“We finally made it! It took us 25 years to find Dubai. It’s not going to take us that long to come again, I guess.”
Dream Theater lead singer James LaBrie’s words perfectly articulated the challenges that the modern era presents many a band as longevity gets increasingly harder to achieve. However, Friday night’s performance proved why bands like Dream Theater continue to have a diehard fan base in today’s chaotic world of entertainment.
Taking to the stage at The Dome in Dubai Sports City at exactly 8pm, Dream Theater began their first act with the blistering riff of The Dark Eternal Night ripping through the roar of the crowd. It was followed by the moodier The Bigger Picture, which saw many fans assisting in the vocals and, of course, head banging.
While most bands are merely entertaining, you can’t help admiring Dream Theater’s prowess with your mouth agape. Every song was rendered with passion, every lead lick that flowed from guitarist John Petrucci’s fingers gave me goosebumps and every drum fill that reverberated through the Dome seemed to electrify the crowd.
The first track to highlight the extraordinary dexterity and tone of guitarist John Petrucci was Hell’s Kitchen. It also featured keyboardist Jordan Rudess (rightly described by LaBrie as “half human half alien”) prowling around the stage wielding the famed Keytar. Wonder why there was a toy copter hanging from Rudess’ keyboards?
There were wow moments aplenty. It was especially mesmerising when the epic Metallica classic Enter Sandman was seamlessly woven into the set.
The first half of the show was packed with impressive moments by way of a mix of tracks such as The Gift of Music, Our New World, Pull Me Under, Another Day, Metropolis Pt. 1: The Miracle and the Sleeper that really came to life in the live setting. The second act featured music from the band’s magnum opus Images and Words.
All the members had plenty to do the whole night. The conversation around was all about the complex drumkit of Mike Mangini, who makes full use of it as always. Two hands and several different tempos — how on earth does the man do it? And then there is Petrucci. Be it a blistering solo one minute, a pounding riff the next and some acoustic work thereafter, he was on top of his game. Rudess performed some intricate yet haunting arrangements, while his rotating keyboard stand allowed him to turn 180 degrees while playing. Another highlight of the show was bassist John Myung’s incredible cover of Portrait of Tracy as a tribute to legendary bass player Jaco Pastorius. Last but not the least, LaBrie gave a well-toned, controlled and powerful performance throughout, although the sound system failed to do justice to his high-pitched renditions at times.
Closing the show with the lengthy opus, A Change of Seasons, the band rounded off a brilliant evening of progressive metal magic. With plenty of emotion, and unrestrained joy, these icons of progressive metal ensured that the rapturous fans left with memories to last a lifetime. Truly, some experiences cannot be described, they must be lived.