I often would forget about writing a review of a live show if I didn’t do it within a few days of the show. Nowadays I’m around so much music and new music news I forget details of shows besides key songs weeks later. But that’s not the case with Dream Theater. While it was two weeks ago that I went with MamaTurbo (who requested to go after hearing Dream Theater on Eddie Trunk) and friends I still remember the show. Perhaps that’s why the album is called The Astonishing.
When I first heard The Astonishing it was exactly what I would expect from Dream Theater in a concept album. A full story, not just a concept. That’s just how they work as a band. So when they announced that this tour would be the album in its entirety in made sense. Add in New York’s Radio City Music Hall as the venue and it was definitely going to be a show to remember.
Remember is exactly that. I still hear “The Gift of Music” from that night in my ears and can close my eyes and see the band. Not only did I see a group of guys on stage performing but more importantly enjoying themselves. Watching John Petrucci and John Myung smile ear to ear like Cheshire cats as they played this masterpiece and told the story of a futuristic time where music had been wiped from existence and just returning through one person born with the gift of music took The Astonishing to a level of enjoyment for everyone in attendance.
I personally found myself watching Jordan Rudess play his keyboard like a mad scientist who just discovered the key to everlasting life. Whether just gently flowing through “Ravenskill” or grooving away on “A New Beginning” he was truly into each and every note played. His moveable keyboard allowing him to turn and face different angles helped him steal the show from the rest of his band mates.
My only complaint, and one I heard echoed by a few in between discussions after the show, was it was tough to follow the story of The Astonishing throughout the show. Sure those of us who listened to the album a few times prior knew enough but there wasn’t enough visual help. The video screen helped James Labrie at times throughout the show but for the most part it felt more like a distraction. Granted I know Dream Theater wanted the music to be the story’s voice but more visuals would have definitely help.
But in the end The Astonishing live was something that was just that, astonishing. In a time where music has become more about playing individual songs as opposed to an overal show I commend and thank Dream Theater for taking the risk of doing an album that tells a story, performing that story live, and reminding everyone that music is something to be enjoyed and not just used and then destroyed.