July 19, 2012
Verizon Theatre at Grand Prairie
Grand Prairie, TX USA
Review by Andy Laudano
Photos by Andy Laudano
In what had to be a progressive rock fan's wildest dream, the Verizon Wireless Theater in Grand Prairie, Texas played host to the incredible pairing of Dream Theater and The Crimson Projekt. For those of you not in the know, the Crimson Projekt features legendary King Crimson members, Adrian Belew (vocals/guitar) and Tony Levin (bass). Their set opened with two drummers playing in synch, before getting real improvisational as the rest of the band took the stage.
Once they settled into the actual playing of the songs, they began to win over the portion of the audience that was unfamiliar with them. Levin is regarded as one of the best bass players in the world. It was fascinating to watch him play his Chapman stick, a twelve-stringed instrument that looks like a fat guitar neck. The musician's instrument, like the music the Crimson Projekt performed, was definitely way out there. Only the most serious progressive rock nerd had a clue what was transpiring on stage. Fortunately for the band, there were plenty of 'way out' people in the crowd that were delighted with the music that was coming from the stage.During intermission, fans flocked to the front of the stage to take photos with the band's various instruments and equipment. Most of the crowd at a Dream Theater concert is made up by fellow musicians, so it this phenomenon is something you only really see at these shows.
As the lights dimmed, a fun animated feature appeared on the screens showing the band as different characters. Front man James LaBrie was a pirate. Guitarist John Petrucci was a barbarian, bassist John Myung a ninja, keyboard player Jordan Rudess a wizard, and drummer Mike Mangini was a genie. It set the tone for the performance this crowd was about it witness.
The tone for the night was set hard and fast with the opener, "Bridges in the Sky" and crowd pleaser, "The Dark Eternal Night." There really is nothing more spectacular than watching four of the best musicians in the world do what they do best. Each member was given ample time to showcase their virtuoso skills and technical proficiency. Vocalist James LaBrie sounded better than ever, especially during "On the Backs of Angels" and crowd favorite, "The Spirit Carries On."
As someone who has seen this band multiple times with former founding member Mike Portnoy, I can say without absolute certainty that Mike Mangini was the perfect replacement for the legendary drummer. Even if their latest opus, the brilliant A Dramatic Turn of Events hadn't of convinced there is life after Portnoy, watching Mangini play live erased any doubt I had. Mangini doesn't have the larger than life presence his predecessor had. He doesn't perform behind a drum kit that takes up half the stage. What he does provide is power, passion and precision, which is exactly what a Dream Theater song has to have. With a smile never leaving his face, it was obvious how much fun the musician was having. His fellow band mates all nodded in agreement. They found a diamond in the rough that not only fit the band's personality, but satisfied the demands of Dream Theater exacting fans. Keyboard wiz Jordan Rudess had a cool, hydraulic setup that tilted on a 45 degree angle for even more intense soloing. His Wizard character from the opening cartoon returned onscreen during his solos. Fans watched with awe at how fast his fingers flew across the keys. At one point there was an incredible improv between Rudess and guitarist John Petrucci that was mind-blowing for the audience to watch.
The show came to an end following an awesome encore of "Metropolis Pt. 1: The Miracle and The Sleeper," from their breakthrough album, Images and Words. The album had just celebrated its 20th anniversary two days prior. In fact, considering the timing of the anniversary, the only possible minor complaint to this incredible show was the fact the band did not play their signature masterpiece, "Pull Me Under" or another classic, "Take the Time." Oh well, you can't have everything.