Dream Theater

Valby Hallen, Copenhagen - 2012

Text: Tobias Nilsson Photo: Lunah Lauridsen

Dream Theater is a band various people have tried to hook me on to for the longest of time, but it has never really worked for me.
Nevertheless, as they were now finding the time to visit Copenhagen for a show on their A Dramatic Turn Of Events tour, I figured what the heck, let’s give them another go.

Seeing as Valby Hallen, a.k.a. The Concrete Hell For All Things Sound, was the scene for this show (they had been booked for KB Hallen actually, but as you may know that place burned down last year), and after hearing how painful the sound had been for support-band Periphery, I had little hope that Dream Theater’s highly technical and detailed sound-image would fare well here tonight, and as my feeling about them so far have been that they are extremely technical musicians who in my book fails on the part of gripping song-writing, this didn’t bode well at all...

However, as it turned out the band didn’t even need to enter the stage before they began lifting my spirits and putting my fears to shame. You see, the band used a well-composed and striking piece of music as an intro (created by Hans Zimmer, Academy Award winning composer, I am told), which was accompanied by a highly entertaining cartoon film displayed on the ’cubes’ on the backdrop, showing the band getting together from their various and highly improbable places of origin to go on tour. A good laugh was definitely the way to go to break the ice here, and Dream Theater pulled it off to perfection, I have to hand them that.
What also caught my eye was that they had quite an elaborate and good-looking stage setup as a whole; there were of course the cube-looking things on the backdrop upon which they kept showing varied images and video-productions throughout the evening, and there was the bow (as in bow and arrow) looking mic-stand with the Majesty Symbol foot, and the keytar stand looking like something from Excalibur and the normal keyboard stand, also with the Majesty Symbol, which later turned out to be turnable, as Jordan Rudess took some turns with it throughout the show, and other things (see if you can pick some out from the photos).

To say that the crowd had suddenly turned enthusiastic would be an understatement – a loud rumbling had been growing throughout the intro, and when the band finally hit the stage themselves a deafening roar rose from the large crowd. I’ve heard numbers ranging from 2500 to 3500; I can’t say who is right, but I can say the floor trembled and it sounded like there was a whole bloody army in there or something!
Yes, people were happy, no doubt about that, but I must also say that this crowd was decidedly calmer than what I am used to from various metal shows. At first I had thought it was only for the support-band Periphery, but it turned out that also for Dream Theater people didn’t do more than raise their arms to the air and raise their voices between and during the songs. They raised their voices good and loud though, sometimes nearly competing with the volume of the band! No doubt then that vocalist James LaBrie’s comment about the band having played for some 22-23 years and would we like another 20 met with a storming approval.

So what was it that was so damn popular then?
Well, first of all I should get on record that Dream Theater’s sound was possibly the best one ever heard in Valby Hallen. Does this mean it was good? No, not necessarily; from where I was standing (third row and a little to the side) it was still drums and a bit of bass which clearly dominated the soundscape, but at least they had turned the vocals up compared to Periphery’s gig, but I have it on good authority that the sound was much better if you went back to the mixing table. The halls echo'y walls there’s just not much to do about, but shouts from the audience evened things out a bit. What took me quite by surprise was that the band played completely without stage monitors though; that’s a first for me as far as I remember!
The performance on the other hand was surprisingly calm – once LaBrie took some wild turns with the mic-stand in hand, but other than that he either just sung, or quickly fled the stage during the long instrumental sections... In the beginning he was also wearing a long black coat and some orange Bono looking sunglasses, but after a short while the temperature in the hall had risen to near tropical, a wild contrast to the ongoing winter outside, and these artefacts had to be shed.
As I mentioned earlier, Rudess walked around his keyboard frequently, but it wasn’t until he picked up his keytar that he really got to shine; at this point he got to take a centre stage position by himself and he used it to pull of some well-placed posing which really got the crowd going.
A note should also definitely go to the latest addition to the band, drummer Mike Mangini, as he was the only one who got to perform a solo performance during this concert. I didn’t time it, but I believe the solo clocked in just around six months or something in length, but I must admit that this was possibly the most technically advanced drum solo I have ever seen. Drum solo’s will never be part of a setlist I would ever write, but I do admit that Mangini managed to keep this one fairly interesting as he played around with several different sounds (just count the number of drums on the photos!) and different timings and speed.
Mangini was also the only member to be personally introduced to the crowd, and the following stomping and shouting of appreciation clearly took the good drummer back, as he looked equally happy and embarrassed as if he didn’t know what to do with all this love – clearly being the new kid isn’t always such a bad thing after all.

So, did the theatre catch my dreams in the end, or did they run head-first into a concrete wall?
Well, neither actually...
For most of the time, my idea of them from before held true – awe inspiring musicians who aren’t getting me with their song-writing. Still, I must admit that even though the show felt as though it lasted much longer than it actually did, I never got really bored with them either, as I had feared would be the case before going here. They clearly need a more active stage-performance and less anonymous personalities in their playing, but there was definitely a very good atmosphere in Valby Hallen this evening, an atmosphere one couldn’t quite shake even if you wanted to. The intro with the cartoon and the encore with As I Am were the highlights of the show for me, and apart from the extremely long drum solo, the only thing I have to complain about was that you shouldn’t call a set of songs (Wait For Sleep and Far From Heaven) acoustic when you in fact use nothing acoustical to perform them!
Apart from that Dream Theater actually did good.

Setlist:

Bridges In The Sky
6:00
Build Me Up, Break Me Down
Surrounded
The Dark Eternal Night
Solo (Mangini)
A Fortune In Lies
Outcry
Wait For Sleep
Far From Heaven
On The Backs Of Angels
War Inside My Head
The Test That Stumped Them All
The Spirit Carries On
Breaking All Illusions
As I Am

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