Pit of Hell: Dream Theater at The National, Richmond, Virginia

The 2012 A Dramatic Turn of Events tour is my 4th time seeing Dream Theater.  The first show was on their Images and Words tour long, long ago in Dayton, OH.  The band was very much unknown at that time, as it was in a large bar with a very small crowd.  The last time I saw them was on the Systematic Chaos tour in Atlanta to a packed theater and with Mike Portnoy still behind the drum kit.  This time it was to a smallish theater, crowded, but not necessarily packed and I don’t think it was sold out.  I was able to get up to about 4-5 rows back from the stage.  The show was just over 2 hours long with works spanning the entire catalog of the band – from When Dream and Day Unite to the current album.  I have very much enjoyed them each time I’ve seen them and once again, Dream Theater did not fail to impress me.

I was definitely looking forward to experiencing the difference between the old and new versions of the band, as it is hardly debatable that Portnoy was the heart and soul of DT.  The last time I saw them, he was essentially the primary band member interacting with the crowd and James Labrie seemed very distant and just not much of a frontman – just the singer.  With the “hiring” of Mike Mangini, I wondered how the band would cope with the change.  I am glad to report that Labrie was engaging and interacted quite a bit with us, a welcome change from the last time I saw them in 2008.  Mangini, for his part, definitely closely played the music as it was recorded, though noticeably adding a bit of his own personality to the affair, and absolutely looking like he enjoyed every single minute of being on stage with the band.  The man is an athlete, a natural entertainer, and an absolute monster drummer.  He can play a lot of things faster with one hand than most people can with two.  Simply amazing.

Overall, the musicianship was, as expected, of extremely high quality.  The performances by Mangini, guitarist John Petrucci, bassist John Myung, and keyboardist Jordan Rudess were flawless and they truly appeared to be enjoying performing for us, though I know some of the songs they have played live hundreds of times.  It was still fresh and lively.

They have played a pretty standard setlist for most of their shows during this tour.  This one did not deviate from the previous, except for an audience sing-along for Petrucci, as it was his birthday.  They even brought out cake.  Some of the definite standout songs of the night were The Dark Eternal Night, War Inside My Head, The Root of All Evil, and my all-time favorite DT song, Metropolis: The Miracle and the Sleeper.  There were some expected songs they did not play (Pull Me Under, Take the Time, Learning to Live, The Glass Prison), but weren’t necessarily missed, as what they did play came from 8 different albums spanning 20-plus years.  The flow of music seemed just right.  Wankery was kept to a minimum only with the second half of Petrucci’s guitar solo.  It was certainly bearable, as the first half of his solo was more about the songwriting than an explosion of notes.  I was sort of disappointed there was no drum solo, as I would have liked to hear Mangini give it a go.

There is no higher compliment that I can make than to say that production-wise everything was completely professional.  The sound mix was perfect from the start and the visuals were great throughout.  Undoubtedly the result of a hard-working band that has been at this for a long time.

I have only a couple of issues, and neither relate directly to the band.  At The National, prior to DT playing, I was taking pictures of the stage setup when one of the security guys came up to me and told me that photos would not be allowed once the band started playing.  OK – that’s their right, and I understand.  About 10 minutes later, another guy tells me no photos are allowed at all.  I pointed out the 1st guy who told me earlier about the policy and told the 2nd guy they needed to get their story straight.  That was indicative of show security guys interpreting things their own way and I recommend to The National that the guys working security know exactly what the policy is before they go to work.  The second issue is the couple with their 5-year old daughter in front of me.  It wasn’t the fact that the kid was there, but that she had no hearing protection.  I have pretty good ringing in my ears from going to a lot of concerts in my 20s and now wear earplugs when I go to a show.  It is always plenty loud.  For a 5-year old, who know what kind of damage is being done.  Some people should not be permitted to have kids.

Those were minor distractions to an otherwise quite enjoyable show.  If you have a chance to catch Dream Theater on this, or any other tour, do it!

I hear the sound in a METAL way.



2 responses to “Pit of Hell: Dream Theater at The National, Richmond, Virginia

  1. Glad to see they played a great set. I’ve only seen them once and it was shortly before Portnoy’s departure. Pretty lifeless set plus it was only 45 minutes due to them opening for Maiden.

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