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Over the last couple of years it’s fair to say that Dream Theater have become one of my all time favourite bands. Out of their 8 albums I adore 6, with Awake and Falling into Infinity being the only exceptions, and even they have their moments. I’ve also always enjoyed their live work, having seen ‘Live at Budokan’ and owning ‘Scenes from New York.’ So when I heard that they were releasing another DVD of their 20th anniversary tour finale, highlighting their entire career, I was always going to buy it at some point. Then of course I heard that some of the show was being played with the Octavarium orchestra, naturally I now intended to buy it as soon as it came out.
Well, firstly I have to say, the packaging looks awesome. Mike Portnoy designed it I believe, he’s a truly multi-talented guy. It’s eye catching indeed. There is no booklet to coincide with the actual DVD, just advertising one. However that matters little as the back of the cover features as many live photos of the band as you could possibly need. Overall, nicely packaged.
The DVD kicks off with a couple of tracks off “Octavarium” in the shape of The Root of All Evil and I Walk Beside You. These songs really work better live I feel, (perhaps it’s hearing them without the sub-par album production). Early on, you feel that LaBrie is on top form vocally and has a real aura about him.
This was a concert spanning their entire career so they then started playing songs in chronological order. From songs from the Majesty days like “Another Won” to classics like “Under a Glass Moon” they ripped through the set. They were all on top form, especially as I mentioned earlier LaBrie who was almost flawless. They finished the set with a moving performance of “The Spirit Carries On” and that was the end of part one of the concert. The highlight so far being LaBrie getting a chance to sing songs like “Afterlife” that were of course originally sung by Charles Dominici.
But it was now that the fun part began, as the Orchestra made their way out. We’ve heard bands like Metallica, Kiss and Scorpions play with orchestra’s, now it was Dream Theater’s turn… and what better song to open with for an orchestra than Six Degrees of Inner Turbulence. The band often paly snippets of the song live but this was a rare opportunity to hear the whole 45minutes + played live and with an orchestra to boot. One thing I noticed throughout this song and the rest of the concert in fairness is that the orchestra didn’t make as much of a difference as I expected. With bands I mentioned previously, it totally changed how certain songs sounded, however on this occasion (probably due to the fact that DT use more orchestration than the other band) the songs weren’t altered dramatically. However, the orchestra provided a subtle touch and extra edge to the ambience, they went so well with the band that they didn’t alter the sound as much as they might have.
They skip through tracks like “Vacant” (a chance for LaBrie to show us just how well he was singing) and “The Answer Lies Within” and then we were back with Octavarium. (While it was a career-spanning concert, this was still the main focus) One of the real highlights was “Sacrificed Sons” which sounded awesome with the orchestra as well and with LaBrie on such good form. After “Octavarium” the band went off but came back for one more encore, their classic “Metropolis” leaving the crowd in attendance and folk like me watching the DVD very happy.
Their performance of every song was as ever verging on flawless. They truly are incredible musicians and LaBrie proved this night that he is a great singer himself. My only slight problem was with the song selection. Overall it was good, no doubt, but it was missing some more punch. It may have benefited from another song off “Train of Thought” to add a bit of impact, it wasn’t the heaviest set they’ve ever done.
However, all in all it was an awesome live performance.
Now it’s always a good sign when there is a whole new disco for extras, and the extras don’t come any better than this. There is the usual tomfoolery of artwork and the like, but here we have a couple of extra live tracks and most importantly, the main attraction the hour-long documentary. Now, often documentaries are too short and whip quickly through a band’s career, but DT have never been one’s to cut things short. The documentary charts the band’s career, from how they met and formed in Music College to their recent success. With each member of the band (as well as a couple of past members) adding their two cents this documentary and the extras themselves prove to be a winner.
So, overall this was a seriously good DVD package. The packaging is good, there are genuinely worthwhile extras and of course, the concert performance is brilliant as always. In fact, it was a particularly good show and this is a particularly good DVD release, and by Dream Theater standards that truly is saying something.
There comes a moment in every band’s career that calls for celebration. In Dream Theater’s case, that moment was an April 1st, 2006 concert at New York City’s legendary Radio City Music Hall – a show described by radio host Eddie Trunk as having “a buzz in the air unseen for a long time.” The moment was fully captured on Score; a two disc DVD set containing over four hours of music, documentary footage, and even Japanese cartoon segments. By the conclusion of the colossal package, I am left with a feeling that very few bands are still able bring about. Dream Theater has been around for 20 years, trial and tribulation in the rear mirror (or so it seems), and still kicking more ass than a majority of musical acts today.
Score’s first disc is the fully recorded concert in it’s entirety from Radio City, a sellout crowd and flashing lights setting the mood of an action-packed evening. Unlike its predecessor - Live at Budokan, Score presents a brighter and mellower mood, the antithesis to Budokan’s heavy and often dark segments. Although the sound is not as evenly mixed as Budokan, it is still an incredible sounding DVD that rivals pretty much anything out there right now. The one audio flaw to be picked out in Score is found during the latter half of the show during “Part VI: Solitary Shell” where the 5.1 mix goes out before recovering quickly. The layer change takes place minutes earlier during “Part III: War Inside My Head.”
Besides a minor sound flaw and mistimed layer change, Disc One of Score is majestic in every sense of the word. The concert begins in typical fashion, Dream Theater opening with a bang in the form of Octavarium’s “The Root of All Evil.” The song is performed wonderfully, an obvious energy being shown by performers and listeners alike. The next song, taking a complete turn from the riffage-fest of “Root” is fellow Octavarium track “I Walk Beside You.” Despite negative reviews in its studio-recorded form, “I Walk Beside You” is greatly complemented in a live setting and shows singer James LaBrie to be in top form.
As the set progresses, Dream Theater travels back to their early days in 1986 and proceed to run through one song off each record before closing the first set with Scene From A Memory’s “The Spirit Carries On.” Two big surprises here are “Another Won” and “Raise the Knife,” previously unreleased songs that give evidence of how diverse Dream Theater can be. While “Another Won” is a faster-paced track focusing on fantasy, “Raise the Knife” is a dreamy journey that primarily focuses on former keyboardist Kevin Moore.
Set two begins with the colossal 41 minute epic “Six Degrees of Inner Turbulence.” Adding to the fact the number is making its first appearance on DVD; the Octavarium Orchestra makes their debut here. Overall, the track is one of the most powerful things I’ve ever seen played in a live setting. Despite several muck-ups by the Orchestra (“Part I: Overture” being a prime example), the strings generally sound excellent as they are used as more a backdrop than the focus of the song. “Six Degrees of Inner Turbulence” is definitely highlighted by “Part II: About to Crash,” “Part V: Goodnight Kiss,” “Part VII: About to Crash (Reprise),” and “Part VII: Losing Time.” James LaBrie again proves to be in top form, his vocals greatly raising the level of intensity showcased throughout “Six Degrees.”
From here, the band plays “Vacant” from Train of Thought, followed by “The Answer Lies Within,” “Sacrificed Sons,” and “Octavarium.” The two latter titles bode very well with the orchestra (Not a coincidence considering they were both recorded with the strings) and again showcase Dream Theater’s incredible live ability. John Petrucci’s solo-section at the conclusion of the “Sacrificed Sons” instrumental break is enough to make one weep, and “Octavarium’s” concluding orchestral section will send shivers down your spine. As a final encore, the band revisits Images and Words’ “Metropolis – Part 1.” The orchestra joins them, and blasts out possibly their best performance of the night. The instrumental section, the unison solos, the concluding verse – Incredible!
Disc Two’s main component is the documentary: “The Score so Far.” For the most part, the documentary is more for the average listener than hardcore fan. Nothing is told about EP: A Change of Seasons, the AA Saga, or notable live shows (Roseland Ballroom, Budokan). Despite this, the documentary is still enjoyable to watch. Three previously unreleased tracks are also available, “The Great Debate, Honor Thy Father and Another Day.” None of these songs are mixed properly, and are bootleg quality at best. They don’t do anything justice, but are again fun to hear from time-to-time. Finally, the band showcases their famous “Octavarium Animation” which involves their animated selves running from spiders, playing their instruments, and basically going crazy.
In the end, Score shows a band who’s intensity is raised tenfold. The energy in the crowd is apparent, the orchestra’s influence shown perfectly, and the emotion of the concert is given complete justice. Sure Score is not as well mixed as Budokan, sure the orchestra does flutter in certain sections, but put aside the slight problems and you are still left with a masterpiece. Score is the perfect representation of Dream Theater’s 20 years of music, and the perfect representation of a band who tries giving their fans as much as possible. Quite frankly, by this point you should have picked up a copy already, but if not – do so or you will miss out on one of the best musical DVD packages ever released.
Notable Tracks – Raise the Knife, Six Degrees of Inner Turbulence, Octavarium
Almost everything you love about Dream Theater is packed into this DVD.
After 20 years of creating music and releasing several (and in my opinion, just a bit too many) live albums and videos, Dream Theater's still going strong. They just keep getting better and better with time, and this DVD proves it.
The first disc immediately jumps into the performance, giving the viewer a good look at Radio City Music Hall - six thousand fans packed into one place for a spectacular two and a half hour performance. As the names of the band members appear, the crowd's cheering and the ending piano melody of their song In The Name of God plays, which, if you know about Dream Theater's musical cleverness, leads into The Root of All Evil. Above the stage are three screens displaying animations to go with the songs, and as The Root of All Evil begins, you see the Newton's Cradle of the Octavarium album cover swing back and forth.
The entire band shows a lot of energy, smiling and laughing and having a good time, especially Jordan Rudess on keyboards. Playing songs from the beginning of their career all the way to their latest studio album, 2005's Octavarium, they sometimes sound even better than their studio recordings. Classics such as Under A Glass Moon and The Spirit Carries On are played (the latter creating a sea of lights in the audience; it creates a really majestic, cool atmosphere), and even some lesser known tracks such as Raise the Knife are performed.
I suppose most people are wondering about the actual performance of the band members, however. I can tell you they're in top shape, and play even better than their studio recordings for the most part. They play everything perfectly. John Petrucci's on fire, playing lengthy, complex solos and having fun with it all. You can see John Myung going wild on bass and Mike Portnoy playing the hell out of the drums - you can see him having a lot of fun during the songs and even communicates with the crowd.
Jordan Rudess and James LaBrie get the most recognition from me, however. Rudess sounds excellent and his solos are pretty extreme for keyboards, you can see him laugh during his solos and just in general. His use of the continuum at the beginning of Octavarium can be summed up with one word - 'wow.' I'm seriously amazed at that instrument, let alone how Rudess plays it.
LaBrie sounds better than ever. All those high notes on the albums? He nails every one of them perfectly. He puts emotion into his voice; he doesn't just belt them out because he has to. Even the older songs like Under A Glass Moon or Afterlife, he's flawless throughout the entire DVD.
As you know, they perform with an orchestra, but only for the second setlist of the concert. The orchestra performs the Overture of Six Degrees of Inner Turbulence, and then they kick in to do the whole song - not like Budokan, when they only did bits and pieces scattered around the setlist. All of Six Degrees of Inner Turbulence, superb, with an actual orchestra backing it up. Not only do they play Six Degrees, but they stick around for the rest of the concert, playing Vacant, The Answer Lies Within, Sacrificed Sons, the mysterious, puzzle-ridden Octavarium, and the famous Metropolis for an encore. A very large, full orchestra, sounding very good and even better with Dream Theater playing alongside them made the DVD exceed my expectations.
The second disc is a detailed documentary of Dream Theater, all the way from the very beginning to the Score concert itself. After that are three bonus videos, from 1993 to 2005. They're good, not the best songs that could've been played (I personally would've preferred a video of The Glass Prison in all its glory), but they're fun to watch.
My one and only complaint about the DVD is that there's an animation between the Full Circle and Intervals sections of Octavarium that I don't believe you can turn off, and it's not Pink Floyd - The Wall type of animation either, it's a weird, almost flash-type of animation, but it's trippy.
All in all, if you even mildly like Dream Theater, go buy this DVD. It's worth the $20 I paid for it, and I gladly would've paid twice that or more for it. You'll watch it more than once. The quality of both the audio/video and the band's playing is incredible and I doubt many will disagree with that. Score packs a variety of Dream Theater's music into one excellent concert and the only other songs I could've asked for were The Glass Prison and A Change of Seasons. But come on, haven't we heard those enough already? If you buy this DVD and haven't heard some of the songs, you'll not only come across more of their stuff, you'll find some very good music.