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What you'd expect - 65%

OlympicSharpshooter, August 22nd, 2004

Well, I'm generally not a fan of live albums because many of them reek of cash-in or a deficit of creativity, you know, a stop-gap in other words. I own several, but count few as my favourites. Once in a LIVEtime is no different, the record being a live album that has high-quality recording and solid performances, but not a record that takes great songs and makes them better (Let There Be Rock: The Movie, Unleashed in the East, Tokyo Tapes) and therefore perhaps not a must-own, not an integral addition to the catalogue.

Still any album that manages to pack no less than four of the best Dream Theater songs in a row, those being (he says in a quavering voice) "Voices", "Take the Time", "Scarred", and "Lines in the Sand", all of those songs being ten minute-plus Epics with that capital "E". Not only that, but they follow it with a killer instrumedley featuring "The Darkest of Winters" and the most insane 'world-domination through technicality' attempt, the "Ytse Jam". The first disc of this collection is a blinding collection of truly amazing songs, from pieces of inevitable (and overrated) fan-favourite "A Change of Seasons" to the aforementioned classics, it's all good. It's interesting what trade-offs you get, from the slightly sloppy yet sparkly and energetic live version of "Take the Time" as compared to the streamlined and totally perfect studio version.

Alas, the second disc is pretty weak in comparison, a frustrating Falling Into Infinity three-for kicking this off and boring you to death. I can't believe they actually performed "Take Away My Pain" live, let alone recorded it. Have they no shame? "Trial of Tears" features an extended intro which prolongs the boredom, and "Hollow Years" seems to just ramble on even longer than usual. "Caught in a Web" is solid, but man, "Lie" doesn't go as well as it should, and the final medley succeeds only in frustrating my interest in hearing good live versions of "Metropolis" and "Learning to Live". Luckily, "Peruvian Skies" and "Pull Me Under" knock it out of the park, the former grafting on pieces of "Have a Cigar" and "Enter Sandman" which somehow work perfectly.

Also, I hate solo spots on live albums because they lose all the effect they had on the live audience, and this album has three of them. Luckily, the piano solo and drum solo are kept short, and the guitar solo manages to be sporadically interesting.

Anyway, this album is well worth a buy if you don't feel like blowing a hole in your wallet for Live Scenes From New York, but it is simple a stellar live album, no more and certainly no less.