The grand old masters of prog rock and metal take the stage in the grand old dame of Melbourne’s live music scene. A crescendo of orchestral music heralds Dream Theater’s return to Australian shores for the first time in three years on a night of celebration. It’s 25 years since the release of the album that truly broke the band worldwide, the soaring Images And Words, and both the band and the almost-capacity crowd are in a festive mood.
Before revisiting their classic album, the five-piece build a little tension with an hour-long set of tracks from their back catalogue. There’s monstrous opener The Dark Eternal Night, As I Am (which includes a snippet from Metallica’s Enter Sandman), the excellent instrumental track Hell’s Kitchen and the epic Breaking All Illusions, plus a rather discordant John Myung tribute to classic jazz bassist Jaco Pastorius, namely Portrait Of Tracy.
After a 20-minute breather, the band return with a mock radio show coming over the PA. Playing several hits from the era in which Images And Words was released, it illustrates the point that they were seriously going against the grain, stylistically, compared to what was going on at the time. It didn’t matter – they have survived, prospered and excelled since then by forging their own unique path.
Has this album stood the test of time? As the anthemic Pull Me Under leads into second track Another Day, and as the band progress through the track list to the triumphant closer Learning To Live, the answer is a resounding yes. These songs transcend time and trends, and tonight they’re delivered with an exuberance that belies the band members’ years, and with the level of technical wizardry they’re famous for. That’s particularly true of John Petrucci, whose guitar style juxtaposes technique and feel like few other players in history, and who is ageing like the finest of wine.
For many bands, an hour’s opening set and then a classic album played in its entirety would have been enough. Many would have taken their bows and retreated to the afterparty and the rider at this point, but not these guys. They believe in the concept of giving their fans value for their hard-earned cash, so they delve into another DT classic from the 90s, tackling all 23 minutes of the A Change Of Seasons EP. Played end to end, this music sounds as fresh and majestic as it did the day it came out.
If there’s a band on the planet who can lay claim to the title of ‘greatest prog metal band of all time’, here they are. Dream Theater add further lustre to their illustrious aura tonight.