In Oslo Spektrum, Norway, January 21, 2004

Dream Theater rocks. As did this gig. For my part, this was the first gig I got to see in some time (yes, shame on me, I know, I know), but it turned to be an evening definitely worth waiting for.

A 3-hour prog metal marathon, this could have become a bit boring, so to accompany the band on stage they had two large video screens on the backdrop, and these were used with good effect. Before the first tune, the majestic “As I Am,” there was a quick scroll through the band’s career, featuring video highlights from all the albums. A good idea and a great way of steering away from the usual orchestral intro. Throughout the show, these screens provided live close ups of the band, very colorful and effectual landscape images and the videos to songs like the ones from Scenes from a Memory, for example. Especially during “The Great Debate,” they (along with some mighty playing), made the long instrumental intro (which I find a bit boring on the record), very powerful. Also during the ballads the screens provided a very nice effect.

As you can read from the set list at the end of this review, the band played tunes from every album but When Dream and Day Unite and A Change of Seasons, (which is fine with me, as I, maybe unlike some others hold those two releases as the band’s weakest to date). As I’d expected, the tunes from Train of Though rocked like a dead cow’s ass (or something) onstage, and for me it was an amazing experience to get to see the Scenes from a Memory tracks live, having almost worn out the live DVD. “Another Day” was as beautiful as ever, and the mighty groove of “The Mirror” always helps to ensure me why I’m not a Helmut Lotti fan.

Ending a show with tunes like the enormous “In the Name of God” (it has to be song of the year???) and “Metropolis pt. 1” – no comment needed – is definitely not intelligent it you hope to go home early that night. The crowd went totally wild, and the band actually seemed moved by the enthusiasm. These guys have played zillions of shows to crowds bigger than this, but some half-drunk Norwegian goblins were more than they expected. (Here there is room for any Viking-or-crazy Norseman-joke; I don’t have any at the moment.)

Okay, great crowd, great tunes. The performance, then, was it up to par? Duh …this Dream Theater, a band with a line up which very much equals a who-is-who in metal wizardry. These guys never fail to impress me. Especially John Petrucci’s playing was i-n-c-r-e-d-i-b-l-e. His extended solos on the beautiful “Hollow Years,” “The Great Debate” and during a jam session in the middle of “Beyond This Life” (I think it was) he played with such technique, flair, and sense of melody and dynamics I’m pretty sure my eye was not the only wet one in the hall. John Myung was also astounding as usual (he played “that“ part in “Metropolis pt. 1“ flawlessly), and he also pulled out the Chapman stick on “New Millennium.” Mike Portnoy, as well as doing what we all know he does better than almost anybody else (playing drums, that is), acted as the showman of the night, providing the weird faces and drumstick juggling at just the right spots. This came as a fresh breeze in an otherwise boring appearance, in solely visual terms. But still, the good bits first:

James LaBrie isn’t at all a bad front man, actually (important note: ) — when he feels like it. He looks pretty damn good up there — tall, confident, and professional. Jordan Rudess did actually impress me with a true enthusiasm as well as a great performance musically. He’d mounted his keyboard on a pole with a turning mechanism, making him able to move around in circles making weird faces while he didn’t play (sort of like Jens Johansson in his Yngwie days…), and he seemed truly happy to be on that stage at that time, which of course is good to see when you’ve paid your heart out to watch him.

Still, Dream Theater is a boring live act. We all know it, of course, and surely I didn’t expect Hammerfall-isms up there, but when Petrucci plays 30% of the gig with his ass to the crowd something’s wrong according to me. Okay: I know about interplay between the musicians … blah blah … communication … blah blah … – it’s a SHOW goddamnit!! John – you play some of the greatest riffs and solos in the history of music; why not show the world that you’re proud of just that!

Myung didn’t move an inch during the entire 3 hours (he even set his hair up in a ponytail in the interval to make sure he wasn’t tempted to bang his head..), but nobody expected him to either. Still, I think I spotted a faint of a smile during the wildest crowd ovations, though — watch your image there, bro!

Maybe we’d expected the band to move around about as much as a group of John Edwards’es, but I did not expect the guitar sound to be trebly and overly sharp and the piano to be buried in the mix. Not from a band with more experience onstage than Paris Hilton in bed, in a concert hall having hosted Paris-Hilton-bedfuls of superstars before them. These sound problems really annoyed me at times, but they were also the only annoyance I experienced during these three hours of music.

This evening was a blast, and made for a tremendous opening of the music year 2004. Hail Hail Hail and Kill! (Okay, wrong band but it looked great…)


As I Am
This Dying Soul
The Mirror
Hollow Years
War inside my Head
The Test that Stumped them All
Beyond This Life
Through Her Eyes
Endless Sacrifice
Trail of Tears

– 15 minute interval –

New Millennium
Honor Thy Father
Another Day
The Great Debate
Stream of Consciousness
Finally Free
In the Name of God
Metropolis pt. 1


  • Torgeir P. Krokfjord

    Torgeir was a reviewer here at Metal Express Radio. After hearing Malmsteen's "Vengeance" on a guitar mag CD at the age of 12 or 13, he began doing hopeless interpretations of Yngwie licks and it just took off from there. After shorter stints at other zines he was snatched to Metal Express Radio in 2003. Alongside Yngwie, Savatage, WASP, Symphony X, Blind Guardian, Emperor, Arch Enemy, In Flames, Opeth, Motörhead, Manowar, and Queensrÿche are a quick list of musical faves. Torgeir is also guitarist in the Heavy/Prog/Thrash outfit Sarpedon.

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