Concert review: Dream Theater even better second time around

Rick Olivares

Posted at May 11 2023 04:45 PM

Dream Theater returns to the New Frontier Theater. Rick Olivares
Dream Theater returns to the New Frontier Theater. Rick Olivares

MANILA -- It's been a few days since Dream Theater took to the New Frontier stage for their second ever concert in Manila last May 4 and I am still buzzing over the show.
Unlike their first show in Manila that was standing room only also at the New Frontier, this time, patrons were seated.
Seated in the first row with a clear view of bassist John Myung and drummer Mike Mangini, I was transfixed, watching them perform every note and song. While it is no secret that they are some of the best musicians in the world and are learned, watching them up close made me appreciate them more.
My previous times seeing them, I was from a distance and I will certainly say the close proximity made me enjoy the performance even more. 
Furthermore, I got to see their entire sound check and as a result, it was like watching two concerts albeit slightly different from one another in one day. So, this was the best.
It isn’t every day you get to watch a band just hot off a Grammy Award for Best Metal Performance and as the face of progressive metal music. And Dream Theater’s new album, "The View from the Top of the World," is easily the best of the Mike Mangini era (after he replaced founding member Mike Portnoy in 2013).
And when you enter the venue, the first thing you notice is the stage design by Steve Baird.
The stage design artist recreated album cover artist Hugh Syme’s depiction of Kjeragbolten, the boulder wedged in a crevice on the Kjerag mountain in Norway.
And when the show began, the huge banners of cloth and the LED played all these images and animation (using elements from the album art of the respective albums from which the set list was culled) that went hand in hand with the music making it a literal feast for the eyes and the ears. 
I’ll admit that the images on the screen can sometimes be distracting because they demand your attention (when you want to watch the band perform), but it’s a cheap gripe. Overall, it greatly added to the show. 

Dream Theater returns to the New Frontier Theater. Rick Olivares
Dream Theater returns to the New Frontier Theater. Rick Olivares

The band opened with their Grammy-winning song “The Alien” and I love a band that can literally perform the music as it is recorded on the album and make it sound even more powerful and dynamic. This says something about the musicians – vocalist James LaBrie, guitarist John Petrucci, bassist Myung, keyboardist Jordan Rudess, and drummer Mangini – and their chops.
The band performed four songs from the new album – the aforementioned “The Alien,” “Sleeping Giant,” “Answering the Call,” and the titanic title track that runs over 20 minutes.
They dusted off “6:00” and “Caught in a Web” from "Awake"; “Bridges in the Sky” from "A Dramatic Turn of Events" that was Mangini’s first with the band; “Solitary Shell”, “About to Crash”, and “Losing Time/Grand Finale” from "Six Degrees of Inner Turbulence"; “Pull Me Under” from "Images and Words"; and their true epic-length “The Count of Tuscany” from "Black Clouds & Silver Linings" that closed the two-plus hour show.
The only song that Dream Theater repeated from their previous September 2017 Manila show was “Pull Me Under” so anyone who saw both performances was in for a treat as they performed more songs from their catalogue. 
And as a bonus for me, “Pull Me Under” was the only song performed in all three of my Dream Theater shows. I saw them in April 2004 at Madison Square Garden during their Train of Thought tour where they played seven songs from that album as well as the entirety of "A Change of Seasons" EP.
I, for one, was ecstatic to see them play “The Count of Tuscany” that features emotive guitar playing from Petrucci. Along with “A View from the Top of the World” we got some of their best epics. 
It’s always great to see a show with a band in top form. One of the good things to come out of the global lockdown due to the pandemic is bands were recharged after a long layoff. "A View from the Top of the World" saw the band record a classic album and The View from the Top of the World Tour finds them in razor sharp and energetic form.
It’s been over a week now and I am still buzzing. Thanks to Ovation Productions for bringing them back.