Venue: Plenary Hall, Kuala Lumpur Convention Centre, Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia
Date: 2nd October 2017
Promoter: IME Malaysia
Review by: Shai
Rarely is there a concert that breaks barriers and tears down walls of age, gender, or any other sets of beliefs/preferences of segregation. Progressive Metal pioneers, Dream Theater, brought one upon our shores. This was evident right from the designated venue, as the KLCC Plenary Hall is more accustomed to accommodating acoustic maestros as opposed to metallic mavericks. More Mayer than Metallica, so to speak.
Thus, the thought of presenting performers that blitz through more notes a minute than some artists’ entire albums is an overwhelming scenario to begin with; one that fans held their breath in fears of the all-too-familiar cancellations. The show thankfully did take place, with all 3,000 supporters in attendance ready to rock the capital, albeit having to be in their numbered seats most of the time.
Newbies to the collective sampled the band’s three-decade young repertoire in the first set, with “newer” songs, from the roaring riffs of “The Dark Eternal Night” to the modern appeal of “Our New World”. Bass aficionados were also left bewildered, as John Myung, the “mysterious” founding member, delivered a harmonics-laden Jaco Pastorius tribute, to the delight and confusion of those who understand and don’t, respectively. Clarity comes crashing down after, as John Petrucci slalomed through his fret board, leaving spectators dazed and dumbfounded, while Mike Mangini’s giant drum kit was pounded to the fullest possibilities.
From heavy grooves to soothing streams, these master musicians made every minute count to fans that persevered for the band’s Malaysian debut. Lead singer James Labrie acknowledged what most fans have consistently been wondering: “Why do we always fly through to Singapore and not play in KL?” – Your guess is as good as ours, Mr. Kevin*. He continued with lauding appreciation to the persistence of the fans, as their prolonged prosperity in the treacherous modern music scene is credited directly to everyone who made it to the showcase that evening.
The second set is what the crowd have been eagerly anticipating, in celebration of the critically and commercially acclaimed Images & Words album, their magnum opus that was released 25 years ago. Jordan Rudess enchanted the masses with his masterful interpretations on the keyboard lines of overwhelming pieces such as “Metropolis Pt 1”, “Pull Me Under”, and “Take the Time”, albeit not being in the band when the record was made.
The lack of stage theatrics did not seem to bother the crowd one bit, as intricately blistering musical passages is accompanied by well-toned, controlled vocals to paint a picture of proficiency in evoking emotional ecstasy. Throw in a crescendo of crowd communication for good measure, and you have a sea of singalong, head banging, and orgasmic-inducing moments that is flooded across the audience in abundance. Dropped jaws, melted faces, and blown minds are scattered throughout the hall, as the band prepared to take the stage once more for an encore like never before!
The questions is, how would these gentlemen top their previous sets to a crowd of 3,000 rapturous revellers, to the point of no return, with only one song left to spare? Enter “A Change of Seasons”, an epic 23-minute suite that many believe to be the band’s most majestic recording so far. Electrify they did, with every extraordinary lick, line, and fill bouncing off the walls and leaving the mob spellbound, mesmerising them enough to prowl towards the front of stage, ignoring all boundaries and seating segments, beyond the capabilities of security personnel.
Once the lights were turned up, signalling the end of this astonishing spectacle, it is apparent that this experience must be lived to be believed. The young and young-at-heart, professionals, executives, students, aristocrats, peasants, and all in between were grateful to have witnessed a historical moment in the Malaysian live music scene. A dazzling display of dexterous dynamics, technical talents and enviable endurance ensured that the fans left with “Scenes From A Memory” to last a lifetime.
* Inside knowledge/easter egg, as Kevin is Mr Labrie’s actual first name, but resorted to use his middle name instead to avoid confusion with founding keyboardist, Kevin Moore.