Live Music + Gig Reviews

Dream Theater @ Hammersmith Apollo, London

17 January 2004

The Hammersmith Apollo is being invaded tonight by oldrockers, young metallers and plenty of music’sequivalent to trainspotters, who have all come todrool in wonder at the awe-inspiring quintet that isDream Theater.

After starting out 18 years ago inCalifornia, each of the five men who take the stage aretrue masters of their instuments. They might not knowstyle, some sporting shaven heads and white trainerswith leather trousers, but it’s the music matters, and this lotcan really play.

The show opens with a flashback short film covering each ofDream Theater’s numerous studio and live albums, and the fansare openly rabid in their appreciation of eachoffering from their heroes.

As the band takes to the stage, the Apollo is shaken to its foundations by the roar ofthe crowd who are gagging for the aural fix. Tearinginto As I Am, the opening track from latest release Train Of Thought, one of two reactions ensue: i)frenzied moshing; or ii) open-mouthed adoration fromobserving fellow musicians, whom all have the same”how does he do that?” look upon their faces, whichlasts for most of the next three hours.

There is no band I have ever witnessed whocould keep my undivided attention for more than seven or eightminutes in a single song, yet Dream Theater manage it on several occasions, with more than one song lasting longer than 20 minutes.

After some flawless, immense renditions of songs like Endless Sacrifice and The Great Debate, there’s the musical equivalent of what people do to win the Nobel prize. Mike Portnoy’sdrum solo, which lasts for multiple minutes, shows a manmore in control of his 40+ piece kit than the worldhas ever seen (incidentally, who uses three bassdrums?!). As every straining ear in the place canhear, there is not a single sound made that isn’tintended in whatever time signature he chooses. Thisunbelievable display is matched by subsequent guitar and piano solos, courtesy of John Petrucci and Jordan Rudess, which are dispersed throughout the evening and played with perfect precision.

After well over an hour, the band retires for anintermission, returning with the brilliant AnotherDay from 1992’s Images And Words. They follow this with In TheName Of God which includes a synchronised guitar and keyboardsolo and which has to be seen to believed – if there’s a DVD buy it just to witness this!

With two encores, including a treat for admiring bassists who get to see and hear JohnMyung’s other-worldly tapping, slapping and abuse ofhis six-string bass, and a three-hour set, the experience of Dream Theater live re-defines value for money.

As the evening ends, the band take several bows before their adoring fans and promise to return before 2004 is out. If you missed them this time, don’t make the same mistake again.

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More on Dream Theater
Dream Theater – Systematic Chaos
Dream Theater – Octavarium
Dream Theater @ Hammersmith Apollo, London
Dream Theater – Train Of Thought