speed demon.

Labrie continues to enlighten, switching from his outright rock mode to emotionally delivered melodic ballads, all via carefully selected songs on tonight’s set list. The whole show is just classic. Taking a sip of water and spitting into the air above his head, Labrie’s showmanship continues. Portnoy doesn’t get left behind by having the sound tech throw him spare sticks from 15 meters away, catching them with one hand whilst still drumming with the other. During “Six degrees of inner turbulence”, the piano effects are astounding. Petrucci is a definite highlight throughout the entire set. His skill and ability to push his instrument further and further in every aspect of his playing is a tribute to not only himself but the band as well.

Leaving the stage then coming back for a 15 minute encore, Dream Theater take a bow and divulge the crowd by throwing all guitar pics and drum sticks in the direction of the fans still standing on the main floor. Walking away into the night I can’t believe what I’ve just seen. I head straight home to practice my piano and wait, in eager anticipation of a tour dvd.

Dream Theater… not a live act you want to miss!

Photo Gallery: Dream Theater @ Brisbane Convention Centre 3 December 2009
News: Dream Theater ‘Black Clouds & Silver Linings’ Australian Tour December 2009

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