DREAM THEATER – JÄÄHALLI, HELSINKI – 27/02/2017
Images and Words, 25 years later
July 7 this year will mark the 25th anniversary of the release of «Images and Words» (1992, ATCO), the second studio album by the Americans DREAM THEATER. For this reason this US progressive metal band will celebrate with an extensive tour around the world the anniversary of such an important, great and classic record. And of course this tour is coming to Finland – one of the main countries what it comes to rock and progressive metal. On Monday, February 27 the band performed in Jäähalli in the city of Helsinki a show covering the album «Images and Words» in its entirety plus an extra set that included other favorites from throughout DREAM THEATER‘s prolific career. The following part summarizes what happened in such a special evening of musical virtuosity:
I have never been a big fan of DREAM THEATER – although I have a lot of respect for them because thanks to them progressive metal could reach places never before achieved in terms of popularity. My taste for the music of this American band includes the following two songs: the ultra-famous/commercially successful «Pull Me Under», and the technical/complex/extensive «A Change of Seasons». However, I must say that the band is a very different animal when it comes to their live performances. Each of its musicians are masters in their respective instruments and by demonstrating it on the stage, they are able to offer an unequaled and very different concert every night. In addition to this the band in each of their recitals is not content with playing perfectly the respective songs but it also gives room to improvisation and spontaneous virtuosity every moment they have the opportunity.
The Boston natives began their performance with the explosive «The Dark Eternal Night» from the album «Systematic Chaos» (2007, Roadrunner), in the same Jordan Rudess and Mike Mangini unleashed a titanic duel: keyboard versus drums. While in the song «The Bigger Picture» which is included in the album «Dream Theater» (2009, Roadrunner), it was James LaBrie´s turn to shine with his cheerful and lively voice -a little mistreated over the years-. He added a dash of drama and excitement, as he waved his body from corner to corner looking for a direct connection with the audience. One of the highlights of the night was the brief but committed tribute offered by the quiet John Myung to the famous Jaco Pastorious in the piece «Portrait of Tracy». Myung accompanied only with his bass perfectly played the cover of Patorious, but added his personal touch through careful touches on the stretched strings of the instrument. For his part, John Petrucci aroused muscular and metallic riffs on the track «As I Am», while his exclaimed guitar solo served as a bridge to unite the aforementioned track with METALLICA‘s «Enter Sandman» song. The audience screamed with emotion upon hearing such a great version – the experiment worked perfectly!
A 20-minute break gave the people some time to stretch their legs, chat with other fans and to prepare mentally for the great concert that will come later. In the dark lighted Jäähalli, we could clearly listen the introduction «Happy New Year 1992 – Intro Tape» while listening in the background some cut songs from1992 (SIR MIX-A-LOT «Baby Got Back», PEARL JAM «Evenflow«, THE CURE «Friday I’m in Love», NIRVANA «Come As You Are», RED HOT CHILI PEPPERS «Under the Bridge», METALLICA «Nothing Else Matters», ALICE IN CHAINS «Would?», GUNS AND ROSES «November Rain», among others). At the end of the intro tape a DJ broadcaster from a Long Island, NY radio station introduced the new DREAM THEATER’s song «Pull Me Under». And so the madness began! Petrucci‘s tender and linear chords introduced the song as Myung and Mangini‘s synchronized rhythmic section slammed along with the deadly guitar riffs. Then Rudder‘s effervescent keyboards and LaBrie‘s determined voice were added to the mix. All these elements combined gave the perfect equation. The commotion of the audience was felt throughout the hockey arena as each person chanted loudly «Pull me under, Pull me under», «Pull me under I’m not afraid».
Later it was the turn for the nostalgic ballad «Another Day». A conceptual LaBrie superimposed his voice over all the instruments as the thin yellow light illuminated his face when he closed his eyes. Rudess was in charge of closing the song with a great and extensive keyboard solo. Before the next song, LaBrie recounted how 26 years ago when they started to record the album the band feared that their music couldn’t influence the musical environment of the time, since it was very different from the music that was on the radio around that time. Luckily the audience welcomed the band progressive sound, and the rest is history.
In the virtuoso and chaotic «Take the Time» the band streamed its sound and injected abrupt changes of rhythms led by the giant Petrucci and his powerful instrument. A rain of guitar solos moved a lot some of the attendees who did not believe what their eyes witnessed: one of the best guitarists in the world giving all his potential right there on the stage. Petrucci closed that piece by playing the guitar solo of the song «Glasgow Kiss» from his solo album «Suspended Animation» (2005, Sound Mind).
After this with «Surrounded» the calm returned again. LaBrie strengthens his voice in every melody, Mangini adds vitality through his constant drumming, Rudess adds the romantic elements with his melancholy piano, Petrucci dares with precise punctuations and methodical melodies, and Myung serves as the perfect companion. Right away, the band played another favorite, the eternal and always effective «Metropolis Pt. 1: The Miracle and the Sleeper». In this song, the virtuoso Mike Mangini gave a master class behind the drums, not only serving as excellent counterpoint to the flexibles Petrucci and Myung. But also when executing a forceful and vertiginous drum solo in the middle part of the piece. Immediately, Rudess and his quick fingers injected into the song the speed of power metal and the inventiveness of progressive rock.
We should note that the Finnish fans were astounded and surprised with the whole recital. That was not surprising at all, since the band performed an absolute amazing and perfect concert. It was a dynamic presentation, with attitude and delivery, but without being boring and repetitive. On the other hand, with «Under a Glass Moon» DREAM THEATER resorted to heaviness and a more direct rock sound to shake the ears of the audience. The perfect formula: demolishing riffs, dreamy keyboards, epic voices, low bass tones and accelerating drums. And with «Wait for Sleep» the audience was introduced the most emotive moment of the night in which reflected through the soft piano arrangements of Rudess and the acapella voice of LaBrie. Finally, the last song of the album «Learning to Live». The above-mentioned piece served as a combination of everything that happened that night. DREAM THEATER gave us all what they had to offer that night by being united and showing us why they are one of the best progressive metal bands in the history of music – a band of virtuosos in full order. They end on a high note!
However, the Finnish audience was not satisfied yet and they asked the band to play more songs. And that was what the band exactly wanted to offer them. DREAM THEATER was back on stage and rewarded everyone with the full rendition of the 23-minute piece/EP «A Change of Seasons» -which was originally plan to be released on the album «Images and Words»-. Metal and progressive rock in its maximum expression with multiple changes of rhythm, jazz improvisation, surreal moments and endless sound effects.
In short, DREAM THEATER presented to us a not to be missed and nostalgic concert. Suitable for any rock and progressive metal lover/qualified virtuoso. Each of the songs were accompanied by a decent and colorful set of lights but that did not have any extra elements such as videos or set design. Performances like this work as a perfect nostalgia exercise that help to highlight the importance of albums like this one. Twenty-five years later, «Images and Words» continues to have a lot of relevance as a record and much more when it is performed live. It is incredible to think that this album was released as long time ago than in 1992! Let’s hope that in the not a distant future the band will also celebrate with an obligatory tour the anniversaries of other albums equally indispensable as «Awake» (1994, East West) And «Metropolis Pt. 2: Scenes from a Memory» (1999, Elektra).
(Intro) The Colonel – Two Steps From Hell song
1- The Dark Eternal Night
2- The Bigger Picture
3- Hell’s Kitchen
4- The Gift of Music
5- Our New World
6- Portrait of Tracy
7- As I Am
8- Breaking All Illusions
Act 2 (Images and Words):
(Intro Tape) Happy New Year 1992
9- Pull Me Under
10- Another Day
11- Take the Time
13- Metropolis Pt. 1: The Miracle and the Sleeper
14- Under a Glass Moon
15- Wait for Sleep
16- Learning to Live
17- A Change of Seasons: I The Crimson Sunrise
18- A Change of Seasons: II Innocence
19- A Change of Seasons: III Carpe Diem
20- A Change of Seasons: IV The Darkest of Winters
21- A Change of Seasons: V Another World
22- A Change of Seasons: VI The Inevitable Summer
23- A Change of Seasons: VII The Crimson Sunset
Words and photos: Emil Gil Bretón