There's a venue downtown that's weird. It's in the Staples Center area, and it's named after a big phone company that starts with the letter "N". It's super clean, neat and ultra corporate. So corporate that the foyer acts as a showroom for their current phone models, while the headline artist for that night has only a tiny booth for their merchandise. This is where the music industry is today, in a dangerous dance with the big dollar. So when quite a few thousand prog metal nerds turn up, all black shirts and long hair, we all look at each other like we've been coerced into participating in some controlled lab experiment, where we are tested by the tens of flashing billboards, the $14 beers and the $25 parking. It's like going to a metal show in Chadstone Shopping Centre.
But what can you do? When a newly remodeled Dream Theater are in town with a new record and something to prove after the departure of Mike Portnoy, attendance is compulsory in this household.
There was a fair bit of new material mixed in with some old favourites, but what was really noticeable is the return of joy to the band. Here are 5 guys who are look like they like each other again. Rudess is keyboard wizard, Petrucci is He-man incarnate and blistering, and Mangini is more than capably providing the percussive backbone, claiming this new role for himself. LaBrie is in fine vocal form, his mid range is just getting warmer with age and has taken on a much more interactive role with the fans. And Myung is just Myung...quiet and solid. It definitely confirms "a change is as good as a holiday". It feels like there is a new freedom to stand in the spotlight.
Back in the 'hood for this Tuesday's Arch Enemy show....more metal, but a hang with fellow old Duran Duran fans beforehand in the plaza.