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Dream Theater - Live At Budokan CD (album) cover


Dream Theater


Progressive Metal

4.24 | 476 ratings

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Cygnus X-2
Special Collaborator
Honorary Collaborator
4 stars This live album was recorded at the legendary Budokan Hall in Tokyo, Japan at the height of Dream Theater's Train of Thought tour. It was the final show they did in Japan for the tour. Now the audio presentation (and the video presentation for the dvd) is nothing short of impeccable, with a great overall mix and a nice balance of instruments (although sometimes the bass is very low). The set played encompasses a wide variety of the group's albums, with every album up to Train of Thought getting a song or two played from it (except Awake, which only gets Erotomania in the Instrumedley). Although all the songs are played perfectly, the only thing I dislike about this album is that although Beyond This Life and Hollow Years get some extensions, most of the show doesn't have that genuine live feel with a nice jam going or any little live additions that aren't originally in the studio version, which leaves a bit of a cold feeling. But other than that, though, this is a superb live album.

The first disc opens with As I Am, which segues into This Dying Soul. Both of these tracks are played note for note and have no real invention to them, but that doesn't mean they aren't fun songs. Petrucci shreds again and again while Myung and Portnoy lay a solid foundation and Rudess provides some solid work underneath (with his keyboard tone acting as another guitar). LaBrie's vocal performance here, while not as good as in the studio, is solid for him because he's often a hit/miss vocalist in live aspects. Beyond This Life is the first song that gets a major extension to it. In the middle, a nice instrumental jam proceeds, beginning with a nice guitar solo from Petrucci, and then a keyboard/drum duel between Portnoy and Rudess, who's keyboard tone on this section is remnicent of something Tommy Mars would play for Zappa. In fact, an excerpt from Baby Snakes is played during the instrumental section of this album.

Hollow Years follows with some more extensions thanks to a lengthy guitar introduction from Petrucci as well as a lengthy guitar solo towards the middle of the song. The next songs played are War Inside My Head/The Test That Stumped Them All, both played wonderfully and without any faults or mistakes. Disc two opens with Endless Sacrifice which is played the same as the studio counterpart, but I'm quite fond of the instrumental middle section in which everyone gets a chance to shine. Next is the Instrumedley, a 12 minute instrumental comprised of all the instrumentals Dream Theater has composed (minus Overture 1928 and Stream of Consciousness) all worked within the framework of The Dance of Eternity (which acts as a bridge between different sections). Trial of Tears is next. I've always been fond of this song because of the great playing on Myung and Petrucci's part, they are mesh well together on this song, especially during the instrumental middle section.

The second set of the show opens with New Millenium, which is played wonderfully. Kudos to Portnoy on this track, who offers a great backing vocal to LaBrie's lead. Only a Matter of Time follows, and I find this track to be better than the studio version (same goes with Hollow Years on disc one). Rudess's keyboard solo here is more dynamic than Moore's solo on When Dream and Day Unite and the song really sounds a lot better here than in the studio version. Following that is Rudess's keyboard solo, which ends the second disc. It's the only song I truly don't care for on this live set, all it is is him fiddling with the guitar type sound on his keyboard with a wah effect and then into a synthesizer ditty that goes nowhere. Disc three opens with two more songs from the Six Degrees suite, Goodnight Kiss and Solitary Shell. They are both played quite well and they don't really stray far from the studio version.

Stream of Consciousness follows with a 10 minute instrumental that goes through many motions, but is guided by a cool 5/4 motif. Petrucci's solo on this song is incredible and Myung's performance here is quite nice as well. Disappear follows with some heartfelt vocals from LaBrie, who sounds more solemn here than on the studio counterpart. It's cut short from the studio song though, because Petrucci's guitar outro doesn't last as long. It's a quite nice rendition. Pull Me Under is next, and you can expect this version to be no different than any other live version of Pull Me Under. The encore is In the Name of God, which gets the benefit of an extended guitar solo in the end from Petrucci. It's wonderfully played by all members and ends the show well.

In the end, Live at Budokan is a great live album, but not Dream Theater's best. There are some problems in my opinion with the songs being relatively unchanged from the studio counterparts and the lack of songs from Awake (The Mirror or Voices would have been nice). But all in all, this is a great sounding live set that fans of Dream Theater should love. 4/5.

Cygnus X-2 | 4/5 |


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