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Dream Theater: "We're taking liberties with the way we play some songs"

A press shot of Dream Theater

Last year Dream Theater played the whole of their current album The Astonishing on tour. Guitarist John Petrucci explains why the US/Canadian prog-metal band are now celebrating the 25th anniversary of their classic Images And Words by performing that record in its entirety on tour.

Why did you decide to revisit the whole of Images And Words this time?

For us, and I think the fans as well, this album means so much. It played such a big role in getting us attention on a global scale that we felt it was important to mark the occasion with something like this.

Do you stick exactly to the way the songs are performed on the original album?

A few of the songs we do play as you hear them on the album, but we have taken liberties with the way we play some of them, just having fun with what we’re doing and expanding on the music. But let me assure our fans that it all works well and fits the spirit of the record.

Are there any tracks that have been tough to nail live?

No, it’s all been very smooth. We’ve played all of the songs live before over the years, so we do know what we’re doing with them.

You’re playing the album in sequence. Were you tempted to change the order of the songs for the live show?

No. Everything flows so well the way we constructed the album in the first place. And this is about celebrating a record that means a lot to our older fans. They inevitably remember the songs the way they appeared on the record. Younger fans have also got into Images And Words the way it was originally put together, so to mess around with the sequencing would serve no purpose at all. All we’d be doing is upsetting the very people we’re doing this for – our fans.

How is your live performance divided up on the tour?

We’re playing two sets. The first has older material, plus one or two songs from The Astonishing, and some stuff we’ve rarely played live if at all. So it’s a real mix, with a couple of surprises. Then we come back and do Images And Words. We then encore with A Change Of Seasons, because that was written for the album. It goes back to the original plan, because we wanted to make it a double LP. In the end, that was rejected and A Change of Seasons was left off. So the song comes from that period and is a reminder of what Images And Words could have sounded like, had we been able to stick to that expanded idea.

Are you recording or filming any of the shows?

We record every show, but so far there’s been no filming done. Personally I’m not sure doing the latter would serve any purpose. However, we still have plenty of time to get a camera crew to one or more of the gigs. It’s something we’ve not yet discussed properly. And I would hope that doesn’t happen. But as usual in this band, everything will be democratically decided, so you can’t rule it out.

Are Dream Theater planning to mark future album anniversaries with similar tours?

Well, we’re at a stage in our career when every year from now on seems to bring a landmark anniversary for one album or another, so we could spend the rest of our lives just doing tours like this. However, Dream Theater are a forward-thinking and creative band – we want to make and present new music, not merely become a nostalgia act. But the way things work out, we’ll probably consider doing limited tours celebrating certain other album anniversaries when we feel they’re appropriate.

Malcolm Dome had an illustrious and celebrated career which stretched back to working for Record Mirror magazine in the late 70s and Metal Fury in the early 80s before joining Kerrang! at its launch in 1981. His first book, Encyclopedia Metallica (opens in new tab), published in 1981, may have been the inspiration for the name of a certain band formed that same year. Dome is also credited with inventing the term "thrash metal" while writing about the Anthrax song Metal Thrashing Mad in 1984. With the launch of Classic Rock magazine in 1998 he became involved with that title, sister magazine Metal Hammer, and was a contributor to Prog magazine since its inception in 2009.