Dream Theater @ The Maritime Hall, San Francisco CA 05/16/98

My best friend and I traveled 3 hours from the hot, arrid wasteland of Central California (Fresno, Bakersfield area) to San Francisco. We got there hours early, no one was in front of the venue so we walked to a Jack n’ the Box for lunch, dodging transients and mental cases along the way. We came back and found a half dozen or so fans sitting on the front steps of the Maritime Hall. Nice bunch of people to talk to, and they became envious of the fact that my friend and I would travel to the 5/18/98 Los Angeles gig, which is now legendary due to the surprise appearances of Ray Alder of Fates Warning and Bruce Dickinson (yes, THEE Bruce Dickinson) of Iron Maiden.
During the wait Marlene Portnoy hobbled from the back of the venue to the front doors, holding a big baby. She asked us if this was the front. We said ya we think so. She thanked us and started hobbling back to where she came from, grunting and saying to the baby “oh you’re so heavy.” We didn’t harrass her or prod her with fanboy type questions, but it was still cool yet random experience.

So we meet some more interesting people in line, including some attractive asian women, a studious looking middle eastern man in an argyle sweater and his teenage son, a guy that looked like Roger Daltry, a guy that looked like Sebastian Bach, a guy that looked like John Petrucci, and a group of friends (one of which was blind) that kept us cracking up with their smart-ass sense of humor. We go inside and I’m in the 3rd row, John Petrucci’s side, stage right. “Rooster” played over the PA and a giant sing along ensued. The house lights go dark and the ACOS intro plays over the PA.

As the ACOS intro builds to the crescendo, the band quickly walks onstage in time for the crunching main riff and pounding drums. Within seconds I was somehow pushed to the first row. The crowd was ROUGH but energetic, and it was fun as hell. I kid you not, the place went apeshit. No words can describe seeing your favorite band in front of you, only a few yards away, playing the music that you love. I think my mouth dropped open as they ripped into the song, I stopped breathing. To my immediate right was guitarist John Petrucci, I could reach out and touch his pickguard (I did!). Beyond him was Mike Portnoy on drums, grinning and laying down all his parts. I thought to myself “holy shit, these guys are real, they aren’t machines! And they’re even better live!” Then James Labrie walks out, stands a few feet away from me and my eyes literally bug out. I sang along to every word as if by instinct, everyone towards the front waving and reaching for James. There was a crush, and the only way to alleviate it was to hug onto the guys to my left and right, arm in arm, but we didn’t care. Labrie sees me singing along, smiles and grabs my hand…really hard, I think my hand was red afterward. But it was so fucking cool. I could see the studious middle eastern man in the argyle sweater, standing with his arms crossed, big smile on his face and nodding to the band in approval. His son next to him was blissfully headbanging. Everyone was having an incredible time, head banging, fist pumping, or just standing there stunned and grinning ear to ear.

Inside the venue it was hot, humid, and LOUD. My ears rang for the following day and a half. As the show progressed, it became shockingly clear how human these musicians are: Dream Theater has this reputation for being precise and for being ridiculously talented, prodigy level. However on at least 2 or 3 occasions someone missed their cue, or Portnoy tried twirling a drumstick but dropped it, James Labrie amusingly said “Mike Portnoy is trying to stick a drumstick up my ass.” On other occasions I heard Portnoy say “fuck!” in frustration, probably for missing a beat here or there. The last screw up of the night involved James’ vocal effects during the snippet of Learning to Live. He began singing the intro, “there was no time for pain, no energy for anger,” but his vocals sounded nasally and whiny. He stepped away from mic, confused, and said “what the fuck was that???” while a crew member scurries onstage to correct the issue on Labrie’s stage monitor/rack setup. Tonight I realized these guys were indeed pros and truly gifted, but still human, and like true professionals they rolled with the punches and still put on a quality show. This was an unforgettable live experience, and the perfect way to deflower this music lover/musician.

Take the Time
Just Let Me Breath
Burning My Soul
Anna Lee
Speak To Me
Lines in the Sand
Caught In a Web
Peruvian Skies
Pull Me Under
Trial Of Tears
Metropolis/Learning to Live/ACOS VII

Wow moment of the night: there were several “WOW” moments, however the best one had to do with the two ballads, Anna Lee and Speak To Me. For those two songs a mini drumkit was setup closer to the stage, allowing fans an even closer vantage point to see the drummer extraordinaire. Additionally, during Caught In a Web, Portnoy’s drum solo allowed for some audience participation. Two different audience members, one from stage left, the other from stage right, were brought on stage and given a pair of drums sticks. They pounded along with Portnoy on a 12″ tom and it was beyond cool, watching these fans actually participate in the show.


A scan of the $18 ticket for this show (that’s right…$18)


Posted on September 26, 2012, in Concerts: 1998-2004, Dream Theater and tagged , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

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