Dream Theater, Opeth, Between the Buried and Me, and Three…sounds like the making of a great night of progressive metal doesn't it? Well, New York's very own Dream Theater made this tour a reality, the inaugural "Progressive Nation" tour, making their stop in New York City for two nights at Terminal 5. Four hours of top notch musicianship was ready to be had, and Sea of Tranquility's own Pete Pardo and Hayley Brooke were on hand the first night (May 21st) to take in all the 'progressive' and 'heavy' sounds. Read on for the complete review and photos.
Terminal 5 is not a venue you normally hear of when you talk about live shows in New York City. After these two Progressive Nation shows, there's a good chance that this rather large, three-level club will be host to many more live music shows in the future. With a multi-level approach much like Webster Hall (apparently the same owners run both places) but a modern touch like the Nokia, it's a great place to squeeze a few thousand prog-metal fans under one roof for a night of exceptional music. Though it was hard to judge numbers, I'm guessing that there were easily 2,000+ strong at Terminal 5 on the first night, a great showing for progressive metal no matter how you look at it.
Up first was Upstate New York prog act Three, one of the more eclectic bands on the Metal Blade Records roster. Many probably remembered them from their recent supporting role to Porcupine Tree, and the bands mix of acoustic and electric prog/pop/metal really got the crowd started. These guys are solid musicians, and their songs have great hooks, yet in a live setting the band just really seems to come to life compared to their studio output. The band played a selection of tunes from their two Metal Blade albums Wake Pig and The End Is Begun, and went from thunderous prog, to quirky, acoustic based pop metal from track to track. Great vocals, skilled guitar work, and intricate rhythms, all added up to a fun set from a band that seemingly has loads of potential for breakout status.
Though they started off as a pretty brutal hardcore act, Between the Buried and Me have morphed into one of the brightest extreme progressive metal acts on the planet. Combining hardcore & death metal ferocity with 70's melodic prog and the technical wizardry of progressive metal, BTBAM have steadily been gaining fans with stellar releases such as Alaska, The Silent Circus, and their latest, Colors. These guys came out to an excited roar from the crowd, proof that many prog fans are starting to realize the true talent that this band has. Ripping into mostly extended suites from their latest release Colors, BTBAM showed all facets of their repertoire, including crushing riffs, a mix of furious growls and more melodic vocals, crashing rhythms, and fluttering keyboards. What surprised many, even those who had never heard the band and were perhaps not to keen on the death metal or hardcore side of the band, were the amazingly complex passages that this batch of youngsters worked into each piece. For many of us, their short set was basically a tease, and we're looking forward to either a headline tour or a longer opening slot sometime in the near future.
What more can you say about Opeth? The Swedes are nearly legendary these days, their live shows remarkable and their studio output bordering on brilliance. At the time of this concert, the band were on the verge of releasing Watershed, hailed by many as their crowning achievement. Taking the stage to a mighty ovation, Mikael Akerfeldt & Co ripped right into "Master's Apprentices" with plenty of power & finesse, and then, with some between song banter from Mikael, letting us know that he ripped off the riff to the next track from Uriah Heep, Ghost Reveries' "Baying of the Hounds" literally tore the place apart, complete with raging Hammond from Per Wiberg and Akerfeldt & new guy Fredrik Akesson's heavy riffage. The stage had a very 70's look thanks to the swirling psychedelic lighting, and if you looked carefully you could see Akerfeldt's shirt was a vintage Scorpions Virgin Killer t-shirt…in fact, at one point he even commented to the crowd "how do you like my cool shirt?"
Other highlights in their hour long set were the wonderful "To Rid the Disease", their classic "Wreath", and a teaser from the then soon to be released Watershed album, the crushing "Heir Apparent", one of the heaviest songs the band has ever written. Of course, the end of an Opeth show would not be complete without a short list of potential show stoppers-in this instance "The Drapery Falls" would be that song, which had all the loyal Opeth fans in the audience screaming with joy. Many of us could have gone with another hour from this great band, who are really on top of their game even with some new members (drummer Martin "Axe" Axenrot was on fire throughout) still getting their feet wet. At the end of their set, Akerfeldt made it known that they would be back later in the year, so we all started counting the days at that very moment.
I've had the pleasure of seeing Dream Theater live more than any other band in the near 30 years of going to live shows. They are one of those acts that mix things up from show to show, so no two gigs are generally alike (kind of like prog-metal's answer to the Grateful Dead), making each show an experience that the audience won't soon forget. Riding high on the release of their Roadrunner Records debut Systematic Chaos, this night was to be a shorter set than the normal 'evening with Dream Theater' three-hour marathons than we normally expect from the band, but they were able to squeeze in plenty of classics and new gems in their close to 2-hour set.
Though the band didn't dip too much into the early catalog (the closing medley included parts of "Metropolis", "Learning to Live", and "A Change of Seasons"), lots of strong tunes from the last few years were covered, like the powerhouse metal number "As I Am", the complex tracks "Panic Attack" and "Dark Eternal Night", and prog classics like "Endless Sacrifice", "Ministry of Lost Souls", and "Fatal Tragedy". Even the more accessible "Constant Motion" went over well, and the band even threw in extended solo duel between John Petrucci and Jordan Rudess on the keytar. One of the other highlights was the Progressive Nation Drum Battle, where all the drummers from all the opening bands came out and took turns alongside Mike Portnoy for a spirited and fun barrage of drum mastery.
All the members of Dream Theater were in fine form as always, James LaBrie at center stage with his trademark vocal style, Petrucci ripping into plenty of powerful & complex riffs and lightning leads, Rudess with his array of synth sounds, John Myung's sinewy bass lines, and Portnoy's virtuoso drum work. Seasoned pro's all of them, and they proved again on this night why they are considered the leaders of the progressive metal movement. Though some obvious songs were not played, honestly, we've heard them all before, and it was nice to see a varied set from the band, which supposedly changed each night of the tour. In fact, Dream Theater, as well as Opeth, BTBAM, and Three were to do it all again for night two, just a mere 24 hours later.
An amazing show, and hopefully the start of a yearly Progressive Nation tour that will see Dream Theater bringing out many more up and coming bands on the scene.
Photographs By Hayley Brooke
(Click here to View the Rest of Hayley's Photos From this Concert)
The World is Born of Flame
The End Has Begun
These Iron Bones
My Divided Falling
Between the Buried and Me Setlist
Ants of the Skies
Baying of the Hounds
To Rid the Disease
The Drapery Falls
Dream Theater Setlist
Dark Eternal Night
As I Am
Ministry of Lost Souls
Dark Nintendo Night Video
Medley: Metropolis/keytar-guitar duel/Learning to Live/A Change of Seasons