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Dream Theater Live at Budokan DVD

By Junkman, On-Air Personality
Wednesday, October 6, 2004 @ 2:20 PM


(WEA)

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ďProg-Rock.Ē I hate that term. Actually what I detest is classifying rock music in general. It doesnít need to be classified. It either rocks or doesnít rock Ė itís rock or its not. But, somewhere along the line, some critic or marketing shmuck decided that people need to be told what they are listening to, as opposed to deciding for themselves. Hence, we now have terms like "emo," which for me, is a really stupid comic from back in the Ď80s. (Remember Emo Phillips? Didnít think so.)

So when some people classify Dream Theater as "prog-rock" it pisses me off. The term of course stands for "progressive rock," which, I guess, is hard to say if you have a speech impediment. Dream Theater does not have to be classified at all. This band of musicians who came together roughly 20 years ago at Berklee School of Music in Boston is in a class by themselves.

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Dream Theater has just released the 2-disc DVD, Live at Budokan, and a companion 3-CD set (sold separately) of the audio portion of a concert performed at the legendary Budokan in Tokyo, Japan on April 26, 2004. Its a stunning portrait of a band that, in my opinion, is musically heads and tails above anyone else out there. This is a band featuring 5 virtuosos who collectively pull it all together to become more than just a band but a rock machine!

Disc 1 features the concert itself, starting out with the opening chords of "As I Am," from their 2003 release Train Of Thought. The band, consisting of vocalist James LaBrie, guitarist John Petrucci, bassist John Myung, drummer Mike Portnoy and keyboard wizard Jordan Rudess, blaze their way through a set of 18 numbers encompassing their career. Standout tracks include "Trial of Tears" from the 1997 Falling into Infinity CD, the 1992 hit "Pull Me Under"(which was actually played on MTV -- imagine that!) from Images and Words and an unbelievable "Instrumedley," which really gives the viewer a look at how tight this band is live, and how talented each member is.

This is presented in full 5.1 surround sound. Combine that with the fact that this was recorded at Budokan, a hall known for its acoustics, the viewer gets a great feel of what it was like to be in the building during this show. Excellent camera work adds to the enjoyment of this DVD. Of course it wouldnít be a Dream Theater release if it wasnít technically stunning.

Disc 2 features great things as well. A Japanese tour documentary, cleverly titled "Riding the Train of Thought," features the band as they travel through Japan by high speed train. (Why the hell canít we get one of those in L.A.?) It also follows them backstage, through rehearsals, hotels, dressing rooms and even sightseeing. It really gives you an insight to what this band is all about, and what they go through on the road. The pre-show preparation is what I, as a musician, found interesting. Watching what band members go through before performing for a sold out crowd is what you donít always get to see in person and up close.

Another feature in Disc 2 is John Petrucci and Jordan Rudess personally giving a tour of their respective stage rigs. They speak to the camera directly as they would be speaking to you if you were there, pointing out each piece of equipment and what it does. Especially amusing was the amount of plastic protecting Petruccis equipment from drummer Mike Portnoy's (referred to as "The Camel") constant spitting during performances.

Disc 2 continues with a performance of Mike Portnoy's drum solo in which he selects members of the audience to come up and jam with him onstage. Itís just another example of the fact that there is none of the "rock-star" pretentiousness in this band. As talented as they are, they are still approachable and people friendly. THAT is something that you donít see alot of these days unfortunately, and by watching this DVD you get to appreciate the band alot more in that aspect.

For anyone who got to see the band on this past years tour, The "Dream Theater Chronicles" 2004 Tour opening video, should make you smile. It is what it says: a slide show of pictures and video clips documenting the band from its earliest days right up to the present. This was shown on the video screens prior to the bands performances on the 2004 tour. Included here for fans, it provides a quick history lesson for those new to Dream Theater.

One of my favorite parts of this DVD is the "multi-angle bonus" of "Instrumedley." Using countless cameras to film the band performing this piece ,it helps the viewer catch ALL the solos (and there are many) involved without having to get dizzy which can happen if you've ever seen Dream Theater live. Great camera work ,and once again a treat for new Dream Theater fans and old ones alike to get an idea of how amazing they are as musicians.

All in all, this is an outstanding DVD. The camera work, the sound and the performances are very well done. In an age where music gives you the feeling -- to paraphrase Johnny Rotten, "Do you feel like you've been cheated"? -- itís great to have a band like Dream Theater come along and blow you away by being a MUSICIAN as opposed to an ATTITUDE. To those that still need to classify this band, letís just say once again that they are a band in a class by themselves and they are a band with class. Now go get this.

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