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Whenever I thought about Live at the Marquee I would say "Hey, it's only six songs, it can't be that good". Of course, I though that way maybe because I expected more from a live album, and even much more knowing that it is not any random band, but we're talking about prog gods Dream Theater here, recalling that they have 3 hour-long setlists. If you think properly about this, all this information may be correct, but you're forgetting something. Dream Theater was a really young band back then in the '93, and even being as famous as they were for their acknowledged single, Pull Me Under, they still had a long way to go. Now, since I've recently entered deeply into the early Dream Theater world (not that I wasn't there before, but I just wanted to know more), I decided to get Live at the Marquee and see what it was all about. I found myself much more trapped withing the sound of this than I ever thought I would be.
Dream Theater has always kept the intention of playing perfectly live. Here on Live at the Marquee they had not yet reached to the point where adding extra pieces (or "improvisations", as they are wrongly called nowadays) to the songs, but instead they tried to play the songs properly, identically to the ones on the album. The only one to differ in these standards was James LaBrie, whose case I will explain later on. The mixing of this live album helps a lot in the replication of the studio version of the songs. Every instrument, just like on the albums, which by the date were only two, stands out as much as the others. I especially like the fact that there are When Dream and Day Unite songs in here, since those are pretty uncommon these days and, besides this, they are sang by James LaBrie instead of Charlie Dominici and their sound quality (believe it or not) is better than the one from the studio versions of the songs. They also added Another Hand to make a variation on The Killing Hand's intro. As much as I like The Killing Hand's original version, Another Hand makes it even better and propels the listener to keep listening to the song. It was also a step up to the "extra pieces" that they add more than commonly now.
As mentioned earlier, Dream Theater was a very young band back then. Regardless of this, they have always been virtuosos on their instruments, every single one of them. One of the most outstanding things of Live at the Marquee is James LaBrie. If you have seen any recent live performances by them, it is easy to notice how much his voice has changed. On Live at the Marquee, LaBrie's voice is intendedly powerful, wide-ranged and perfectly managed and really in-tune with the songs. He by no means lets his skills be overshadowed by other elements in the music and in fact does his best effort here. If you listen to Metropolis in here, he has that uncommon grip on his voice, and at the same time he lets his range go out as high as it can, even singing out a F#5 in mid-verse. That's only a slight proof of how good he did in here. Kevin Moore, ex-keyboardist of the band, was also in here. He, unlike Rudess, makes the songs sound more similar to their album versions, for he is the one to have the original patches of the songs and he doesn't add improvisations to the songs. For comprehension, listen to Live at Budokan's Pull Me Under and this album's version of Pull Me Under.
Other than that we have John Myung, John Petrucci and ex-drummer Mike Portnoy. They, as usual, try to play the songs perfectly while adding their unique touch to the music. The most outstanding track for the three of them and Moore is Bombay Vindaloo, a song that is unique for this album. Petrucci gets the spotlight fully on him in this song, doing some awesome fast and sensefull solos, while Myung shows off his bass playing technique more in the intro with some bass harmonics and such. The song has basically this harmonic minor (or Egyptian-like) sound to it, but it is utterly enjoyable. It is mostly pretty calm, with some string backups by Moore and a common, yet at times progressive drumming from Portnoy. The solos' work in every other song was great, they were performed identically to the album versions but they still have the crisp of a live presentation.
So yeah, six songs only. The reason for liking this album so much is the perfection of how those six songs are performed, the energy of the audience and the outstanding power in LaBrie's vocals. I think this is a true "must" for every single Dream Theater fan, so if you don't have it try to check it out.
6 tracks? Of course, ti doesn't sound intimidating to pick up. In fact, I almost turned down this album because of how short it was. It's only 45 minutes! However, what's in store is where it counts.
Ever hear the saying "Don't judge a book by its cover."? Yeah, somebody told me that when I was questioning this album.
Opening this live show you get blasted by the infamous sci-fi metal of Metropolis. Even the transition in to A Fortune In Lies is good. However, those aren't the gems, but they sure start it off, (especially since it's awesome to hear LaBrie sing this, instead of Dominici's "career killing" voice at the time) along with a beautiful Surrounded. However, take a listen to Bombay Vindaloo, and suddenly Dream Theater takes you on a roller coaster of sheer metallity. Starts off slow, I know, but keep in mind, this is a JAM here. Planned, but improvised. From Portnoy's rollin' beats in the back in the beginning to Petrucci's and Moore's sheer annihilation of their respective metal tools.
Then you have to go through Another Hand / The Killing Hand. With LaBrie, this is about as metal as you can get from him. The only time where saying that LaBrie got his testes caught in a doorjam is actually a good thing in the fact that the result tears down the Marquee at the sheer awesomeness the entire band pulls out in this show.
Then of course you have Pull Me Under at the end, always a great song to end, because you always have a crowd pleaser there.
That said, this live show is not perfect because of Surrounded. I like the song, they play it wonderfully here, but seeing as I vary a lot between metal and prog rock, mostly to the metal side................meh. Doesn't matter, the album is still awesome anyway.
Highlights: Bombay Vindaloo, Another Hand / The Killing Hand, Pull Me Under
Whoa. Colour me skullfucked by the sheer verve, grit, and above all monstrous heaviness of this record. Yeah, heaviness. Dream Theater has never been afraid to drag the waters of heaviness, but when do they get credit for it? From the neoclassical shred of When Dream and Day Unite to the emotional holocaust of Awake and even up unto the holy havoc of "The Glass Prison" and Train of Thought, DT have been remarkably loudly and proudly metal over the years, but as with Rush in the 70s and Fates Warning in the 80s they don't get enough credit for it.
I know that, I've been bitching about it for years. But this thing still took me by surprise. Because it is live and loud and HEAVY. Over a scant six tracks Dream Theater transforms a handful of their classic tracks into monsterliths, in the proud tradition of no less than Unleashed in the East. Live at the Marquee isn't the easiest record to find around these parts, and I held off on actually going out and getting it for many moons because its just a six track record and Dream Theater has no lack of quality live material (one two-disc, two three-discs, and a wealth of bootlegs). But then I downloaded "Another Hand - The Killing Hand".
"The Killing Hand" has always been a fine track and I really dug the Fates Warning-ness of it all, but I never imagined how it could be so much improved by five years of touring and a singer at the height of his abilities. I was interested in hearing the "Another Hand" jam that opened the song more than the song itself, but as good as it is "Another Hand" is merely an appetizer. "Another Hand" is a cool little melodic interlude that sounds almost exactly like the intro to "Through Her Eyes" with some tasteful soloing from Kevin Moore. It is in fact a wonderful little instrumental that would've been a great addition to Images & Words but then it builds up into that iconic intro to "The Killing Hand".... and we're on another plain of metal excellence.
By being free of the limiting factors of Charlie Dominici and poor production, the regal heaviness of this stuff breathes free, rocking hard and riffing tightly like the bravura power-prog that it is. This is rooted in the pre-power metal genius of bands like Fates Warning and Savatage, and as a result there is a heady grandeur in the blazing violin-like guitars that rip through the up-tempo section en route to a killer solo, old school John Petrucci to the hilt. And then the melodic sections, rather than taking away from the power of the thing or even adding metal-diluting emotion simply build up more to the shrieking, pounding, ear-drum bursting climax.
Oh and James LaBrie? He's fucking badass on this thing. No bullshit. I've heard Images & Words, I know how fresh and lively and pure his performance is on that record is. You almost expect rainbows to burst from his vocal chords at times. Here he basically stands there screaming his balls off. It is difficult to call any performance more metal than this without resorting to truly abstract trains of thought to disqualify it. And even if you try that, it won't work. But James will just scream "Remembered is the sacrifice/but the praisal of blood is still flowing!" or "I am the KILLING HAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAANNNNNDDDDDD!!! UAAAWAAAGGGHHH!!!!" and you're forced to be silent and admit that Dream Theater know how to put down their calculators and rock royally.
And that's just one track. Every other track is knocked right out of the park. From the first guitar riff of "Metropolis" every even vaguely heavy chord is turned into a leaden 16-ton weight, every aching dewy-eyed high note screeched like LaBrie is coming after Bruce Dickinson with a garrotting wire. Petrucci emphatically proves his love of metal guitar by crunching massively but with an eye for the song (which he often loses track of these days) while Portnoy and Myung enthusiastically bash along. In fact, the only one who retains his usual sound is Kevin Moore, but this works perfectly even amongst the heavier portions and in general he provides an interesting counterpoint to the guitar-fuelled chaos elsewhere, particularly on tracks like "Metropolis". And yet, even he gets his metal fix on "Pull Me Under", where his propulsive lead work is headbangable and thickly grooved.
And for those of you afraid to be smothered by such devastating metal might, a beautiful rendition of "Surrounded" proves that Dream Theater hasn't forgotten how to play emotionally effecting but propulsive prog (Moore is a dominating force on this track), and LaBrie outdoes himself on one of his most technically demanding vocal workouts. But then you'll probably be using this track (as well as the stunning "Bombay Vindaloo" jam) to recover from the carpe jugulum overkill of "A Fortune in Lies" another WDADU stalwart that gets juiced up with the power of an entire hydroelectric plant. Like mad chemists, Dream Theater cooked up a volatile mix of tight-as-thrash riffing and claustrophobic alien grooves that showcased jaw-dropping finesse and blazing metal insight and out came the studio edition of "A Fortune in Lies". Now, if you take this perfect mixture and toss in an unhinged James LaBrie and a manic hyperspeed reshred of one Petrucci's most insane solos you get pure godliness.
This is Dream Theater in those magical days prior to the release of their undeniable masterwork Awake, and the subsequent loss of Kevin Moore and their original magic. This is Dream Theater in love with prog and metal and playing it damned well. Live at the Marquee is only six tracks long, but even at this length it is perhaps their greatest live performance on record and it is all definitely worth owning. Seek it out, even if you didn't like Images & Words much. You may be surprised.
Stand-Outs: "Another Hand - The Killing Hand", "A Fortune in Lies", "Bombay Vindaloo"