Dream Theater @ The Spreckels Theater, San Diego CA 03/07/04
The Spreckels is a gorgeous little theater on Broadway in downtown SD. I say little because it’s an intimate theater size with capacity around 1500. The interior was breathtaking, classy and well maintained. The sculptures, cherubs, and drapery created this ambiance fit for a Broadway production. The seating arrangement was very accessible, not a bad seat in the house. There were plenty of hostesses assisting fans, some of which were these adorable little old retirees who likely didn’t realize they were in for a very loud, molten slab of progressive metal that night. Johnny Orange from work joined me on this trip. He was a true metal head guitarist with an affinity for intricate music. He had eclectic taste – he loved metal like Helloween, Judas Priest, Iced Earth, Opeth and of course Dream Theater. But he also enjoyed world fusion band Dead Can Dance and the latin rock stylings of La Ley. He played this gorgeous Les Paul Custom in Alpine White with gold hardware, I remember that vividly. We got to our seats and chatted with a couple other fans. It was cool being able to catch this second Train of Thought gig, I was eagerly anticipating a completely different song line up compared to the Pantages gig from the previous night.
This album and tour were riveting. The band was giving the fans so much variety and value from night to night, compelling fans to see the band on multiple dates. Reviews from other shows on this tour were always positive. Surprises were occurring frequently on this tour. In LA the band played their debut album in its entirety and special guests joined them onstage. In San Francisco the band performed a cover of Journey’s “Mother, Father.” So who knew what we would witness in San Diego. This new album, Train of Thought, was right up our alley. It was dark and heavy, akin to the Awake album, which got me into Dream Theater initially. It was more a metal album with progressive flavorings, rather than the other way around. The lyrics were stark, the music was aggressive, and the keyboards took a back seat to the guitars. In fact, the Train of Thought CD was a hit at our store. You could hear copies being played in 3 different departments: Drums, Guitars and Accessories. A lot of the guys were very into the CD. You could easily find Johnny mimicking the feedback to “As I Am” during our shifts. One day while playing the TOT disc on our Bose system, Johnny reported that one of the accessories guys, Lucas, complained that DT “sounded like Super Mario Bros. music.” I laughed at Lucas’ ignorance, and Johnnie replied in his South American accent “Fuck him, dude. He listens to 311.” We laughed our asses off. Thus TOT was a hit in our little corner of the world. And the relationship between TOT and Awake was evident and tonight’s set reflected that relationship.
The show began with the band history video, receiving a very strong response from the crowd. Then the one-two metallic punch of “As I Am” and “This Dying Soul” kicked off the set in bludgeoning fashion. Those two songs were lengthy, frequently changed tempos and time signatures, and were especially heavy. Then the bone crushing riff of “The Mirror” began and we went absolutely berserk. The head-banging continued, along with the air-guitar and air drums. A segment of “Lie” was included in “The Mirror,” giving the crowd a generous dose of brutal, chest thumping progmetal from the TOT and Awake albums. It was an awesome start to this show. The momentum didn’t stop as the band tore into “Under a Glass Moon,” a signature shred fest off the classic Images and Words CD. The band was unbelievably tight and having fun. James was in fine form, singing the songs with power, nailing the difficult “..by your hand I’ve awakened, bare this honor in my name” portion of UAGM. These 4 tracks slayed us. We were in awe, and we were receiving a welcomed ass kicking from the band. The set transitioned to a couple newer tracks which were well received, ultimately closing set one with “Finally Free” which went down amazingly well. Set two began with the very cool “Trial of Tears” followed by the devil horn raising “Honor Thy Father.” That song is relentless, and the head banging shred fest continued. Wow, we were out of breath, and the head bangers were dizzy by this point, probably with concussions. A mind blowing keyboard solo by Jordan Rudess followed, which eased into a magical change up of “Another Day” off Images and Words, which received a spirited cheer from the crowd. This breather was a welcomed contrast to the previous metallic onslaught. The delicate mood continued with the cello laden “Vacant” off TOT, which segued into the powerful instrumental “Stream of Consciousness.” I have memories of “Only a Matter of Time” being performed, but maybe I’m confusing it with the LA performance. The set definitely ended with “In the Name of God” with “Metropolis Pt. 1” serving as the encore. There were some technical difficulties during Metropolis. It looked like James couldn’t hear the sound through his in-ear monitors and lost his place during the “there’s a picture worth a thousand words” part. James looked over at Mike, motioned to his ear then shook his head in disappointment, Mike just grinned and continued playing. All these guys are freakin’ awesome, but it just shows that even the even the most talented groups can suffer from technical glitches. We walked out of the theater feeling pumped but beaten up lol. This was a stellar show and vastly different than the Pantages gig in LA.
There were some MP forumers at this gig. I wanted to give shout outs to headup, finallyfree, Dmann and homersimpson. The following pics were taken by fans at this gig and posted at Mike Portnoy’s official site, no copyright infringement intended.