Dream Theater-Dreamsonic Concert Review AZ Financial Theater Phoenix AZ 07-26-23
Concert Review and Photos by Roc Boyum
Dream Theater kicked off their“Dreamsonic“ tour in June of 2023 with special guests, Devin Townsend and Animals as Leaders and this was the prog/metal extravaganza of the year that every Phoenix, AZ prog rocker had been waiting all year to see live; and this show did not disappoint! On a Wednesday night at the Arizona Financial Theater in Phoenix, Arizona the Dream Theater fans braved the sweltering 108 degree evening air for their chance to take part in the first ever Dreamsonic tour that gave the Phoenix audience a night of prog/metal music to remember.
The amazing thing about this tour for Arizona is that Dream Theater started their tour in Arizona at the Mesa Arts Center in Mesa, AZ on February 2, 2022, and then ended their tour right here in Phoenix, AZ on July 26, 2023, at the sumptuous Arizona Financial Theater which is pretty damn amazing for Arizona!
Animals as Leaders:
Animals as Leaders kicked things off with their no nonsense stage presence and crazy technical ability that immediately kicked this prog/metal event into high gear. Their fans showed up in force with their irresistible support that immediately captured every attendee who was not yet familiar with the band. From the fans I spoke with; it was a unanimous sentiment that AAL was a group of some of the most impressive musicians on any stage with a show that was powerful and captivating.
Devin Townsend hit the stage like a whirlwind with his band and their special brand of prog/metal that was musically impressive and bathed in humor. Townsend himself was a direct contrast to AAL , not as a musician but as an entertainer who constantly engaged the audience with his left-of-center brand of humor as only he can deliver. Townsend, in the third song, made a joking reference about his low budget props by introducing a device known as a “Theremin.” This device is a small device with two antennas that emits varied oscillating frequencies with the proximity of the performers hand(s). The “Theremin” definitely entertained the audience which I found very interesting considering this (low budget prop) first came into prominence during Led Zeppelin’s live version of “Whole Lotta Love“; where Jimmy Page would wield the crazy sounds of the Theremin with his hands like a wild wizard casting sonic spells across the audience. If the Theremin was good enough for Jimmy Page, then Townsend’s use of his so called (cheap prop) is not only really super cool but actually a pretty damn smart addition to his arsenal of comedic wizardry tricks. At one point in the show, Townsend took his guitar and went out into the audience to rock the fans up close which is always great fun!
The band finished things off with the entire band wearing humongous orange sombreros that flopped on their heads as they moved about on stage that kept the entertainment rolling. Devin Townsend and company are all great musicians and performers and Townsend himself is a very funny and engaging entertainer who will tingle your prog senses and win you over with his comedic approach. Devin Townsend’s live performance is kinda like going to a prog/metal comedy club with a cast of stellar musicians who are simultaneously, cool and musically impressive all the while leaving you with a good dose of feeling good.
Devin Townsend Photo Gallery:
Then came the moment everyone was waiting for – with the brutal Arizona Heat melting everyone in attendance, the entire audience began to cheer as the lights began to dim fueling the anticipation and excitement of finally seeing the 5 amazing musicians walk out onto the stage and ignite the Arizona Financial Theater with their Grammy Award Winning Song “The Alien.”
Considering that this was the last show of an extensive tour run, most bands would have provided a tired performance but Dream Theater was as amazing as always! The band’s sound and performance were not just elevated; but they sounded superb to a level that exceeded any past performance I’ve experienced! Since DT are considered by many as the God Fathers of prog/metal and the bench mark by which all other prog/metal bands are measured, how can such a band improve upon themselves; 17 months of touring, that’s how!!! Sure they took some breaks along the way but that much time together makes a band like Dream Theater collectively gel together with a freedom that has them surpassing their own musical greatness. Besides sounding better than ever as a collective unit, it was singer James LaBrie who notably eclipsed his past performances. On this night, LaBrie’s vocals were strong, powerful, sincere and sounding the best I have ever heard him sound live which after months of touring is impressive for any singer live. Some of best singers on the planet can end up sounding worn out and tired at the end of such an extended tour run which is why LaBrie’s performance was so impressive! Vocals are not the type of instrument that you can just head down to the local music store to get a replacement part for the next show; so hats off to LaBrie for taking care of his pipes and helping to make this show extra special.
The band gave the Phoenix audience a stellar show that lasted one and a half hours with eleven songs that spanned much of their career with “A View From the Top of the World” and “Six Degrees of Inner Turbulence” as the two LP’s most represented. Of course opening their show with “The Alien” was expected considering the song is a fan favorite especially after it won a Grammy for best metal performance, and it is still the definitive opening song; seventeen months later. Two additional songs from the AVFTTOTW LP that had not yet been played live in Phoenix, AZ were“Sleeping Giant” and “Answering the Call” respectively. “Sleeping Giant” was especially great to hear live as this song was meant for the stage with it’s multiple mood changes and contrasting dynamics along with ridiculously memorable melody lines that definitely makes this one of the stand out tracks on AVFTTOTW. In this live setting, the song starts with the lights down low, and keyboardist Jordan Rudess bathed in light.
Rudess began with the song’s haunting keyboard lines that he cast out into the dimly lit venue, echoing across the audience with a chilling ring that imparted the eerie feeling of how this intro was truly meant to be perceived. Rudess finishes his part of the intro with a final note that fades into the darkness like that of a glimpse of light that becomes dimmer and dimmer until it disappears into a darkened abyss. In contrast, Petrucci then hammered the audience with his menacing heavy guitar chords that were equally chilling but with a much sharper edge that led the band into the song’s array of funky odd time changes and uptempo grooves that are encased in a framework of heterogeneous moods.
Some of the other fan favorites this evening were “Losing Time/Grand Finale” which until this tour hadn’t been played live since 2006. “Pull Me Under” and “The Count of Tuscany” are also fan favorites with most of the audience around me singing right along with LaBrie on these two iconic DT tracks.
The band gave the audience a real treat on their two song encore and it was rather unique for a couple of reasons. The first song of the encore was a cover of the John Newton song, “Amazing Grace” that was performed by Jordan Rudess and multi instrumentalist Mike Keneally (Devin Townsend band) both on keyboards. “Amazing Grace” segued into “Act II: Scene Eight: The Spirit Carries On” from Dream Theater’s Six Degrees of Inner Turbulence LP and this version had DT accompanied by members of Animals as Leaders and Devin Townsend joining for an entertaining jam of this classic Dream Theater song. Devin Townsend and guitarist Tosin Abasi (Animals as Leaders) both inter-played with John Petrucci while Townsend drummer Darby Todd and DT drummer Mike Mangini shared the drum throne quite literally. The two drummers would seamlessly exchange places from standing at the side of the drums to moving onto the drum throne. Each drummer would take turns moving off the drum seat to make way for the other drummer while each drummer would continuously keep playing throughout the song. The drum shenanigans continued even through the finale of drum file flurries at the song’s end without missing a single beat….impressive indeed. One interesting thing to note and worth mentioning is; “Act II: Scene Eight: The Spirit Carries” was first performed by Dream Theater live at the Celebrity Theater in Phoenix on January 31, 2000 and played on this show as the last song to the end of an extensive tour right here in Phoenix, AZ on July 26, 2023…Thank you Dream Theater for an Amazing Show that will never be forgotten and will probably never be repeated in this way!!!
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