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Sonisphere 2014: Dream Theater

Theater close the second stage on the final day of Sonisphere

Alright, we're calling it - Dream Theater are fucking cool. Is it the sunglasses? The abundance of facial hair? No - it’s the sheer thrill of watching five musicians who are masters of their craft, each one playing with about a dozen more strings/keys/bass drums than is probably necessary, execute a series of mind-boggling tempo changes with precision and class. But this is much more than just a soulless display of technical prowess. At every corner of the stage, something special is happening - from Jordan Rudess’ tilting and rotating keyboard stand to the formidable sticksman Mike Mangini behind his mammoth kit, every one of these guys appears to having an absolute ball.

Today’s set is perfectly measured in terms of timing and pace. They kick off with The Enemy Inside before delving into Awake’s The Mirror and the heavy, grooving Lie. It’s no mean feat trying to headbang to this lot, but the Knebworth crowd just about pull it off - some people even attempt moshing, God love ‘em, while most people are simply transfixed watching the flawless soloing of John Petrucci and feeling the rumbling bass played by the stoic John Myung.

The songs are vast and sprawling, but somehow the set seems to fly by. Frontman James LaBrie is effortlessly engaging, running around all over the place, showing off an impressive set of lungs that could rival Bruce Dickinson’s (yeah, we said it). From deeper cuts to the recent, more accessible Through The Looking Glass, he has them in the palm of his hand. After bringing the tempo down with the gorgeous Along For The Ride, they kick it back up by ending with Pull Me Under (what else?) and we’re reminded that, for all the frills and flourishes, Dream Theater are at their core, simply a great band with great songs.