I can't recall Blackburn's St George's Hall being a part of a metal tour of Great Britain let alone be the final night, but that was the reality of the evening. Dream Theater and Symphony X had completed their European tour and were parting ways. The reason myself and my colleagues had driven up the M6 to Blackburn was because their previous show at the jam packed Manchester Apollo a month earlier was so spellbinding that we immediately snaffled a handful of tickets for this last date. The old Victorian music hall wasn't as big or as deep as the Apollo but it was a pretty dandy place to visit.
It was a very cold night and thankfully Symphony X (perhaps one of the best support acts I've seen) warmed up the crowd nicely. The traffic light above the audience was on red and received a cheer when it turned to amber. When it turned green the audience roared as Dream Theater exploded into a vision of bright lights and noise. The large video screen behind the drum kit accompanied the theme to 2001 before the band launched into 'Constant Motion'. It wasn't a sell out crowd, far from it, however, the balcony was rammed and there was enough in the stalls to make enough noise for the whole tour.
When the gig had finished and we all trundled back to our cars a guy behind me said he thought the set list was full of odd choices. The guy was absolutely correct, for example, there was little off 'Train of Thought' and the masterpiece 'Scenes From A Memory' but that was tonight. The Manchester gig, apart from 3 songs from the new album and the encore medley, was a totally different set list. It was an absolute treat for myself and my counterparts who'd witnessed Dream Theater's owning of the Apollo on October 10th. My advice to that bloke and indeed every Dream Theater fan is to make the effort to see these guys at least twice because you never know what you're going to get. It was refreshing to see a band explore their back catalogue rather than stick with a ridged set list.
It's one thing to hear Dream Theater's amazing musicianship on CD, but live it is mesmerising. Guitarist John Petrucci and Keyboardist Jordan Rudess somehow manage to play exactly the same solo at the same time. Mike Portnoy finds his mind blowing drum lines so easy that he even pisses about playing catch with his sticks mid song to the Symphony X drummer who'd taken up residence behind the drum riser. John Myung has fingers of steel that spider up and down a huge necked bass and James LaBrie even managed to surpass his vocals of the gig a month ago.
Highlight of the set was the awesome 'Blind Faith' and the epic twenty-five minute 'In The Presence Of Enemies.' They even had the cheek to throw in 'Images and Words' ballad 'Another Day.' Symphony X decided to help Mike Portnoy drum for a little while and the enjoyment the bands have had touring together was obvious. By the end the noise from the crowd was deafening and a fitting way for Dream Theater to sign off their European tour. It was a show that was equal to the Manchester show in every respect and if truth be told I could have stayed listening to them for another couple of hours.
It was well past curfew when the gig finished and the guy next to me said, "That was one of the best things to come to Blackburn." I can't possibly comment having never been to Blackburn before, but the chances are he was absolutely right. Roll on 2009.