JAMES LABRIE Praises MIKE PORTNOY’s Return To Curating Tour Setlists: “He’s Done A Terrific Job, It’s Like A Power-Punch Setlist”

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In an exclusive interview with Brazilian music journalist Igor Miranda, Dream Theater‘s frontman, James LaBrie, discussed several topics regarding the band’s highly anticipated “40th Anniversary Tour 2024 – 2025.” This milestone tour, billed as “An Evening With Dream Theater,” is particularly noteworthy as it marks the first tour since drummer Mike Portnoy rejoined the band last October. The European leg kicks off on October 20 and will see the band performing in 23 cities until November 24.

LaBrie enthusiastically discussed the preparation for the tour’s setlist, highlighting Portnoy‘s pivotal role (as transcribed by Blabbermouth). “Just so you know, we let Mike Portnoy take over the setlist again. So he’s back to creating the setlist and he’s doing, like we were almost positive he would, he’s done a terrific job. I mean, the setlist he put together… And the thing is with Mike, he was saying, ‘Hey, guys, if there’s a song you don’t wanna do, let me know. If there’s songs that you really wanna do, let me know.’ And so there’s some very strong and cool communication going on. But yeah, he’s glad to be putting the setlist together.”

He hinted at the excitement surrounding the setlist without giving away specifics: “I can’t reveal what the setlist will be, but I can tell you that it’s amazing. And I can’t imagine any fan walking out of the venue and going, ‘Oh, shit, man, I wanted them to play this’ or ‘I wanted them to play that.’ This setlist really touches on so many grandiose moments in the band, so it’s really like a power-punch setlist, and it’s really gonna be exciting to see the fans and then to start hearing the conversations once we’re actually playing it live. But now we’re stoked. It’s gonna be a great, great evening, amazing production. And, yeah, it’s gonna be awesome.”

Reflecting on the journey leading to Portnoy‘s return, LaBrie described it as a gradual process that became more apparent in hindsight. He recounted various collaborative efforts among band members, such as Portnoy‘s involvement in Liquid Tension Experiment projects and solo work with guitarist John Petrucci. These interactions helped pave the way for reconciliation and Portnoy‘s eventual return.

LaBrie shared: “I think way in the back of our head, at the time were we thinking, ‘Oh, yeah, it’s inevitable. We’re gonna get back together and put the original lineup back together’? I don’t think any of us were thinking that, but I think there’s probably always a little iota of that sense that it could possibly happen. And I think with us, one thing just kept leading to the other, and eventually, when we were done with the last world tour, we kind of… ‘A View From The Top Of The World,’ when we finished that tour in support of that album and wrapped it up in July of ’23, we kind of knew at that point that we just wanted to kind of reflect on everything and take a reading of where we were in our career, what was it that we wanted to achieve”

“And then the whole Mike Portnoy thing kind of started to become more a reality, where it was just kind of, like, ‘Hey, you know what, guys? We’re at this point in our life and career, if we’re gonna do something like this, maybe now is the time that we should be considering.’ But like I said, it was several things that just started to materialize, little things that grew into a little bit bigger things. And it just kind of evolves from there and it mushrooms into what was undeniable to us at some point in time where we went, ‘Hey, let’s do this. This makes perfect sense.” James added.

He emphasized that while they are proud of their work with former drummer Mike Mangini, this new chapter with Portnoy is an exciting evolution for the band: “And no diss to… Mike Mangini‘s an amazing, incredible fricking musician, drummer, and the albums he did with us we’re all extremely proud of; they’re great albums. But now here we are in this chapter, back with the original drummer and our 40th-anniversary world tour coming up. So it’s huge. It’s gonna be big. It’s gonna be big.”

In addition to tour preparations, LaBrie mentioned the progress on Dream Theater‘s sixteenth studio album, which will be the first with Portnoy in 15 years. He detailed the current state of recording and expressed the band’s enthusiasm about the new material: “Right now, keyboards are being recorded, as you and I speak. So, yeah, it’s basically, record keyboards and then vocals. And then it has to be mixed and mastered and all that stuff. And then, obviously, the artwork and everything that goes along with any given new album, that also has to be put into the works, and it’s being discussed and so on and so forth. So, yeah, there’s a lot going on, and like any given album when you record it, there’s a process. And, yeah, it’s moving along and it’s coming along amazingly. So, we’re pretty stoked.”

When asked about the musical direction of the upcoming album, LaBrie remained tight-lipped but highly positive: “You know what? I would really like to save that for when we start interviewing for the new album. I’ll just tell you this: I’ll say, quite simply, we couldn’t be happier with where it is because it’s the album that we wanted to write. It’s the album that we wanted to create, and we nailed it. It’s everything that we wanted to achieve and more. So, what can I tell you? We’re ecstatic. We’re so, so happy about it. And that’s really the best place to be. When you’re creating something like a reunion album, you want it to be absolutely incredible. So we’re stoked. Absolutely.”

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