When Dream Theater heads to your town, it’s a momentous occasion for any follower of progressive metal. In the case of the Los Angeles metal scene, it was double the excitement when a pair of dates were announced for The Wiltern as part of Dream Theater’s ongoing tour in support of their new double concept album ‘The Astonishing.’
‘The Astonishing’ is based on a tale that guitarist John Petrucci took a year to write, and composed the music with keyboardist Jordan Rudess. The album tale takes place in a village called Ravenskill on Endless Isleland, with the watchful eye of `NOMACS’ (noise machines) broadcasting disharmony, music is lost. This theatrical tale of freedom, hope and power takes you listeners on the journey of bringing music back to the hearts of the people.
With such a momentous album now out on the shelves, it would seem inappropriate to divide the record into isolated cuts along with the band’s catalog of arena anthems. So the decision was made by Dream Theater to perform the album it’s entirety, turning this evening which Music Enthusiast was fortunate to cover into an intimate, theatrical performance.
Once you entered the main floor of the Wiltern, it was evident this will not be the typical show. The theme was a vintage theater, with tables and chairs arranged instead of arena seating. The stage is set with a visual display of a map where this tale takes place. As the lights dim, guitarist John Petrucci, keyboardist Jordan Rudess, bassist John Myung and drummer Mike Mangini start Act 1 with two instrumental songs, “Descent of the Nomacs” and “Dystopian Overture.” The crowd cheers as frontman James LaBrie appears onstage for “The Gift of Music,” pulling the entire set together.
`The Astonishing’ is a Broadway type of show, with beautiful visual effects, as you feel you’re part of that time: an elaborate theatrical rock opera. The two and half hour show was broken up into two Acts with a brief intermission in-between. Act 1 consisted of twenty songs, Act 2 fourteen songs. The brainchild of this tale, Petrucci best known as a guitar virtuoso plays effortlessly, with a blistering guitar solo, and some work on the acoustic.
John Myung, quietly shows power behind the bass, drummer Mike Mangini wearing a sweat headband and clear glasses looked like he was ready for a workout, with a high energy performance behind the monster set. Keyboardist Jordan Rudess without a doubt the best there is, put on a show with his rotating, tilting keyboard, with various tones, including the piano.
It’s difficult not to walk away thoroughly impressed with frontman James LaBrie’s performance, having the monumental task representing seven characters, two females and five males. Midway through Act 2, LaBrie asked the audience to stand, which they remained till the end of the show. As I turn to look at the sight, all three levels of the Wiltern were at capacity, the fans singing to every word.
Dream Theater has yet again pushed the envelope, `The Astonishing’ is a full length conceptual album, thirty-four tracks, six instrumentals, and twenty-eight vocal pieces. The average length of the songs is four minutes, with the longest song seven minutes. If you’re looking for a typical rock show, this wouldn’t be your cup of tea, but if you’re looking for true musicianship, unity, a show theatrical in nature, I would highly recommend catching Dream Theater on this monumental world stretch.