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DREAM THEATER @ Tobin Center - San Antonio, TX (11.09.16)

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"Dream Theater's marathon set at The Tobin Center for the Performing Arts was truly one for the ages and probably the best live show I have seen all year (out of hundreds that I have attended in 2016).  Wednesday’s "Astonishing" performance left no doubt as to why Dream Theater is considered one of the most talented and creative group of musicians on the planet today. "

If you are a fan of Dream Theater, it comes as no surprise that they are still on top of their game.  For others who may just getting to know them, there is so much more to learn about a band who has touched so many and given so much over an incredible 30-year career.  From their early days when they were known simply as Majesty to present day, Dream Theater has continued to create a distinctive brand of progressive rock that engages the mind and inspires their followers all around the world.  Consummate story tellers, Dream Theater has a unique way of enlightening their audience through their incredible passion for music – an art that is very rare (and underappreciated) in this day and age.  On November 9th, Dream Theater had the pleasure of bringing their latest story, The Astonishing, to life for a beloved group of fans at the Tobin Center for the Performing Arts in San Antonio, TX.   

For those that have not attended a concert at the Tobin Center, it’s important to understand why performances at the HEB Performance Hall are different than your typical everyday concert venue.  As Aaron Zimmerman, VP of Programming and Marketing notes, “Where other venues were designed simply with capacity in mind, the H-E-B Performance Hall was designed so the acoustics could adjustable to suit the specific needs of each performance type, consistently producing an enveloping acoustical experience.  The accommodating and modest seating capacity of 1,738 (or 2,100 with flat floor) supports intimacy between stage and audience, allowing the sights and sounds of every show to resonate with clarity.” Taking this into consideration, there may not be a better theater in the United States for Dream Theater to perform The Astonishing in its entirety than in this world class venue on the banks of the historic San Antonio River.

Prior to the show getting underway, Dream Theater always takes some time to meet their most loyal fans in a special VIP Meet and Greet.   What was different about this session (vs. other commercial VIP events) was that the band actually took time to interact with each of their fans personally.  Fans of all ages and walks of life had a chance to interact with Dream Theater up close and personal.  Some got autographs from their favorite band members, others had their unique Dream Theater memorabilia signed (one fan bringing in an Ernie Ball MUSIC MAN JP6), and most took advantage of the cool photo-op with the band.  Fans were never rushed, and the band seemed truly humbled by the outpouring of love and support received throughout the event. I’ve been to several Dream Theater M&G sessions over the years, and each one has been unique based upon venue location and fan base.  For die-hard Dream Theater fans, this is a “bucket list” type of an event that should not be missed under any circumstances.

For those who are unfamiliar with Dream Theater’s 13th studio release, The Astonishing, it’s an epic concept album that takes listeners on a futuristic journey to the year 2285.  Real music as one knows it ceases to exist and is instead replaced with artificial noise created by machines called NOMAC’s.  Struggling against the tyranny of The Great Northern Empire of the Americas, the Ravenskill Rebel Militia work tirelessly to resist the oppression using the magical power of music in hopes of turning back the clock to a time where music is ultimately appreciated again.  The 34-track double CD is one of Dream Theater’s most ambitious releases to date, but fails to disappoint even the most discerning Dream Theater fan.  The storyline is captivating, the characters are relatable, and the music is by far some of the most imaginative Dream Theater has ever released.  Those in attendance at Wednesday night’s show were in for a night of unbelievable music they would not soon forget.

As the lights finally dimmed in the HEB Performance Hall, the near-capacity crowd rose to their feet and greeted Dream Theater to the Tobin stage with a raucous standing ovation.  Giant floor to ceiling LED screens captivated all in attendance as the NOMAC’s descended from the heavens as Dystopian Overture kicked the night into immediate hyperdrive. As the instrumental winded down, front man James Labrie entered stage left and immediately launched into one of The Astonishing’s most incredible tracks, The Gift of Music.  From that point on, it was no holds barred as the virtuosi of Dream Theater amazed and delighted their legions of fans with some of the most technically proficient music I have ever seen performed in a live setting.  Bassist John Myung and Drummer Mike Mangini played out of their minds the entire evening, while keyboardist Jordan Rudess did things with his keyboard that should not be humanly possible.  James LaBrie’s vocals were spot on the entire evening, nailing The Astonishing’s multiple characters flawlessly as the storyline progressed throughout the show.  And then there was guitarist John Petrucci.  He never fails to amaze on his 7-string with lightning fast riffs that seem to come as effortlessly as the sun rises and sets.  Petrucci’ s performance Wednesday night was breathtaking, and there is no doubt that he is one of (if not the) most talented guitarists on the planet today.

After Dream Theater nailed The Astonishing’s 2-Act set, they returned to the stage for a “surprise” encore of greatest hits that until recently was not part of the show.  Tobin Center guests were treated to three additional songs including “As I Am”, “The Spirit Carries On”, and crowd favorite “Pull Me Under”. As most in the audience were totally caught off guard by the encore, it took the energy in the room to a whole new level for the remainder of an already mind-blowing show.  The audience seemed to be electrified as each song progressed, with everyone in the HEB Performance Hall out of their seats and singing along to classic Dream Theater.  For those in attendance, the encore was a perfect way to cap off an amazing evening of live music and brought even bigger smiles to all the die-hard fans in attendance. 

After the show, many enthusiastic followers (who have seen Dream Theater on multiple stops this tour) noted that their performance at The Tobin was one of the best they had seen all year.  Some believed this was due in part to experiences gained on the first leg of the tour, while others believed that the intimate setting of the HEB Performance Hall allowed Dream Theater to bring The Astonishing to life in a way that could not have been done within a normal concert setting.  Regardless of the reason, their marathon set was truly one for the ages and probably the best live show I have seen all year (out of hundreds that I have attended in 2016). Wednesday’s "Astonishing" performance left no doubt as to why Dream Theater is considered to be one of the most talented and creative group of musicians on the planet today. 

Dream Theater continues their 2016 trek across America supporting The Astonishing.  Tickets and VIP Packages for the remainder of their North American tour dates (as well as their upcoming European Tour Dates) can be purchased HERE.

Until next time,

Stay Frosty and Rock On!

Matthew Belter

Executive Editor - Long Beach

Website: Email This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.
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