Dream Theatre Rocks The Stifel With DISTANCE OVER TIME Tour

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Dream Theatre at the Stifel Theatre, St. Louis, Oct 2, 2019. Photo Credit: The Stifel Theatre

Ever heard of progressive metal? Think of a progressive rock band such as Rush or Yes with soaring vocals and prominent bass, keyboards and synthesizers, and then toss liberally with heavy metal guitar and drums ala Metallica. That’s how an associate of mine described the sub-genre for which Dream Theatre and Queensrÿche are the best known examples. They played the Stifel Theatre in St. Louis on October 2, 2019, right next door to the home opener for the defending Stanley Cup Champions, the St. Louis Blues. Even against such a crowd next door, Dream Theatre’s “Distance Over Time Tour” filled the venue reasonably well.

Those fans were treated to nearly two and a half hours of face-melting prog metal, any way you choose to define it. With no opening act, singer James LeBrie, guitarist John Petrucci, keyboardist Jordan Rudess, bassist John Myung and drummer Mike Mangini launched into a raucous display of musicianship that bands from any sub-genre of rock would be hard pressed to match. Petrucci can shred with anyone--British music writer Joel McIver ranks him second behind Megadeth’s Dave Mustaine, but I’d say it’s a coin flip. I’ve seen some remarkable guitarists over the years but Petrucci might be the best. I found it remarkable how well Myung and Rudess could follow him, and how it all comes together so perfectly, despite Petrucci’s speed. Rudess is no slouch there either, his fingers flying across the keys so fast there were times in certain songs where I wondered which of the two were leading the melodic assault at that moment. Myung, from what I could tell, managed to lock that sonic barrage down into digestible chunks, his baseline adding the necessary punctuation to his bandmates’ rapid-fire virtuosity. Not to be outdone, Mike Mangini, who has set several world records for fastest drum play. His drum kit was like nothing I’ve ever seen. It’s not quite as big as Rush legend Neal Peart’s mega-kit, but it’s certainly no toy drum set either. The odd thing was the placement of many of his cymbals and certain other percussion elements along a metal framework above him, rather than on various stands. I suppose the sheer number of option at his disposal would make good stand placement almost impossible. James LeBrie’s vocals were good, though I preferred his lower range on the slower songs than his higher-pitched “metal god” voice. It wasn’t the quality of his voice that was off-putting, he just sounded clearer when he slowed down. Maybe it had more to do with the sound mix, as I thought the guitars and keyboards regularly drowned him out. I noticed that he’d disappear from the stage altogether quite often, making me wonder if he was a little under the weather that night.

Nonetheless, I was not disappointed with Dream Theatre’s effort. The first hour-plus of the show featured songs from their newest album, “Distance Over Time,” mixed along with a few older favorites. My favorite was “Pale Blue Dot,” with Carl Sagan-inspired lyrics and Petrucci’s best guitar work of the night. They opened with “Untethered Angel,” their most recent single.  After an intermission, the band celebrated the twentieth anniversary of one of their best received albums, “Metropolis Pt. 2: Scenes From A Memory.” The band’s first concept album, it told the story of a murder through supernatural elements and past life regression therapy. It’s an odd-sounding high concept, but it’s a satisfying mix of power chords and machine gun rhythms pull together by LeBrie’s singing and it comes together amazing well. “Fatal Tragedy,” Beyond This Life,” “Through Her Eyes,” and “The Dance of Eternity” were my favorite parts of the second half. I expected “Pull Me Under,” their biggest hit, in the encore, but it was not to be.  I also secretly hoped for a cover of Laura Branigan’s “Gloria,” but I didn’t get that either, which is just as well—the Blues lost their opener in overtime.   

Setlist:

Act 1:

Untethered Angel

A Nightmare to Remember

Paralyzed

Barstool Warrior

In the Presence of Enemies, Part I

Pale Blue Dot

 

Act 2: Metropolis, Part 2: Scenes From a Memory

Regression

Overture 1928

Strange Déjà Vu

Through My Words

Fatal Tragedy

Beyond This Life

Through Her Eyes

Home

The Dance of Eternity

One Last Time

The Spirit Carries On

Finally Free

 

Encore:

At Wit's End

Grade: 
4.0 / 5.0