Legendary Progressive Metal act Dream Theater presented their performance of THE ASTONISHING live at the Ikeda Theater in Mesa on May 5th, 2016. The band performed their thirteenth studio album, THE ASTONISHING in full for an entrancing two and a half hour set. The band, consisting of James LaBrie (Vocals), John Petrucci (Guitar), John Myung (Bass), Jordan Rudess (Keyboards), and newest member Mike Mangini (Drums), performed the new album with the gravitas of a band that, despite never having a #1 single or album, knew they had their loyal following engaged throughout the show.
Most bands would shy away from a tour that completely neglects playing their biggest hits, especially in the current age of album anniversary and greatest hits tours, but Dream Theater brought their newest rock opera to the stage without fear. The stage was adorned with props and multiple screens to help convey the story of a dystopian future in which the Ravenskill Militia attempts to free the world from the technical oppression of the Great Northern Empire of the Americas using both violence and the power of music. Needless to say, if you weren’t already a diehard Dream Theater fan before this show, it wasn’t going to convert you. Fortunately, the crowd was filled with fans that were fully on board with the concept and the band, many of whom had seen multiple shows on the tour. One fan mentioned that it was his 30th Dream Theater show and that he hadn’t missed a tour since 1994.
Dream Theater have always been known for their technical proficiency and impeccable musicianship, which was on full display. The band also looked extremely loose in their playing, despite the complicated pieces of music being performed. Unlike most albums by the band, the music is extremely varied, featuring the lengthy instrumentals the band has become known for, as well as more typical straightforward rock and roll. The album and subsequent live performance also feature many ballads and John Petrucci was constantly switching between his electric guitar and a six or twelve string acoustic guitar.
As mentioned previously, the band and audience were engaged throughout, despite the fact that the audience spent most of the show in their seats. However, there was one particular occasion where the crowd was lifted to their feet by the performance with zero prompting by the band: Petrucci’s guitar solo at the end of A New Beginning. A rousing solo filled with technical skill, Eddie Van Halen-esque flair, and a melodic quality that sang through, it became the highlight of the first act. It
can’t be understated how far Dream Theater has come in just a few short years in terms of their stage presence, especially John Petrucci. On the Chaos in Motion tour, Petrucci was a rock on stage, essentially playing the notes and occasionally interacting with his fellow band members, but rarely the crowd. Now, he’s become a true showman, playing the crowd and bringing them to their feet with a three-minute solo that put all of his skill on full display.
While some fans may be turned off by the lack of performing past work, the show is an incredible testament to the band’s talent and performing ability. The show is an incredible experience for any Dream Theater fan and the fulfillment of James Labrie’s promise to return in the near future will be waited for with bated breath by every fan that was in the theater.
Review by Kevin Kuhlman
Photos © Fred Kuhlman 2016
Correction: An earlier version of the headline and this article stated that Dream Theater was in Mesa on May 6, 2016 – the article and headline has been corrected to state that they were in Mesa on May 5, 2016.