As 2020 nears its end, few, if any, bands are announcing any live performance plans. There are many festivals whose dates are tentatively rescheduled for 2021, but even right now, those dates are just tentative. That means that there is still just as much need for live recordings as ever as we head into the end of this year and the start of the New Year. Enter veteran prog-metal band Dream Theater and its latest live recording Distant Memories: Live in London. Released Friday through InsideOut Music, the band’s ninth live recording offers audiences a set list and performance thereof that is certain to engage and entertain listeners. It will be discussed shortly. While the set list does its own share to engage and entertain audiences, its audio production does pose something of a concern. This will be discussed a little later. Making up for the concern raised by the concert’s audio production is the video production. It rounds out the recording’s most important elements and will be discussed later. Each item noted here is important in its own way to the whole of Distant Memories: Live in London’s presentation. All things considered, they make the concert worth experiencing at least occasionally.
Dream Theater’s latest live recording Distant Memories: Live in London is a presentation that the band’s longtime fans will find a mostly enjoyable concert experience. That is proven in part through the recording’s set list. The 21-song set list focuses specifically on two of the band’s albums, its most recent recording, Distance Over Time and its classic album Metropolis Part 2: Scenes From A Memory. Along with those albums, the band also goes back to 2009 and the band’s album Black Clouds and Silver Linings. Audiences get the band’s performance of Metropolis Part 2: Scenes From A Memory in whole here, as a celebration of the 20th anniversary of its release while five of the nine songs from Distance Over Time (more than half of its body) are also featured here.
For those who do not know the band’s history, Metropolis Part 2: Scenes From A Memory was Dream Theater’s first-ever concept album, and a long-awaited record, too. It is a record for which the band’s fans had until that point, pleaded ever since the band released its landmark 1992 album Images & Words, which featured ‘Metropolis Part 1.’ It was also the debut of the band’s current (and third) keyboardist Jordan Rudess, and a very heavy work, focusing on the concept of past life experiences. Its story is unique to say the very least. Not to give away too much for those who have not taken in that record, it does not have a happy ending. How many musical acts past or present can say they have taken on such a concept for any album or even song? Exactly.
The inclusion of a song from Black Clouds and Silver Linings is interesting here, too. That is because that record was the last on which now former drummer and Dream Theater founding member Mike Portnoy would take part. He would go on to be replaced by current drummer Mike Mangini on the band’s next album, the aptly titled A Dramatic Turn of Events. Simply put, between this one song and the featuring of the aforementioned album, audiences are presented with a work that was the first for one member and the last for another member. Whether that contrast was intentional is anyone’s guess. Regardless, it’s there, so that adds even more interest to this set list.
Adding to the whole is of course that the band made certain to promote its latest album along with everything else. That the group focused on a much material as it did here is the virtual icing on the cake here. Of course, the band’s performance of the noted set list adds even more to the concert experience. That early moment in which Jordan Rudess breaks away from his stationary position and puts on one of those portable, shoulder-strap keyboards, taking his moment to really get in the limelight is just one of so many highlights of the band’s performance. Seeing his smile and taking in the energy of his performance will make audiences smile just as much. The rest of the band members – John Myung (bass), John Petrucci (guitar), Mangini (drums), and James LaBrie (vocals) – were at ease throughout the concert, displaying such mastery of their instruments while putting their full talents on display. Watching Petrucci rip his way through the solos is just as enjoyable. His arms and hands barely move, yet the riffs (solos included) are just so heavy and intense. Watching Myung meanwhile during the concert’s higher energy moments leaves full understanding of why he is nicknamed “the octopus.” His fingers move like an octopus’ tentacles as he plucks the strings of his bass. His left hand moves just as fluidly across the strings as he lays down the harmonies in each song. All the while, his facial gestures never change, even when his hair is not covering his face. Even LaBrie shines during his moments on stage as he leads the way. Now while the concert’s set list and the band’s performance thereof does plenty to ensure audience’s engagement and entertainment, the concert is not perfect. The concert’s audio production does raise some concerns.
Throughout the course of the roughly two-and-a-half-hour concert’s run time, there are many moments in which the audio sounds somewhat unbalanced. LaBrie’s vocals, at many points, sound washed out in favor of the performance of his band mates. It does not happen in every single song, but it does happen enough that one cannot ignore the issue. Those moments are not the only points at which the audio production proves problematic. The pre-recorded narration in the Metropolis Part 2: Scenes From A Memory also comes across as being rather washed out. It is audible, but sounds more like it was recorded in the distance by a smart phone than by an actual professional recording device. It is a minor matter, but still important to the presentation of the album’s story in its own right. Losing that element detracts from the recording’s presentation in its own right. There are also moments when the sounds from Rudess’ keyboards echo more than they seemingly should through the concert hall. As with the sound of the narrator in the Metropolis Part 2 set, the sound just comes across as being too “raw” in those moments. Thankfully, even with the noted audio concerns in mind, they are so spread out that they do not make the concert experience a failure. The concerns raised by the concert’s audio issues are countered by the positives of the recording’s video production.
Throughout the course of the concert, audiences are given the best seat in the house. Forget just looking up at the band from floor level. At some points in the show, audiences are taken not just on stage but to an up close level with Rudess thanks to a camera mounted on his stationary keyboards. Additionally, audiences are taken high above the audience at other points, and on stage, showing each member of the band at work. The shot transitions are smooth and help to amplify the energy in the songs and performances, adding even more enjoyment and engagement to the recording. When this aspect is considered with everything else noted here, the presentation in whole proves to be a work that Dream Theater’s longtime fans will find an enjoyable occasional concert experience.
Dream Theater’s latest live recording Distant Memories: Live in London is an interesting new addition to its catalog of live presentations. The band’s ninth live recording, it presents a unique set list that will engage and entertain listeners in its own right. The audio production used in the recording does present some problems for the concert’s presentation, but not to the point that the concert is not worth experiencing. The video production featured in the recording gives audiences the best seat in the house, and works with the band’s performance to ensure audiences’ engagement and enjoyment. Each item noted here is important in its own way to the whole of the band’s new live recording. All things considered, the band’s new recording proves to be a presentation that in the long run, will be more than just a distant memory for the band’s fans. It is available now.
More information on Distant Memories: Live in London is available online now along with all of the band’s latest news and more at:
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