• Dream Theater show report

    Live at Centre Bell in Montreal, Quebec on March 21st, 2014.

    Dream Theater album covers

    Dream Theater is a band that almost completely changes its set list for every new tour. In addition to this fan-friendly attitude, the band chose to go for another “An Evening with Dream Theater” approach on their current tour which means that there is no opening act but three hours of majestic progressive metal music including a short pause of fifteen minutes. The first time I saw the band in Montreal back in 2010, they only played six more metal orientated tracks as opening act for Iron Maiden. When I saw them for a second time in Quebec City in autumn 2011, they had brought Trivium as an opening act and played for around two hours featuring fifteen tracks. Now, I was excited to see a first full length show in Montreal’s famous Bell Centre.

    Dream Theater band photo

    A little issue with this approach is that the show starts very early. I was quite under pressure to get a taxi from my job in the afternoon in Gatineau to Ottawa, take the bus from Ottawa to Montreal, meet my friend, get to the next metro station and make it to the Bell Centre but we managed to be there somewhere between twenty and thirty minutes before the show started. This was obviously not the case for everybody. When the shows started, something like forty percent of the seats were still empty and many fans only arrived two or three songs into the set. Even after this, around twenty-five percent of the seats were still empty and the atmosphere was surprisingly shy. The fans had been much more outgoing two and a half years earlier in Quebec City.

    Visually, this show was by far the best I have seen from the band. There was an entertaining animation video that connected the different cover artworks of the band in a creative way while “False Awakening Suite” was being played in the background. A big curtain that covered the stage fell when the band hit the stage. The stage itself looked very creative as if the band was playing in a suburb of a big city. One could see walls with different graffiti including the name of the band written in German, closed garage doors or broken windows for example. This was very nice to watch and impressed me much more than the decorations of the other two concerts I had seen.

    The band kicked off its show for real with a big bang and a dynamical rendition of their last record’s first single “The Enemy Inside”. The track was accompanied by the intriguing official video clip of a war veteran who can’t fight his inner demons. Even though the vocals had to deal with some sound issues in the beginning, the song itself was performed with much more emotion and energy than on the last album. This would also be the case for all other songs of this record. Maybe I need to re-evaluate my opinion on the last self-titled album that wasn’t exactly my favourite from them.

    The Enemy Inside single artwork

    Dream Theater continued its first part of the set with “A Shattered Fortress”. In my opinion, this complex song was a little bit misplaced so early in the set and is also one of the weaker tracks of the amazing Black Clouds & Silver Linings. The band couldn’t quite keep the energy of the opener in my opinion.

    The progressive metal veterans then went in a smoother direction with the enchanting “On the Back of Angels” and the amazing progressive rock track “The Looking Glass” from their new record. Especially the latter track worked very well on stage with James LaBrie’s soaring vocals and the melodic and Rush inspired guitar riffs by John Petrucci. At this point, I was entirely enjoying this show.

    The different songs were sometimes connected by short animated video sequences where an old yellow car would drive around in a city, on the countryside or on the beach to get to different places where Dream Theater’s music would be played. These animation sequences were effective, harmonious and short enough.

    Dream Theater finished the first of three parts of the set with the epic and rarely played “Trial Of Tears”, the amazing new instrumental track “Enigma Machine” featuring a short but not too impressive drum solo by Mike Mangini and a much more addicting clip featuring all current band members as comic heroes on their quest to find a treasure in a dark dungeon, the beautiful and light-hearted “Along for the Ride” and finally the epic “Breaking All Illusions”. At some point, Jordan Rudess’ keyboard disconnected during a longer instrumental part but his colleagues saved the track very professionally and a few minutes later, the keyboard sound was back again thanks to the help of somebody in the sound department and Jordan Rudess played as if nothing ever happened.

    The band then took a break of fifteen minutes and presented a video to the crowd where people from all around would play impressive cover versions of different Dream Theater songs or just have fun by parodying the band’s procedures to pick a new drummer for example. This collection of clips was entertaining to watch and the break passed very quickly.

    For the second part of their set, Dream Theater would go on to play the last five tracks from Awake to celebrate its twentieth birthday. Along with “The Mirror”, “Lie”, “Lifting Shadows Off My Dream” and “Scarred”, this also meant that the band played the atmospheric closer “Space-Dye Vest” written by Kevin Moore. The band changed the original arrangements a little bit but this didn’t steal anything of the original’s magic. From the Awake set, this song was by far the most surprising and touching one. I hope that the band continues to play this track here and there in the future after so many years of ignorance. The band ended its second part of the set with the epic “Illumination Theory” from the last album which was animated by a colourful clip and a great light show. The song had its lengths on the album but worked pretty well next to the Awake songs on stage. This was another very positive surprise.

    The band just took a very short break of maybe two minutes before they came back for the encores and the third and last part of their set, dedicated to Metropolis Part Two: Scenes from a Memory. The band underlined the fifteenth anniversary of its famous conceptual record. The band started with the diversified double pack “Overture 1928” and “Strange Deja Vu”. Then they played the completely insane instrumental track “The Dance of Eternity” which is and probably will always be the band’s greatest instrumental song. The entire band minus James LaBrie showed off its incredible skills in this track. James LaBrie then gave a comeback to give his best performance of the night in the closing “Finally Free”. It was incredible to see that he was able to pull off such a performance after almost three hours of work. He just seems to be like good wine: he gets better as he gets older. The entire band deserved minute-long standing ovations after this last highlight.

    After 165 minutes of playing time and a total length of around 180 minutes, my friend and I quit the Bell Centre with great feelings. I was finally able to get a good supper around 11 p.m. just next to the Bell Centre. We discussed about the great concert we had just watched. If Dream Theater comes back anytime soon to Montreal, I guess both of us will once again be “along for a ride”. If you can still get tickets and catch the band up on their current tour, just go because it’s worth your money and time.

    Set list:

    Along for the Ride Tour, North American leg

    Act I

    False Awakening Suite 


    1. The Enemy Inside 
    2. The Shattered Fortress 
    3. On the Backs of Angels 
    4. The Looking Glass 
    5. Trial of Tears 
    6. Enigma Machine 

    (with drum solo by Mike Mangini)

            7. Along for the Ride 

            8Breaking All Illusions 

    Act II

            9. The Mirror

           10. Lie 

           11. Lifting Shadows Off a Dream 

           12. Scarred 

           13. Space-Dye Vest 

           14. Illumination Theory 


          15. Overture 1928 

          16. Strange Déjà Vu 

          17. The Dance of Eternity 

          18. Finally Free 

          19. Illumination Theory 


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