Gig review: DREAM THEATER – Manchester O2 Apollo, 13 February 2014

Dream Theater - Manchester O2 Apollo, 13 February 2014

With the ‘Along For The Ride’ tour announced as a three-hour event, I couldn’t help wondering if the merch stall would be pushing Majesty symbol-branded thermos flasks, travel rugs and even smelling salts.  Having witnessed Dream Theater on previous tours, and based on anecdotal evidence, the current tour could be one of extremes, and maybe even a triumph of bombast over substance.

But, as James LaBrie led us into an excellent opener ‘The Enemy Inside’, there was really no need to worry.  Yes, for the non-believers there is a fair degree of bombast and life-sapping intensity but the mix is always leavened by a glorious chorus or two or a standout guitar solo.

This is a tour that pays respect to the band’s legacy, in the form of the background visuals and also celebrating 20 years since ‘Awake’ so there was an extended section of songs from that album and the 15th anniversary of ‘Metropolis…’ was celebrated too.

Dream Theater - Manchester O2 Apollo, 13 February 2014

Naturally the other main focus was their self-titled current album and the band could show their “mettle” on the long ‘Illumination Theory’,  John Petrucci in particular was in fine form with the ‘Majesty’ guitar getting its first road testing.  His solo on ‘Breaking All Illusions’ was particularly impressive along with the legendary instrumental  ‘The Dance Of Eternity’, from the album that saw the recording debut of the Zen Riffer-rousing Jordan Rudess in 1999.  Whilst Rudess always looks like he is auditioning for a new Gentle Giant album cover, his playing is typically flamboyant and the perfect foil for the guitarist’s more flighty excursions.

Dream Theater - Manchester O2 Apollo, 13 February 2014

A few more accessible tracks may have drawn in the more casual listener, but this was nothing short of a three-hour stiffy for DT fans (I don’t know what the equivalent is for ladies, but there weren’t that many of them in the audience).  I can never understand why the band never plays ‘Pull Me Under’ and the inclusion of tracks like ‘Forsaken’ may have also provided a more commercial – and I think very welcome – counterpoint.

But overall this evening with Dream Theater was a resounding success and the tartan rug and the hot cocoa was quietly forgotten about in what was a totally absorbing and possibly even definitive prog metal fest.

Review and photos by David Randall

David Randall presents ‘Assume The Position’ on Get Ready to ROCK! Radio every Sunday at 22:00 GMT.

1. The Enemy Inside  2. The Shattered Fortress  3. On The Backs of Angels  4. The Looking Glass  5. Trial Of Tears  6. Enigma Machine  7. Along For The Ride  8. Breaking All Illusions  9. The Mirror  10. Lie  11. Lifting Shadows Off A Dream  12. Scarred  13. Space-Dye Vest  14. Illumination Theory  Encore: 15. Overture 1928  16. Strange Déjà Vu  17. The Dance Of Eternity  18. Finally Free

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