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There's no point doing an in depth analysis of the songs on this DVD. If you want to know about the actual musical content I suggest reading the reviews for Metropolis Pt 2: Scenes From a Memory. This DVD is a live representation of that album played in full, plus a few extra songs at the end.
Scenes From a Memory (I'll call it SFaM from now on) is a legendary album. A 77 minute progressive metal concept album dealing with love, deceit, revenge and murder in the context of regression therapy, it is Dream Theater's most ambitious album and one of the highlights of their career. Being a long and complex album it is not easily digestible and isn't necessarily one I'd listen to regularly, but when in the mood for it this album is a real treat. So how does it come across in a live setting? Brilliant, with a few minor issues.
The musical performance is truly astonishing, as we come to expect from Dream Theater. Mike Portnoy is a drum god, absolutely flawless but also looks like he's really enjoying himself. John Petrucci is on fire here, his lead guitar work being a particular highlight. The backing vocals of these two are pretty good for the most part too. John Myung's basslines hold it all together, business as usual as he plays in his typically efffortless manner. This is the first live DVD with Jordan Rudess (SFaM being his first DT album too) and his atmospheric keyboards as well as his lead work is a massive improvement on the Derek Sherinian years. Nothing against Sherinian, but I much prefer Rudess in DT. Finally, James LaBrie, he has his critics but his performance here is excellent. Apart from a few wobbly moments, he performs his vocals with great power and emotion. If you're a fan of LaBrie, he's on form here. If you don't like his voice, this won't change your opinion. Overall top notch performances from the band members.
As I said at the start of the review there's little point in a track by track review. The chances are you'll only watch this if you're a fan of SFaM so you'll know the material. The whole album is here and performed astoundingly well. I only have two problems with this performance:
Theresa Thomason. I can't stand her voice! At least on the studio album she was used sparingly. Although she only appears twice on this live show, she's given more time to basically wail annoyingly. I don't like this style of singing at all. It conjures up comparisons to Mariah Carey and Whitney Houston and frankly it makes me want to hack off my ears! I don't want to hear wailing female singers anywhere, least of all on a progressive metal album or live show. After reading that you can probably imagine my thoughts on the gospel choir during 'The Spirit Carries On'. Yeah, I didn't care for that either. I hate gospel music and it instantly gets skipped on any music DVD/show/film etc. I've heard that song live without all the backing wailing and it is so much better without it.
My other gripe is only a minor one. Dream Theater decided to fully realise this concept album by essentially making a video accompaniment to the music, acting out the story. It's pretty low budget. OK, I'm not expecting DT to finance Robert De Niro but even so, the acting is pretty poor. It's like a bad B-movie. A really bad one. Half the time it just features lyrics flashing up on screen. The DVD has some cool effects, particularly during 'Home' with it's psychedelic riffs fitting well with the flashy, spinning lights and the split camera work, reversed shots and such. Sadly, 'Finally Free' is spoiled by too much of this poor video being shown as the story comes to its grim conclusion. I'd rather watch the musicians to be honest.
The bonus features include a photo gallery, a documentary and some additional live footage. This includes a live performance of 'A Change of Seasons' which is a nice treat. Fairly minimal extras but decent enough.
So we've got a fantastic performance of a truly spellbinding album (apart from the gospel stuff), only flawed by a lack of budget failing to match the ambitious vision of the band. Definitely worth getting if you're a fan of Dream Theater, particularly if you love SFaM.
This DVD covers most of Dream Theater's August 30th set at the New York Roseland Ballroom on the 2000 Metropolis Tour. The main 'programme' as it were is the first set of the night, when the band performed the entire Scenes From A Memory album. It's pretty much incredible. It's probably my favourite Dream Theater album and to see the guys themselves play it in all its glory (and a little more) is very interesting. Almost everything you hear on the album (including the hypnotist from the beginning and end of the album, and the choir) is performed live, and aside from a couple of off-key notes from James LaBrie, everything is performed to perfection. Even the bizarrely technical Dance Of Eternity is nailed. I think the only thing wrong with it is, as others have said, the video effects that have been put on the performance. There's loads of splitscreens, odd psychedelic effects and plenty of, as the band put it "Japanese seizure moments". While it can be quite useful to see what each band member is doing during the really technical moments, sometimes it's just annoying and takes away from the mysterious atmosphere of the story the album tells.
The bonus material includes a documentary including interviews with Kevin Shirley (DT's mixing engineers) and several fans, most of whom aren't very clever. "The best thing about them is the songs." No shit. The documentary in general is quite dull but you get some laughs out of these fans who are clearly are a bit strange. There wasn't an awful lot that was 'behind the scenes', just concert footage, fans and Kevin Shirley, which disappointed me especially when their other DVDs normally expose a lot of light on the process of making a Dream Theater release.
Dream Theater played two sets that night, unfortunately only five songs were put on the DVD (well, 3 songs basically as it includes A Mind Beside Itself), but they're performed perfectly as usual. There's a photo gallery played over a medley of DT songs, which is really little more than a lot of crowds from different places they've been on the tour.
The best thing about this DVD, though is the audio commentary by the band. It's only available for the Scenes From A Memory set but it was very interesting and connected together a lot of pieces of the musical puzzle that the album is. There were a few references to other songs that I hadn't noticed before which were pointed out by the guys, and especially the story of the album becamse fully clear after watching it, because along with the video projections of a dramatization of key moments of the story and images, Petrucci explains what James is singing about at that point, and how it all fits in. I now fully understand the story, and the rather mysterious ending which before left me rather underwhelmed, but now I understand the full situation it makes a lot of sense.
If you're a big fan of the Scenes From A Memory album, then this is a great purchase, but it should really be seen anyway just because live Dream Theater is a great thing to watch.
I was a bit reluctant to buy this DVD at first since it's a bit more expensive than other concert DVDs (about $22 most places). Anyway, after finally getting it I was very pleased. Seeing A Change of Seasons alone makes the DVD worth buying. It's incredible. My only complaint for the concert overall is the cheesy effects frequently used in some of the songs (effects include the Dream Theater logo used in a variety of ways, camera tricks like mirror image view with Jordan on piano, etc). It detracts from the concert feel and it's a bit annoying at times. However, this certainly should not stop you from getting this! I particularly enjoy some of the video clips played along with the performance since they provide a visual representation of the story behind the album. Some of the extras aren't all the special, but the extra concert clips (in addition to the SfaM album live) are definately worthy of watching a few times.
I definately suggest checking this out. The only negative comment I can make is the effects, and overall, this is really just a minor problem.
This DVD is a must have for all Dream Theater fans. It is simply amazing. They play their conceptual opus to near perfection. What an awesome concert that must have been to see in person. A twenty four minute marathon of a song . . . AS AN ENCORE!!!
I have only a few complaints about this disc. (1) I think they should have included the whole entire concert. The additional songs are great, but the whole thing would have been superb. I understand if that would have required two discs and the record company just didn't want to go for that, but I can dream can't I? (2) James's vocals suffer in a few places, primarily in "Finally Free." I understand the rigors of preforming a two hour+ set every night, but it is a bit disappointing. (3) The behind the scenes stuff sucked. The interviews with some of the fans were cool, but I think that disc space would have been better spent on additional songs from the concert. (4) Some of the effects are kinda cheesey. Specifically the flipping John Myung up-side-down effect. (5) You can't hear John Petrucci on the commentary. Apparently he sat too far away from the microphone. John Myung hardly ever speaks so you essentially only get three out of five members of the band in the commentary. I also think they should have recorded commentary for the bonus tracks as well.
Despite these short comings this is still a great DVD.
Okay I know hearing Dream Theater on studio albums is godly. Now here's something you wouldn't expect: watching this DVD is even more. The deal is that they play the entire Scenes from a memory live, and to make sure the viewer follows the story there's some film clips along with it, and they even got a person on stage playing the hypnotherapist.
I can say that it's a out of this world-experience to watch these guys go off on stage, especially in my fave tracks Beyond this life, Fatal tragedy and Dance of eternity. James sings like a god and the rest.. well you can imagine.
There's also bonus tracks, including the whole A change of seasons and A mind beside itself.
The only thing I found not as interesting was the "behind the scenes" and the photo gallery.
Buy this fucking thing right now if you call yourself a Dream Theater fan.