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Well, allow me to start by stating that I have seen Dream Theater before, and this truly captures their live performance: Boring and a test of one's patience. Sure, they can play every song note for note, but when there's no stage energy whatsoever it kind of loses it's entire point. I mean, I could listen to an album and look at a picture of them and save my $60... but enough about my experiences, on with the actual review.
The first disc, I can pretty much entirely skip over, since it's just 3/4 of Scenes From A Memory done almost exactly as the CD was, with some annoying solos and some seriously offkey vocal moments. The original wasn't too bad, but these flaws seriously detracted from the music and I found myself eagerly waiting for it to end. The album ended rather abruptly and I thought to myself "Huh? Where's the rest of the disc?" I threw in the next disc, and found the rest of Scenes From A Memory... would it have been too much to ask to put the whole thing on one CD? They've already inconvenienced me enough by making me listen to the whole album, but do they really have to make it span two discs? I guess they do! A minor gripe, yes, but a gripe nonetheless.
After Scenes From A Memory finally ended, it was on to the less predictable half of the set list. The second disc, as could be expected, was plagued with the same problems as the first with a few extra problems. A number of transitions between songs were abrupt and very poorly done, like certain members didn't realize they were done with the song they were doing. Some of the added solos were inanely long, the nearly 7 minute keyboard solo getting special note for using an obviously pre-recorded synth drum beat, like the kind that comes pre-packed on inexpensive Yamahas. Yeah, good job guys.
By the third disc, I realized that this wasn't going to change in any way. It seemed like they threw this setlist together as sort of a sick joke, fully intent on picking only their longest most mind-numbing songs available so they could maximize their showing off time. I was kind of surprised when, by the end of this masochistic effort, I hadn't heard one moment of simplistic catchiness. No Pull Me Under, no Hollow Years, just hours upon hours of boring senseless wanking.
By the end of this I was overjoyed that it was finally over, bored to the point of exhaustion and mildly agitated as well. Even without having to sit through Scenes From A Memory, this would've been a difficult listen, but with it included it's much much worse. A live album should be at least somewhat different from the studio release, but this is quite possibly the most sterile live album I've ever heard. Just listen to the studio albums if you must, or one of the hundreds of better bands, and don't bother wasting your time on this crap. If, for some illogical reason, you feel a bizarre compulsion to waste $25 on this so you can hear "awesome solos" like 8 seconds worth of the Simpsons theme, I genuinely pity you.
Dream Theater have always made good live albums, but with this release they somehow managed to top even Once In A LIVEtime. This three-disc live set is a Dream Theater fan's Holy Grail. The band's musicianship is as virtuositic (is that even a word?) as ever, and new keyboardist Jordan Rudess proves himself as a more than competent replacement for Derek Sherinian.
The first disc contains nearly all of Scenes From A Memory (!!) and a solo by John Petrucci and Theresa Thompson. The performance of SFAM is great, and is sometimes preferable to the studio versions of the songs. The second disc contains the rest of SFAM, Metropolis Part I, The Mirror, Just Let Me Breathe, a bastardized version of Acid Rain, Caught In A New Millenium (a weird hybrid mix of Caught In A Web and New Millenium), Another Day and a keyboard solo by Jordan Rudess. The band keeps with their fantastic performance throughout the disc, especially in the songs The Spirit Carries On, Finally Free and Metropolis Part I. Finally, disc three contains the A Mind Beside Itself trilogy (Erotomania, Voices, The Silent Man), Learning To Live, and, of course that old Dream Theater classic, A Change of Seasons.
I only have a couple of problems with this album. For one thing, they didn't play Pull Me Under, Ytse Jam or Take The Time. Another thing is that James LaBrie's voice cracks a few times (but this is really too insignificant to be a problem). The awesome setlist and the all-out awesomeness more than make up for this though. If you don't own this album, go out and buy it right now. You won't be dissapointed.
This must be one of the greatest live albums of all time! Dream Theater is one of the few bands I know that sounded just as good if not better live. I was sceptical about this album after I listened to Once In a Livetime which was released a few years earlier. LaBrie's voice seemed to give out rather easily and the song selection was sub-par, but here, he hits all of the notes that he had been able to hit for the earlier albums, especially the two tracks from Images and Words. I wouldn't have been surprised if this was disappointing, but DT doesn't fail too often. The instrumentation of John Myung and John Petrucci is always dead on. Portnoy improvises a bit, but he's seem to have mastered the art.
Since Scenes From a Memory happens to be one of my personal favorite albums, I thought I'd give this a shot. Not only do all of the tracks sound close to replicas of the originals with James put a new twist on some of the vocals.
Through Her Eyes is probably the real standout from the first cd. It sounds a bit sappy in the studio, but adding drums to the end of the track made it one of the premier ballads of progressive metal.
Metropolis Pt. 1 has always been one of the bands heaviest songs, and although some of their recent music has gone in a different direction, they still kick maximum ass at performing this old favorite. Myung's bass playing here is phenomenal!
The Mirror is probably the single heaviest Dream Theater track. I was really surprised that LaBrie could still hit some of the notes to this song. Fans of any type of metal are sure to love this one.
Acid Rain is a Liquid Tension Experiment track. Why shouldn't DT do it? The only member missing is Tony Levin, and I believe Myung is great enough to fill his shoes. Although its only an instrumental, it remains one of the heaviest tracks recorded by DT members.
Another Day is absolutely brillant on this album. I loved it before, and I think I might like it better on here. Some may think that saxophone doesn't make for a good metal song, but DT prove that they obviously don't care, giving the saxophonist free reign to add more of the instrument and more virtuosity to the song.
Jordan Rudess' keyboard solo doesn't need much said about it. Its proof here that he is more than likely Dream Theater's best keyboardist, slightly ahead of Kevin Moore.
Don't have Change of Seasons? No need to worry about it now unless you want the covers. On Live Scenes, the band does the entire track flawlessly! Its a pure masterpiece!
There is no way that any fan of the genre could not appreciate this album, especially since its over 3 hours of music. If you like DT even remotely, buy this immediately.