Bands with twenty-five-plus years under their belts often have to wrestle with the temptation to become a nostalgia act or to continue pushing the musical envelope which, in turn, carries its own set of risks. For Dream Theater, the past few years have been particularly difficult for the band: with drummer Mike Portnoy leaving in 2010 and filling the role with Mike Mangini, the band has been trying to reconfigure its soul.Continue reading →
It seemed that fans of Dream Theater were torn between the performance of their two and a half hour opus and new album, The Astonishing (Roadrunner). Fans always want to hear classic songs along side the new ones, but you can’t always get what you want. Call it a concept album or rock opera, whichever you prefer, it was a damn fine night of music.
Dream Theater, by Omar Cordy/OJC Pics
Aided by an impressive video wall to bring the story of “The Great Northern Empire of the Americas” to life, you felt like as if you were watching a movie with a live soundtrack. Guitarist and story mastermind John Petrucci along with his ever growing beard, played the heaviest mix of acoustic an electric guitar throughout the night I’ve ever seen him do. ‘The Answer’ clearly demonstrates that statement. From ‘The Gift of Music’ to the title track, James LaBrie’s vocals just drew you into the world of Nomacs and musical rebellion. With song a like ‘A New Beginning’, it covers the spectrum of darkness and light that the album portraits. As well as some solid bass grooving from John Myung too.
Dream Theater, by Omar Cordy/OJC Pics
After a fifteen minute intermission, they returned to the stage for the second half of the this massive album. Drummer, Mike Mangini just makes everything look easy, we get a few flourishes for insanity on ‘Moment of Betrayal’ and on ‘Three Days’. The second half of the creative team Jordan Rudess, brought his atmospheric tones is the bridge from song to song. He carries the themes and regal-ness through ‘Brother, Can You Hear Me’ and ‘Begin Again’. Overall, the show was good if you were prepared just to hear this album. Simple in some parts complex in others, “The Astonishing Live” was the right show for a venue like Radio City Music Hall.
John Petrucci commented on the making of the record:
“The idea to do a concept album as a band felt right. The last one we did [1999’s ‘Metropolis Pt. 2: Scenes From A Memory’] was about 15 years ago, and it really felt like we were in a good place to do this. I knew that what needed to happen, first and foremost, is that we had to have a story to base this on, because the idea of basing an album off of a loose concept or something that was sort of arbitrary, that didn’t interest me at all. I wanted this not only to be a concept album, but really to write a full show. And to have all the elements in place, the story needs to drive that. We needed to have the storyline, a plot, places, characters, maps — you name it. So that started about two and a half years ago; it took about a year for me to get that story done and ready to present to the guys. And I wanted to write from a place that was familiar to me, so I knew that music had to play a role in the story somehow. I’m a huge fan of the sci-fi and fantasy genres, so I had a pretty good idea of where I wanted to go. But it was a matter of really diving into it and working on it, revising and revising again, and working on it every day until I had something solid.”
“The Atonishing”. He said: “Because of the sheer volume of music — you’re talking, when all’s said and done, probably two hours, 10 minutes’ worth of music — every step of this has been a huge process. I don’t think I’ve had time to do anything else over the last year or so [laughs]! In order to do this right, I had to be really, really organized about it. Jordan [Rudess, keyboards] and I wrote the music as really a prog-metal score to the story. We didn’t sit down and say, ‘Let’s write a song, here’s the first chorus, whatever.’ We would go through the story and say, “What’s happening here, where is it taking place?” We had to make sure the mythology was right, the timeline was right. And that carried through on every level. When it came to presenting the orchestration to [veteran conductor and orchestrator] David Campbell and getting him involved; when it came to writing the lyrics, and then me having to go through it song by song, character by character; even things like the artwork, creating the map and all those different towns and cities and roads — every sort of level and layer took a lot of organization and focus.”
The Astonishing track listing:
01. Descent Of The NOMACS 02. Dystopian Overture 03. The Gift Of Music 04. The Answer 05. A Better Life 06. Lord Nafaryus 07. A Savior In The Square 08. When Your Time Has Come 09. Act Of Faythe 10. Three Days 11. The Hovering Sojourn 12. Brother, Can You Hear Me? 13. A Life Left Behind 14. Ravenskill 15. Chosen 16. A Tempting Offer 17. Digital Discord 18. The X Aspect 19. A New Beginning 20. The Road To Revolution
01. 2285 Entr’acte 02. Moment Of Betrayal 03. Heaven’s Cove 04. Begin Again 05. The Path That Divides 06. Machine Chatter 07. The Walking Shadow 08. My Last Farewell 09. Losing Faythe 10. Whispers In The Wind 11. Hymn Of A Thousand Voices 12. Our New World 13. Power Down 14. Astonishing