Arms outstretched like a prog-metal messiah, Dream Theater vocalist James LaBrie shouts in a high register, his voice still locked at the top of his multi-octave range having just finished an astounding opening performance of “The Dark Eternal Night”: “Hello, Manilaaaa! We f—in’ made it!”
The capacity crowd in Kia Theater sent the energy back to the stage — every lick, every lyric. LaBrie “warned” the crowd that the show will run for almost three hours.
The Grammy-nominated quintet, currently on their Images, Words, and Beyond World Tour, was brought to Manila through My Music Taste, a “fan-initiated concert-making platform.” The tour is a 25th anniversary celebration of their 1992 album Images and Words. While the band has produced 11 studio albums since, I&W remains their most successful commercially and gave the band a Top 10 hit with the single “Pull Me Under.”
The compilation album, Greatest Hit (…and 21 Other Pretty Cool Songs), refers to the “anomaly” and also reveals a sense of humor seemingly absent from a band fond of elements that most music journalists find uncool: high concepts, multi-song suites, heavy riffs, odd meters and jaw-dropping laser-precise musicianship.
For warm-up music, classics from Queen, The Who and Black Sabbath were played over the PA — and Neil Diamond‘s “Sweet Caroline.” It was a much-needed moment of levity, because let’s face it: every member of Dream Theater is an acclaimed virtuoso, a living deity on their respective instruments, and it displayed their humanity.
The concert was divided into two acts — with a 20-minute intermission, thankfully, as people needed a break from the intensity with a beer or two — with I&W taking up Act 2, plus an encore of the seven-part “A Change of Seasons.” They even inserted a bit of Metallica‘s “Enter Sandman” during “As I Am.”
The acoustics of the Kia Theater sometimes dulled the dynamics of the band but it almost didn’t matter: the musicianship remained at a ridiculously high level, and fans have memorised every nook and cranny of the intricate songs anyway, errant reverb be damned.
John Petrucci was first to take the stage and predictably was met with rapturous cheers. His precision riffing and soloing, an influence on younger virtuosos — including <a href=”/artist/279348/animals-leaders/chart”>Animals as Leaders</a>’ Tosin Abasi and Periphery‘s Misha Mansoor, Mark Holcomb and Jake Bowen (his nephew) — was in full turbocharge mode, with the occasional whammy bar abuse to break things up a bit.
If old school “serious musicians” are still debating over what constitutes a “real” instrument, Jordan Rudess isn’t one of them. Using a tablet as a keytar, Rudess played a blazing solo using the GeoShred app.
Post-show, a few drummers could be heard discussing the technical merits of Mike Mangini over original drummer Mike Portnoy, and vice versa.
It was during the first act where the first solo spot was featured. LaBrie introduced “one of the best bass players in the world”: the notoriously reticent John Myung, who performed a sublime rendition of Jaco Pastorius‘ bass chordal harmonics workout “A Portrait of Tracy.”
LaBrie spoke about hanging out in Manila the day before the show: “Everyone was so engaging and so … amazing … it keeps our sanity on the road, because it shows you that we’re all together on this, right? So, thank you very much and we’re coming back!” The crowd loses it again — and not for the last time.