Dream Theater – Distant Memories: Live in London (Album Review)

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We all knew this wasn’t going to be just another live release by Dream Theater. Fans of the progressive metal giants have been eagerly waiting for this landmark event to be unleashed since the last world tour ended this past February.  Not only this tour would serve as the official presentation of the well-received “Distance Over Time” studio album, but would also mark the 20th anniversary celebration of one of the band’s most celebrated efforts: 1999’s “Metropolis Pt. 2: Scenes From A Memory”, which was performed live in its entirety for the first time in 15 years.

This release also represents Dream Theater’s first official live album since 2014’s “Breaking the Fourth Wall”, which spun around the self-titled 2013 album, given there wasn’t an official live release for “The Astonishing” tour (one could argue that maybe because of the lack of interest on the album after its release?). All in all, this was the appropriate occasion to rejoice with a lauded performance of an already iconic band, ready to take the stage and blew our minds once again.

Directed once again by Pierre & François Lamoreux and captured during two nights at the Eventim Apollo in London, England (also known as the Hammersmith Odeon), the film was also the second-to-last gig on the tour, since shortly after the world became paralyzed with the ongoing pandemic. The theater is a beautiful, kind of intimate venue where visibility is crystal clear from every corner and you can truly feel this energy coming from the audience – especially during the second set – that had the privilege to experience this musical feast the way it was intended.

Divided in two big acts, the first half focuses largely on the “Distance Over Time” songs, appropriately beginning with album opener “Untethered Angel”. Personally, is one of the weakest songs of the album, yet it serves as the perfect starting point for the evening, one that depicts the top-notch musicianship of a band that seemingly doesn’t age (well, except for James LaBrie’s voice, but age catches with singers in a whole different level). Right from the start the vibe is dominated by the crisp images and engaging visuals created by Wayne Joyner, and proper, kind of warm lightning, providing a somewhat dark tone without compromising quality or sharpness. The sound mixing is equally on-point, every instrument shines with its very own light, resulting in an immersive experience that keeps you hooked throughout.

Other songs in the initial set include “Distance Over Time” second single “Fall Into the Light” (with its exquisite middle section that keeps building to this emotionally powerful climax, with the entire venue chanting in a rapturous  moment), fan-favorite “Barstool Warrior” (another intense outing filled with emotions), and the progstastic feast-for-eyes-and-ears “Pale Blue Dot”, which serves as the mandatory “this-band-can-do-anything” moment of the night, closing the first act in tremendous fashion. From the band’s back catalog, we’re delighted to hear the gigantic epic “A Nightmare to Remember” (from 2009’s “Black Clouds and Silver Linings”), a song that has a distinctive shadowy tone given it’s tragic nature. Noteworthy is the “growled” portion of the track, where the original Mike Portnoy screams are replaced by a somewhat lackluster, and not very powerful variants performed by LaBrie. We also got to experience the first part of “In the Presence of Enemies” (from the frequently bashed album “Systematic Chaos”, 2007), another strong proof of the band’s determination, hitting all the right notes… literally.

“Distant Memories: Live in London” Album Artwork

Nevertheless, the crown jewel of this exquisite package is the full performance of one of the most impressive albums in prog rock history. “Metropolis Pt. 2: Scenes from A Memory” wasn’t performed in full since a few sporadic gigs in Argentina and Brazil in 2005. Before that, there was the original tour in 2000, which gave birth to one of the band’s most memorable live albums: “Live Scenes From New York” (2001). So now, 20 years later, Dream Theater finally unveils their upgraded take on the band’s classic, performed in full and in glorious high definition. It’s been a long time coming, but now we’ve got a representation of that iconic album for the modern era.

Complete with new animations and features built exclusively for this tour, the album’s story gleams with a new bright, driven by the band’s well-known faultless execution. Highlights of this portion of the show include the candid performance of the powerful ballad “Through Her Eyes”, the heavy and Middle-Eastern elements of the classics “Home” and “Beyond This Life”, the always touching “The Spirit Carries On”, and an alternate version of the classic Portnoy drum solo at the end of “Finally Free”, where Mike Mangini brings his own technical approach and flavor to an epic-induced passage. Passion, anger, loss, defeat, triumph, sadness, joy, and many, many tears. We went again through all the emotions while reliving the tragic tale of Victoria Page and celebrate a fundamental piece of music history.

For the encore, the band comes full circle with another outing from “Distance Over Time”, the moving epic “At Wit’s End”, which serves as a suitable closing track as the band bids farewell to an enthusiastic audience. After two and a half hours of progressive magic, we find ourselves both exhausted and craving for more, in what proved to be an excellent document of Dream Theater’s past and present, a band that never slows down and constantly pushes itself to new boundaries.

Released by: Inside Out Music
Release Date: November 27, 2020
Genre: Progressive Metal

Musicians:

  • James LaBrie / Vocals
  • John Petrucci / Guitars and vocals
  • John Myung / Bass
  • Jordan Rudess / Keyboards
  • Mike Mangini / Drums

“Distant Memories – Live In London” track-listing: 

LP 1

Side A:

Untethered Angel (Live at Hammersmith Apollo, London, UK, 2020)
A Nightmare to Remember (Live at Hammersmith Apollo, London, UK, 2020)

Side B:

Fall Into the Light (Live at Hammersmith Apollo, London, UK, 2020)
Barstool Warrior (Live at Hammersmith Apollo, London, UK, 2020)

LP 2

Side C:

In the Presence of Enemies – Part 1 (Live at Hammersmith Apollo, London, UK, 2020)
Pale Blue Dot (Live at Hammersmith Apollo, London, UK, 2020)

Side D:

Scenes Live Intro (Live at Hammersmith Apollo, London, UK, 2020)
Scene One: Regression (Live at Hammersmith Apollo, London, UK, 2020)
Scene Two: I. Overture 1928 (Live at Hammersmith Apollo, London, UK, 2020)
Scene Two: II. Strange Déjà Vu (Live at Hammersmith Apollo, London, UK, 2020)
Scene Three: I. Through My Words (Live at Hammersmith Apollo, London, UK, 2020)
Scene Three: II. Fatal Tragedy (Live at Hammersmith Apollo, London, UK, 2020)

LP 3

Side E:

Scene Four: Beyond This Life (Live at Hammersmith Apollo, London, UK, 2020)
Scene Five: Through Her Eyes (Live at Hammersmith Apollo, London, UK, 2020)

Side F:

Scene Six: Home (Live at Hammersmith Apollo, London, UK, 2020)
Scene Seven: I. The Dance of Eternity (Live at Hammersmith Apollo, London, UK, 2020)
Scene Seven: II. One Last Time (Live at Hammersmith Apollo, London, UK, 2020)

LP 4

Side G:

Scene Eight: The Spirit Carries On (Live at Hammersmith Apollo, London, UK, 2020)
Scene Nine: Finally Free (Live at Hammersmith Apollo, London, UK, 2020)

Side H:

At Wit’s End (Live at Hammersmith Apollo, London, UK, 2020)
Paralyzed (Bonus Track) (Live at Hammersmith Apollo, London, UK, 2020)

CD 1

Untethered Angel (Live at Hammersmith Apollo, London, UK, 2020)
A Nightmare to Remember (Live at Hammersmith Apollo, London, UK, 2020)
Fall Into the Light (Live at Hammersmith Apollo, London, UK, 2020)
Barstool Warrior (Live at Hammersmith Apollo, London, UK, 2020)
In the Presence of Enemies – Part 1 (Live at Hammersmith Apollo, London, UK, 2020)
Pale Blue Dot (Live at Hammersmith Apollo, London, UK, 2020)

CD 2

Scenes Live Intro (Live at Hammersmith Apollo, London, UK, 2020)
Scene One: Regression (Live at Hammersmith Apollo, London, UK, 2020)
Scene Two: I. Overture 1928 (Live at Hammersmith Apollo, London, UK, 2020)
Scene Two: II. Strange Déjà Vu (Live at Hammersmith Apollo, London, UK, 2020)
Scene Three: I. Through My Words (Live at Hammersmith Apollo, London, UK, 2020)
Scene Three: II. Fatal Tragedy (Live at Hammersmith Apollo, London, UK, 2020)
Scene Four: Beyond This Life (Live at Hammersmith Apollo, London, UK, 2020)
Scene Five: Through Her Eyes (Live at Hammersmith Apollo, London, UK, 2020)

CD 3

Scene Six: Home (Live at Hammersmith Apollo, London, UK, 2020)
Scene Seven: I. The Dance of Eternity (Live at Hammersmith Apollo, London, UK, 2020)
Scene Seven: II. One Last Time (Live at Hammersmith Apollo, London, UK, 2020)
Scene Eight: The Spirit Carries On (Live at Hammersmith Apollo, London, UK, 2020)
Scene Nine: Finally Free (Live at Hammersmith Apollo, London, UK, 2020)
At Wit’s End (Live at Hammersmith Apollo, London, UK, 2020)
Paralyzed (Bonus Track) (Live at Hammersmith Apollo, London, UK, 2020)

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9.2 Excellent

“Distant Memories – Live in London” serves as the pixel-perfect photograph of what Dream Theater has to offer nowadays. Driven by the band’s ambitious and mostly flawless performance, this expertly filmed event captures the best moments of the band latest outing, “Distance Over Time”, plus a very powerful rendition of the historic “Scenes From A Memory”. A love letter to the fans, who will treasure this release for years to come

  • Performance 9.2
  • Production 9.1
  • Audio 9.4
  • Setlist 9
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