When Dream Theater does a North American tour, it’s a guarantee they’ll make a stop off in the Philadelphia area. More times than not, that stop includes the legendary Tower Theater in Upper Darby, PA. This was my 6th time seeing the band with more than half of those viewings taking place at the Tower Theater.
My experience always includes the same group of friends, year in, year out. we always try to snag seats within the first few rows. Seeing Dream Theater live is more than just a concert, it’s an experience. No other act on the planet is as technically sound and superior as these guys.
That proved to be true once again but with a slight twist. Yes, the band put it all on the stage like they do each and every time. But this show was different. This time around the band only performed it’s new album, The Astonishing. This album is the bands second concept album, taking place within a future dystopian United States of America. The entire album was written by the bands lead guitarist John Petrucci and keyboardist Jordan Rudess. It’s fantasy tale that comes across half Hunger Games, half Game of Thrones in narrative.
As a frequent Dream Theater concert goer, I couldn’t help but notice that the venue appeared to be much less full than concerts past. It was by no means a packed house with much of the back sections and upper levels empty. Although the band is not known for packing the largest venues in the United States, it’s almost always a given the Tower Theater will be a full house for this frequently returning act.
The mood also appeared to be much less calm as well. Dream Theater is by no means a jump around, go out of your mind crazy, sort of act, but shows past have had the audience standing for the entire set list. This time around, much of the crowd was more captivated and calm, while they sat and listened to the oral story of the Astonishing.
The show itself can best be described as an experience. While most shows consist of the group highlighting it’s most recent album, with a number of classic hits thrown in, this night would prove to be different as the band performed their new album in it’s entirety. And only the new album.
My feelings about the show are quite mixed. This was my first time seeing a band perform an entire album straight through. Throw in the fact I was experiencing a concept album to boot, the tone and mood seemed different. There were moments in the show where I struggled to get into what was being performed before me. It was my own fault, not the performers on stage, as I just didn’t know the new material from the album. I wish I did as I know the experience would have been much more enjoyable for myself.
As always, the band is masterful. What I love most about Dream Theater is that they’re composers. They’re a progressive rock band that truly KNOWS music. The Astonishing can be described as a musical masterpiece with style and composition. Throw in a backing score and you witness a wonderful piece of art.
As time goes by, I know this will be a special show that I was able to be a part of. It’s a shame I missed the opportunity now to truly appreciate it. Dream Theater will be around for years to come but they’ll most likely never play this album all the way through again.
In the end, the show was an experience, both musically and visually, as they told the story of their new album. Personally, it was my least favorite show of all the times I’ve seen them live. However, that doesn’t change the fact I still enjoyed every moment of it. They’re still my favorite act to see and will continue to be into the foreseeable future.
Dream Theater – The Astonishing is available now in stores.