Countdown: DREAM THEATER’S Top 5 Live Albums + 2022 European Tour Kick-Off

Anticipation for Dream Theater’s long awaited return to European shores is reaching fever pitch in some households this side of the Atlantic. Perhaps none moreso than those attending the band’s upcoming opening night in Belfast, Northern Ireland on 20th April. 

The legendary NY band grace the Emerald Isle some TWENTY YEARS since last setting foot on an Irish stage.

Way back in 2002, Dublin’s hallowed venue Vicar Street played host to the opening night of the 3rd European leg of ‘World Tourbulence’, then in support of the bands breathtaking double album ‘Six Degrees of Inner Turbulence’. To say that Dream Theater and their live show have progressed and evolved since that time would be quite the understatement.

Dream Theater, finally recognised as deserving recipients of a Grammy Award (in the category of Best Metal Performance 2022) for ‘The Alien’ are bringing their ‘Top of the World Tour’ to us from late April through to June. They will be performing stand-out tracks from most recent opus ‘A View from the Top of the World’, alongside a deep dive into their catalogue spanning a mesmerising 37 year career and – if recent US set-lists are anything to go by. 

Dream Theater’s 2022 Grammy Award Winning Single ‘The Alien’.

With a monumental wait between visits, fans have fortunately been able to get their live DT fix through the sizeable catalogue of live albums and concert films, carefully and brilliantly produced by the band on almost every album cycle tour. In celebration of the prog-metal giants triumphant return, here are our TOP 5 absolute must-see live cuts from the DT concert video library.

5. BREAKING THE FOURTH WALL (2014)

On Breaking the Fourth Wall, we go along for the ride on Dream Theater’s self-titled album tour. Tapping the crew renowned for their work on Rush’s live concert films, Dream Theater are magnificently captured with accompaniment from the Berklee College of Music’s World Strings and Concert Choir; celebrating the bands long lauded connection with the esteemed institution. 

Particular applause needs to be given for the film’s ability to capture drummer Mike Mangini’s performance behind and with a truly seismic drum kit, with clever remote camera placement throughout – the band’s performance is not the only technical triumph on display in this film.

James LaBrie’s performance on ‘Breaking the Fourth Wall’ rightfully earns him the MVP of this set, case in point on the incredibly uplifting rendition of ‘Illumination Theory’, bolstered by the aforementioned orchestra from the opera house’s cavernous pit. This concert’s triumph is capturing and communicating the passion of Dream Theater’s audience and fan-base, some of whom actually make up the orchestra supporting the band over this performance.

4. CHAOS IN MOTION: 2007-2008 (2008)

A notable addition in the library for its candid, introspective study of life on the road of the logistical behemoth of a Dream Theater tour literally around the globe. This concert film perhaps captures touring life like no other film has done. There is little in the way of sordid partying and trashing hotel rooms, more so a focus on the practicalities of family life in a successful touring act; all delivered with good-humour and a huge amount of heart – clearly evident from the band and crew alike, for their work and methodical working process. 

Live tracks are captured at performances from Bangkok to Boston and lots in between; differing from other entries by way of it’s docu-style camera work and edit even during the live sections – gracing an air of authenticity over the bands unbelievable technical proficiency. 

3. LIVE AT BUDOKAN (2004)

The sheer quantity of notes played on this blistering live set from Tokyo’s legendary Nippon Budokan Hall in 2004 is enough to make the hair stand up on the back of your neck and take notice here. Dream Theater set themselves up to completely blow minds showcasing the full extent of their technical proficiency and metal roots whilst in support of 2003 album ‘Train of Thought’, captured on the Live at Budokan film.

Some stand out tracks from this live album include Instrumedley, 12 minute whirlwind tour through DT’s instrumental history, with the most unlikely key and time signature changes effortlessly pulled off by the band and the monstrously extended Beyond this Life featuring a blazing improvised jam in the middle, before crescendoing to an awe-inspiring synchronised return to the song. 

The band are captured at the peak of their improvisational, occasionally hilarious musical expressionism on ‘Budokan, and are presented in glorious clarity and range.

Side note: In 2015 I was fortunate to be involved in cutting a debut live DVD for a certain London based ‘extreme power metal’ band and we constantly referred to this DVD during the editing process, taking particular inspiration from it’s uniquely detail oriented edit and production (by none other than Mike Portnoy and John Petrucci), which I think is unsurpassed to this day.

2. DISTANT MEMORIES – LIVE IN LONDON (2020)

Touring in support of 2019’s ‘Distance Over Time’ – every night was guaranteed to be a showstopper. With the band at the peak of their sonic production in the studio and on stage, delivering a refined package of some of their most accessible work since the 90’s in a live setting was perhaps not enough cause de celebre. As Distant Memories captures DT landmark return to London’s Hammersmith Apollo, it was also a show that celebrated the 20th anniversary of their masterpiece; ‘Metropolis pt. 2: Scenes from a Memory’, played here in full. The concert film captures what was easily the bands best stage and lighting product up until that point, and showcases a band, 35 years in, clearly having the absolute time of their lives onstage with one another.

Singer James LaBrie’s impassioned performances truly give studio recordings of ‘A Nightmare to Remember’ and ‘The Spirit Carries On’ a run for their money, again hinting that perhaps the best DT experience, is a live one.

Particular focus is given on Petrucci’s solos when it comes to the edit and camera work, all the while managing to capture a rapturous audience response. 

Distant Memories is truly a celebration of the then and the now of Dream Theater, reproduced with crystal clear audio and a dynamic, vibrant visual accompaniment.

  1. SCORE (2006)

Deep Purple, Metallica, Yes, Emerson Lake & Palmer, but some of the huge names in rock music to have recorded and released staple concert performances accompanied by live orchestras, with Alter Bridge and Bring Me The Horizon being some notable recent inclusions. Live orchestras could be said to expand, progress and build-upon the ideas initially expressed in rock recordings. However, Dream Theater’s Score live album and film, captured and released in 2006 truly is a masterpiece of live orchestral integration with a rock band and stands as proof of concept, period. Dream Theater keyboardist Jordan Rudess, considered by many to be the best living keyboard player in the world’s contribution to the bands consistent output will never be understated, but in this setting his work is truly brought to the forefront.

Score highlights DT as they cycle through their entire career chronologically. Instead of sticking exclusively to the hits, instead the band play through live debuts of omitted album b-sides and demos resulting in perfectly demonstrating the uncanny and incredibly diverse range of sonic experimentation they are known for. Later in the performance orchestral accompaniment is provided by “The Octavarium Orchestra”. 

The albums penultimate grand finale is the genuinely moving Octavarium; probably the most epic musical performance ever committed to tape.

Of course absolutely nothing tops the real thing live. Catch Dream Theater perform on their 2022 ‘Top of the World Tour’ in Europe on the following stops:

Find Dream Theater Tickets!

APR 20, 2022
SSE Arena Belfast
Belfast, United Kingdom
with Tesseract

APR 21, 2022
Utilita Arena
Newcastle, United Kingdom
with Tesseract

APR 23, 2022
SSE Arena
Wembley, Greater London
with Tesseract

APR 25, 2022
The Dôme de Paris
Paris, France
with Devin Townsend

APR 26, 2022
Le Liberté
Rennes, France
with Devin Townsend

APR 27, 2022
Arkea Arena
Bordeaux, France
with Devin Townsend

APR 29, 2022
Campo Pequeno
Lisbon, Lisbon
with Devin Townsend

APR 30, 2022
Vistalegre Arena
Madrid, Spain
with Devin Townsend

MAY 1, 2022
Cubec
Bilbao, Spain
with Devin Townsend

MAY 3, 2022
Zenith
Toulouse, France
with Devin Townsend

MAY 4, 2022
Arena De Geneve
Geneva, Switzerland
with Devin Townsend

MAY 6, 2022
Palazzo dello Sport
Rome, Italy
with Devin Townsend

MAY 7, 2022
Mediolanum Forum
Milan, Italy
with Devin Townsend

MAY 8, 2022
Kione Arena
Padua, Italy
with Devin Townsend

MAY 10, 2022
László Papp Budapest Sports Arena
Budapest, Budapest
with Devin Townsend

MAY 11, 2022
Gasometer
Vienna, Vienna
with Devin Townsend

MAY 13, 2022
AFAS Live
Amsterdam, North Holland
with Devin Townsend

MAY 14, 2022
Turbinenhalle 1
Oberhausen, Germany
with Devin Townsend

MAY 15, 2022
Rockhal
Esch-sur-Alzette, Luxembourg
with Devin Townsend

MAY 17, 2022
Partille Arena
Partille, Gothenburg
with Devin Townsend

MAY 19, 2022
Oslo Spektrum
Oslo, Norway
with Devin Townsend

MAY 20, 2022
Spektrum
Trondheim, Norway
with Devin Townsend

MAY 22, 2022
KB Hallen
Copenhagen, Denmark
with Devin Townsend

MAY 23, 2022
Admiralspalast
Berlin, Germany
with Devin Townsend

MAY 24, 2022
Tauron Arena Krakow
Kraków, Poland
with Devin Townsend

MAY 26, 2022
Sportovní hala v Holešovicích
Prague, Czechia
with Devin Townsend

MAY 27, 2022
Dom Sportova
Zagreb
with Devin Townsend

MAY 29, 2022
Arenele Romane
Bucharest, Romania
with Devin Townsend

MAY 30, 2022
Hall 1 of National Palace of Culture
Sofia, Bulgaria
with Devin Townsend

JUN 1, 2022
KucukCiftlik Park
İstanbul, Turkey
with Devin Townsend

  1. A very in depth,intelligent and informative analysis of Dreamtheater.Certainly whets the appetite.Roll on Wembley.

  2. Great article and build up to the long wait for DT to appear on these shores again.In the sad absence of Rush it’s now down to DT and TOOL to deliver for us aficionados.Shame it’s not the RAH tho,guess Hammersmith too small!Any chance of Wither?!!

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