Tuesday, October 25, 2016

Dream Theater Live - The Astonishing

Dream Theater came to Grand Rapids recently, on tour for their album The Astonishing.
I've listened to a good amount of Dream Theater's work over the years, though I wouldn't put them in the top tier of my favorite artists. I first came across their music in the 1990s when some fellow listeners of Rush recommended Dream Theater as another good progressive rock group. I haven't kept up with every album they've released over the years, and that includes this latest one, but I still occasionally break out some of their older stuff.

This particular concert was entirely about The Astonishing. It's a concept album, more than 2 hours long with 34 tracks, and they performed the entire thing. I found myself wishing that I'd spent some time listening to it before, since as with most rock concerts, the vocals were hard to follow when you don't know the songs. I certainly enjoyed the music, but it would have been nice to understand the words so I could follow the "concept" part of concept album.

The venue was DeVos Place in downtown Grand Rapids, which is built for stage plays. The approximately 2400 seats are fixed, with no open floor area, and broken up into several tiers. That means the view is pretty good in all areas, but also makes it not particularly well-suited to rock concerts where people want to move around. I thought the acoustics were fine, so the sound wasn't an issue, but there certainly wasn't much crowd energy. The place was only about three-quarters full, so that might have been true even if the venue was more open.

I sat way in the back up in the balcony section, about as far from the stage as you can get. But since it's such a small venue, that was actually a pretty good spot. No one was blocking my view, and I had no complaints about sound quality. I suspect I'd have actually seen less if I was any closer, just due to other people in front. Which is why I didn't move up - the place was empty enough that I could have, but it didn't seem like an improvement.

The band didn't play anything more than The Astonishing. That was a little disappointing, since everything of theirs that I actually know is older. Lots of other people felt the same way, based on what I overheard in the halls during a break and on the way out. Maybe with a bigger or more energetic crowd, there might have been some encores, but not in this particular case.

I'm glad I went to the concert - it would have been silly to miss an opportunity to see any band that I enjoy, this close to home - even if it wasn't quite what I'd hoped. I'm definitely going to make sure I'm more familiar with the latest album for similar situations in the future, though.

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