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Dream Theater - Score: 20th Anniversary World Tour Live with the Octavarium Orchestra CD (album) cover


Dream Theater


Progressive Metal

4.45 | 537 ratings

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Prog Reviewer
5 stars I remember the first time I heard a live rock and roll recording back in the sixties. It was "I'm Alright" by the Rolling Stones on "Out of Our Heads" and it knocked me out to hear the screaming audience and the passionate response from the band in concert. Over the years there have been many live albums released by every kind of group imaginable with wildly varying results. In the case of "Score" I have to give Dream Theater a resounding 5 stars. I got this 3-disc set as a gift and must admit that I may have put off buying it for a long, long time simply because I already had so many of the songs on their studio recordings and that would have been a shame. This is an essential progressive rock performance that you can't afford to miss.

Disc One starts with an excellent rendition of "The Root of All Evil" that excels as a show opener and I find that it comes off much better than the somewhat under-whelming studio version. The opposite is true of "I Walk Beside You" in that I still prefer the stirring rendition from Octavarium. It's not a bad performance, just not as good to my ears. The next two headbangers, "Another Won" and "Afterlife" will appeal to the fan who likes their DT fast and furious without a lot of subtlety. Not that that's a terrible thing, it's just not my cup o' tea. I have to give props to Rudess and Petrucci, though. On the latter song they really tear it up as they intertwine. The band seems to have worked off some of their adrenaline after those tunes and start to show the side of the group that I really admire. Their dynamics. "Under a Glass Moon" and "Innocence Faded" showcase interesting changes of mood and tempo throughout and Petrucci knocks the ball out of the park towards the end of "Innocence." His guitar makes the hair on the back of your neck bristle! "Raise the Knife" is a new one to me and it is a fabulous tune with a myriad of atmospheres swirling in and out of the song. It works on many, many levels and I'm glad they chose to include it here. "The Spirit Carries On" is literally a band/audience love fest that is effective without ever becoming just another sappy sing-along. Again, it is John's unearthly guitar playing that makes this song transcend even the excellent studio version. Gives you chills.

Disc Two starts with the incredible "Six Degrees of Inner Turbulence" as the orchestra plays the entire overture sans band, truly demonstrating without bias the excellence of the composition skills of the group. When the band comes in it electrifies the crowd and the great medley never lets up until the spectacular ending fades away. This is what I love about good live recordings in that it adds a new dimension to songs I'm already very familiar with and lets me enjoy it on a whole different level. The score has been beefed up to give the symphony more involvement and it makes for an incredible ride. While LaBrie's vocals on some of the songs on the first disc border on annoying due to his insistence on using what I call his "scary" voice, he really shines throughout "Six Degrees" (although the exhilarating journey seems to take his breath away literally towards the end). This monumental epic is worth the cost of the CDs alone. It's indescribable. "Vacant" is the perfect postscript, too. James sings with restraint and emotion on this sobering tune that fits here like a velvet glove. "The Answer Lies Within" merely mimics the studio version but it works well as a buffer to continue to settle the frenetic pace down a bit. The New York audience responds enthusiastically (as one would expect) to the fine performance of the poignant "Sacrificed Sons", making it an excellent way to bring the disc to an end.

Disc Three features two of the band's best extended songs. "Octavarium" may be their most complete epic and the orchestra creates a huge atmospheric sound to add to the multi-faceted tune. Jordan's lap steel guitar playing was a real surprise to me. I mean, who knew? "Metropolis" serves as the encore song and it rocks. The addition of the orchestral score raises this tune to realize its potential finally. The accents and punctuations backed by the symphony are stunning and makes for a memorable ending to the night. I can't continue without mentioning the otherworldly drumming laid down by the incomparable Mike Portnoy. He is so consistently magnificent that I sometimes take him for granted but he never falters throughout the show and drives the whole proceedings like a great conductor. He is without peer. And major kudos to the engineers that have managed to keep the symphony from being drowned out by the powerful musicianship and volume of the band members and allowed the sometimes delicate, sometimes forceful presence of the orchestra to shine through brightly. This is the best fusion of symphony and rock band I've ever heard. At last somebody got it right.

So I encourage all that love metal-influenced symphonic progressive rock music to avoid the sin of overlooking this magical performance recording. It's obvious that Dream Theater wasn't content to just perform a recital of their studio songs. Rather, they created for their knowledgeable audience a once in a lifetime experience that transcended the usual "rock show" and elevated their performance to a level that only passionate playing and a total commitment to the loving representation of their music could produce. I feel truly fortunate that this incredible concert was captured so completely for all time to come.

Chicapah | 5/5 |


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