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Dream Theater - Live at Budokan CD (album) cover


Dream Theater


Progressive Metal

4.30 | 418 ratings

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4 stars Finally, a Dream Theater DVD with excellent production and sound values! Live At Budokan was recorded on April 26, 2004, at the famous Budokan theater in Tokyo, Japan. The DVD includes two discs, the first being the bands' live performance and the second disc includes about one hour of bonus material. Not bad, not bad at all. So, lets have a look at what these video recordings feature exactly.

Disc One: 2h48m

The show opens with but a few small flashing lights at the front of the stage, some keyboard music is building up, the album cover for Train of Thought appears on three very large video screens, John Myung starts playing the bass harmonics of "As I Am" and the rest of the band soon follows with what was in my view, one of the best performances of the night.

Sure, there are many very cool moments during the show and almost every song has it's moments so to speak, but what impressed me and what will impress you may be two different things altogether. OK, I'll share a few of my highlights with you:

Take the last couple of minutes of "This Dying Soul", this was an extended version of course but these guys are so freakin' tight, not of this world I tell you. And at the 36 minute mark when Jordan Ruddess (keyboards) and Mark Portney (drums) share the spotlight together, just an awesome moment during the bands rendition of "Beyond This Life." A more acoustic version of "Hollow Years" arrived just in time and was a welcome change of pace, just an excellent performance! Five songs into the show and we're already at the 57 minute mark. That's progressive music for you.

Another highlight for me was the "Instrumedley" which included passages from all of their instrumentals including bits from "Paradigm Shift" and "Universal Mind" by Liquid Tension Experiment.

The camera work for the show was bang on. Many of the shots accentuated the performances of all the individual band members, as it should be when one views the unbelievable virtuosity and technical proficiency of the band as a whole.

One of the minor complaints I have is with James Labrie's vocal performance. Although he is in fine form, the subtitles are necessary if you want to make out everything he's singing about. To the untrained ear (and mine as well), it sounds like Labrie is harmonizing many of his parts. With the subtitles, everything just appears to make more sense. You'll have to try it with and without for yourself to see what I mean.

Another thing you'll notice with Dream Theater is that they always end their songs very energetically. And that's not a bad thing. It only makes one realize how big these guys could be if they played popular music and conformed to the demands of the mainstream masses. Thank God for individuality!

Another thing you'll notice is that Dream Theater play flawlessly and what you hear on their albums is basically what you hear when they play live with a few exceptions such as the more acoustic flavored "Hollow Years" and some extended moments included here and there on several of the tracks.

Because Petrucci, Ruddess and Portney all have segments in the bonus material, I thought I would talk about John Myung a little bit here. John - bass player extraordinaire - mostly plays a Yamaha 6 string bass (TRB?) and occasionally with a 12 string Chapman Stick Touchboard. This guy is so amazing, so calm, so cool during the entire show...awesome performance John. Just thought I'd let everybody know...

With disc one you can choose to play the entire show or select songs one at a time. You can also choose to play it in stereo mode or in 5.1 Dolby Surround Sound. For those so equipped, the choice is obvious... :)

Disc 2:

The bonus material on disc two is worth the price of the DVD alone. It is divided in 6 separate sections that I will gladly take you through one at a time.

1. "Riding The Train of Thought" - Japanese Tour Documentary - Length: 30m

The documentary takes you along their 3 city tour of Japan between April 22nd and the 26th, 2004. They played one show in Nagoya, two in Osaka and the one they recorded their live show at in Tokyo.

Some of the information we get to see is quite revealing such as the pre-show warm-up rituals that each member goes through are really great. You get to see Ruddess playing silently on a keyboard, Portney warming up by drumming away on a padded chair, Petrucci playing guitar with a small miniature practice amp helping Labrie figure things out one hour before the show...priceless!

One of the interesting points Portney makes is that the band tries hard not to repeat itself while also trying to remain faithful to the Dream Theater sound. Also, I think Japan holds a special place for Dream Theater as this was one of the first markets that embraced them with open arms.

It was also nice to see that drum extraordinaire Mark Portney was human after all, even though his playing is really not of this world, as he suffers from tendonitis after each show.

Interesting footage of a wide variety of fans are included for those interested in stuff like that. Overall, a very interesting documentary.

2. John Petrucci - Guitar World

One of the first things you learn is that since they use earphones and have no use for floor monitors anymore, he had these metal foot stands made up so he could sit his guitar up on his leg which helps him keep proper technique (classical guitar position) while he goes through more difficult parts in his music and solos.

The other interesting thing you learn is that he uses this massive floorboard - SKRYDSTRUP RGD / SG-1 System Controller - designed by a builder from Denmark. The floorboard allows him to pre-program every song. Everything is documented and backed up on his personal computer as well.

Petrucci uses two Road Kings to power his Mesa Boogie 4x12 cabinets for his Lead and Rhythm sounds. He also uses 2x12 Mesa Boogie Cabinets for his clean sounds but did not reveal what exactly he's using to power those speakers, referring to it as "this rig here" but failing to show it on camera. He travels with 15 guitars but only appears to use 3 or 4 during a show. For those who don't know this information, he plays Ernie Ball Music Man 6 string and 7 string signature guitars.

3. Jordan Ruddess - Keyboard World

Ruddess plays one keyboard while on tour. He uses a Kurzweil K2600 that is mounted up on a stand that spins around. He does use a synthesizer that is hooked up to his Kurzweil and therefor he can access it with his primary keyboard. Very cool.

He has a few things of his own like a personal volume knob to control the sound in his earphones and a Master Volume control for his Kurzweil keyboard. He uses a wah peddle on occasion and everything - all of his sounds - are controlled with one single peddle. And because of the complex keyboard world that he lives in he also uses a music pad "for those little reminders." This is all so very cool.

4. Mike Portney - Drum Solo

Because they didn't think they would have the time to include his drum solo during the live recorded show at Budokan, they recorded his solo on April 23rd in Osaka, Japan.

During his 12 minute enthusiastic performance, Portney selects a couple of fans from the audience to come up and play along with him. This genuine appreciation for the fans is in part what makes him so special, you gotta love this guy.

5. The Dream Theater Chronicles - 2004 Tour Opening Video

This little segment includes live and video footage that dates back to 1985. Nice little added feature here for those not fortunate enough to have seen the live show.

6. Instrumedley - Multiangle Bonus

The "Instrumedley" is perhaps the highlight of the Live at Budokan show. So including a multiangle of the bands performance is a very nice treat indeed. You get a drum angle, keyboard angle, guitar angle, stage left angle and normal view.

Concluding Remarks:

This DVD package is a must for those who want to view the performances of four of the most accomplished virtuosos in the business today. Get it so you can see those precious little moments that one can only experience during or at band rehearsals. If you're a DT fan get it for the live show, and if not, get it for the bonus material. Flawless performances from beginning to end.

Vanwarp | 4/5 |


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