DREAM THEATER - Along For The Ride : Prepare To Be Illuminated

March 9, 2014, 6 years ago

hot flashes news dream theater

By Carl Begai

There are moments during this interview when DREAM THEATER keyboardist Jordan Rudess comes across as a peace n' love kinda guy. Not in a so-chill-he-must-be-on-something way, but rather with a Life Is Good enthusiasm for the band's current status as prog metal kings. You can't blame him for being upbeat considering the wave of success Dream Theater is riding with their latest album and the recently wrapped European tour. It's a buzz that's sure to get louder when the they kick off their North American tour later this month, featuring (almost) nightly three-hour shows designed and guaranteed to captivate everyone in attendance.

"We decided that we were going to do the An Evening With... shows, which is a big thing because we've been going out with opening bands and not offering the whole big production," Rudess begins, recapping the European tour. "This time it seemed like the fans and the promoters really wanted that and we were ready to make that happen. It was three hours of music and it was a big show; a lot of playing and my fingers are definitely feeling it (laughs). The reaction to it was really great. I felt like the European leg was our best tour so far, especially looking at the ecstatic faces in the audience at the end of a really long show. It proved to me that doing things like this was a great idea. We went into this with the idea that we would try to up our game a little bit and put even more into the show. Not only the amount of time that we played, but the whole experience. We wanted to create a show where, from the time people walk in the door to the time they leave, they're part of our world. We wanted to take people on a journey with this tour so we put a lot of thought, time and energy into it. At the end of that two month leg, I have to say doing things this was was a gamble that paid off in terms of making the fans happy and bringing more people into the shows."

It was certainly a gamble in that any show exceeding two hours, particularly featuring music as complex, intense and downright epic as what Dream Theater offers, runs the risk of boring the snot out of even the artist's most ardent fans.

"I think the word is spreading, and that's what we wanted to happen," says Rudess. "We want people to say that his is a must-see Dream Theater show. It was a lot of work, it didn't just happen. Like, how do you play for that long? As you said, the music is very intense and is demanding for the listener, so the question is how to go about capturing people and bringing them along for the ride without overwhelming them. Judging by the feedback we've gotten, we accomplished our goal."

Since the release of the new album, and due in particular to press coverage during the European tour, it's become very clear that Dream Theater is functioning as a unit better than they have in years. Interviews conducted with Rudess, John Petrucci (guitars) and James LaBrie (vocals) have hammered home the point, as far as they're concerned, that Dream Theater functions better without founding drummer Mike Portnoy, who left the band in 2010. Asked to explain their stance, Rudess is genuinely respectful of Portnoy when discussing his influence on the band for better and/or worse.

"I think what happened is that Mike Portnoy, whom I have a lot of respect for to this day - he's a wonderful musician, he's creative, he did great things for Dream Theater - when he left everybody else was able to offer their full energy to the project. You're talking about five guys who are extremely capable, who can make and produce their own albums, who just know how to do this, and we kind of allowed Mike to take over a lot of stuff. When we got to the point where he was no longer there we were excited about having that extra space. We suddenly had an organization that could be fully democratic and we could put ourselves behind it and figure out the best way to make it work. It was a cool feeling because we were able to present ourselves as a unified force; five guys that put themselves out there (with Mike Mangini in Portnoy's place), not only in terms of ideas and what was happening from a business aspect, but also when we walked out on stage. So many people have said to me that there's this amazing energy in the band now, and 'unified' is the word that comes up a lot."

The impression is that Dream Theater's members are able to breathe freely now, and the audience is feeding off that energy.

"We're in a very happy place," Rudess agrees. "Mike Mangini is not only a fantastic out-of-the-box drum god, he's a fun and crazy character and that makes us happy. It couldn't be any better. We play on stage with the guy and he's doing these amazing things that make you smile. Mangini is very into engaging other people, you've got John Myung (bass) back there vibing with him, and it's cool seeing the bassist wanting to get involved (laughs). There's a camaraderie and open-ness being able to work together and enjoy together."

"I was the first one to say back in the old days, before Portnoy left, that the band is great and that we worked really well together. I still appreciate all of that and I have some fond memories, but again, I can only report about how the vibes and the energy is now and how well things are working. I look out at those faces at the end of a show and I'm telling you, I can scan every row of the sudience and every night I'm amazed. They're all completely engaged and absolutely ecstatic. I've never seen that before. It's so amazing and very rewarding."

Rudess admits that even under the An Evening With... format, preparing a Dream Theater setlist at this point of their career is a potential nightmare featuring "lots of discussion, lots of preparation." And while they're more or less committed to playing the fan favourites, there's a focus on bringing some of the new album to life and turning those tracks into in-demand concert tracks for the future.

"It's been a lot of fun," Rudess says of performing the new material, which is still fresh to his ears. "For me, I'm very into the epic tunes that we write, so a track like 'Illumination Theory' is so much fun to play. It's great because I spent so much time is the studio doing so much tracking, finding sounds, and really making all my orchestrational ideas come to life. The studio mode is one thing, but then I do this kind of pre-production to figure out how to play all that stuff live. That's the point where I feel 'Wow, I've got this all under my fingers...' and I'm presenting all this work that I did every night on stage. It's the result of a lot of time and a lot of practice, and we all feel this is a great opportunity to present the new material we're so passionate about."

Photos by:

- Florian Stangl (Metal-Fotos.de)
- Daniela Adelfinger (Tierra-de-Oz.net) in cooperation with Kalle Rock

Go to this location for Dream Theater's complete tour schedule.



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