Live Review: Dream Theater @ SSE Arena, Belfast – April 20th 2022

A View From The Top of The World, Dream Theater’s latest prog-metal odyssey is in no uncertain terms an absolute tour-de-force of inspirational, adventurous and boundary pushing music. Performed in a live environment with a dazzling production of chaotic spot lights, mind bending visuals and razor sharp audio-definition – an entirely new meaning is taken on; a grand display of the results of chasing ambitions; determination to succeed and ultimately achieving greatness.

Playing their first concert on the island of Ireland in almost 20 years, tonight is also the opening date of the European leg of their ‘Top of the World Tour’. Dream Theater are here to demonstrate that they have surpassed themselves in terms of sonic/visual production and performance, putting on nothing short of a masterclass in precise, technical – yet hugely emotive playing, showcasing that they are the undisputed pinnacle of musical ability and showmanship today. Read on for a detailed look at the songs, the show, the spectacle of Dream Theater in 2022.

Dream Theater performing at SSE Arena Belfast, April 20th 2022.

Following hot on the trail of DT’s legacy, Britain’s Tesseract – a workhorse on the international prog metal scene take on the unenviable position of opening tonight’s entertainment. The band are able to present a snapshot of their work in their own unique way with limited time on stage, sticking to many of their better known pieces like Of Matter and Juno, taking us on a worm hole like trip through polyrhythmic chugging and inventive modes. 

Witnessing every member of the unit moving their hands in precise syncopation with one another is hypnotising, especially as it is delivered amidst a crop of upright LED bars flashing in careful coordination with the band’s passages. With seismic riffs breaking tide one after another, their performance is one easy to get lost in. Front man Daniel Tompkins’ emphatic performance comes from a place of deep sincerity and connection with his intimate lyrics, all the more selling their live experience as very much an immersive one – with instruments nonetheless at the forefront. The band remain largely enigmatic and anonymous throughout, rarely having their faces lit, except for drummer Jay Postones, seen through the mist and washes of light, focused and gnarled, snarling during every frantic fill and apocalyptic kick.

Daniel Tompkins of Tesseract performing live at SSE Arena Belfast, April 20th 2022.

As the intro tape begins to roll, visions of globe-trotting adventurers, interspersed with inventive realisations of the bands historic artwork are projected on an intricate stage set, drumming up frenzied cheers from most seated in Belfast’s “Odyssey” arena. Little time is taken before a frantic drum fill kick-starts DT’s recent Grammy winning single The Alien. Wielding futuristic weapon-like instruments, bass guitarist John Myung and legendary guitar player John Petrucci weave between intricate lead lines in tight syncopation, building up to a rapturous entry from frontman James LaBrie, master of ceremonies this evening.

The master awakens… John Petrucci of Dream Theater performing at SSE Arena Belfast, April 20th 2022.

Despite the intense focus the musicians maintain whilst navigating unpredictable and seemingly impossible passages of music, they still find time to crack a laugh amongst themselves, plain to see between LaBrie and Petrucci who catch each other’s eye multiple times during 6:00, likely sharing in the mutual pleasure in performing again overseas and the unity their performances tend to invite.

The inimitable James LaBrie of Dream Theater performing at SSE Arena Belfast, April 20th 2022.

With a setlist deep-diving into a titanic back catalogue, tracks Endless Sacrifice and Bridges in the Sky are not only welcome surprises to fans, but blend seamlessly with newer material. The latter tying in effortlessly with an ‘around the world’ tour of mythic ancient civilizations on the screen behind. It is an intriguing journey through feudal Japan, classic pirates and Mayan temples, eventually leading to outer space in time for a trippy instrumental section featuring dazzling kaleidoscopic visions. 

John Myung & Jordan Rudess of Dream Theater performing at SSE Arena Belfast, April 20th 2022.

Endless Sacrifice, considerably heavier in tone and message is one of many stand out moments of their set. One can only marvel at the fluidity at which Myung and Petrucci are able to break into arpeggiated lead lines, whilst Rudess navigates between them on a fiery, blade-like Roland keytar, grinning ear to ear throughout. With the three uniting centre stage at the climax of an eye-watering instrumental breakdown, drummer Mike Mangini joins in on the fun, catching his band mates off-guard with surprise improvised fills and breaks. It is literally edge-of-your-seat stuff, stirring up applause, clap-alongs and air drumming by the particularly enthused in attendance.

IMG_1025
If drumming was an olympic sport, Mike Mangini would take home gold, every time. Mangini of Dream Theater performing at SSE Arena Belfast, April 20th 2022.

As if the surprise twists and turns through Invisible Monster, About to Crash and The Ministry of Lost Souls were not enough, monolithic title track A View From The Top of The World is a true rollercoaster ride. Footage of free climbers, explorers, cliff jumpers – individuals demonstrating the absolute peaks of human endurance and ability play visual accompaniment to a song celebrating just that. The sense of accomplishment and drive and dedication required to reach those limits of endurance are reflected here and perhaps stand as a perfect symbolisation of what Dream Theater stands for. The performance is an absolute triumph and acts as a celebration of the boundless nature of adventure, the human spirit and constantly pushing the boundaries. Coincidentally, hallmarks of the band’s magnificent career to date.

With the concert closing on arguably DT’s most epic and moving piece, The Count of Tuscany, LaBrie fully embodies the character and the fear-inducing story being told. His theatrical performance and faultless showmanship leaves one fully immersed in the winding narrow streets through emerald fields of rural Italy.

Catch Dream Theater on their 2022 “Top of the World Tour” throughout Europe this Spring!

Find Dream Theater Tickets!

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