Prog Heaven in Mile-High City: Dream Theater brings ‘Images, Words & Beyond’ Tour to Denver

DT live images by Darko Boehringer
Words & marquee image by Andrew Bansal

October 31st 2017, Paramount Theatre, Denver CO: As soon as prog titans Dream Theater announced that they would be celebrating the 25-year anniversary of their seminal ’92 release ‘Images and Words’ by performing the album in its entirety this year, excitement among fans of the band and genre knew no bounds. After taking the tour to territories worldwide, DT finally returned to home base for the North American leg of the ‘Images, Words & Beyond’ tour, presenting the album and a whole lot more to sold-out venues across the continent. I missed the Los Angeles date due to other commitments, but the magnitude of this show was such that I was compelled to seek an alternative, and as it turned out, I found myself in Denver, Colorado on a chilly Halloween night.

Evening temperatures dropped to the low 30s in the Mile-High City, and ticket holders reveled in the warmth of the lovely Paramount Theatre, located in downtown Denver. There is nothing “Halloween” about going to a Dream Theater concert on October 31, not that it would matter at all to any of the attendees. That said, a handful of people in the crowd were seen in face paint and/or costumes, and to that effect, Dream Theater guitarist John Petrucci tossed candy into the audience from a pumpkin-shaped plastic bowl, while keyboardist Jordan Rudess donned a silly hat for the latter part of the show.

Of course, this special show is all about Dream Theater and there is no need for an opening act, so if your ticket lists “8 PM” as the start time, you better be there by then. The show here in Denver also started promptly, as the house lights went out at 8 o’ clock, and the band came out amidst massive cheers from a sold-out 2000-capacity Paramount Theatre. DT invariably performs in all-seated venues, but there was not much sitting to be done by this Denver audience a large majority of it chose to stand for the entire concert, awe-struck by the brilliance unfolding in front of their eyes and ears.

Even though ‘Images and Words’ was the main attraction, the band did not get into the album right away, and instead came out with “Act I”, which comprised a selection of songs from ‘A Dramatic Turn of Events’, ‘Systematic Chaos’, ‘Falling Into Infinity’, ‘Train of Thought’ albums as well as the self-titled effort, plus there were two tunes from ‘Cleaning Out the Closet’, a fan-club-only Christmas CD the band released in ’99. In addition, there was a heartfelt tribute to Jaco Pastorious, as bassist John Myung painted the ‘Portrait of Tracy’. ‘A Dramatic Turn of Events’ is a very underrated DT album, and it was good to see that the band included the epic song ‘Breaking All Illusions’ off of it into this set.

Quite often, bands use playing an album in entirety as a copout for taking the easy way out and not worrying about compiling an actual setlist for a tour, but DT went above and beyond to give fans a set of rarities before even getting to the album. “Act I” was a splendid treat in itself.

John Myung (L) & John Petrucci (R)

After the 60-minute “Act I”, the band took a 15-minute break, at the end of which an intro tape was played on the PA, a recorded medley of music that was popular on the radio in 1992. It made me realize just how bad popular music was in 1992, and how against-the-grain Dream Theater were going, in daring to put out an album like ‘Images and Words’ that year. This made for a fitting prelude to the band reappearing on the Paramount stage, to start off “Act II” with ‘Pull Me Under’ and delving into the entirety of the aforementioned album.

Vocalist James LaBrie seems to be the kind of singer whose voices gains momentum and strength as a concert progresses, and it felt like he hit his absolute peak during this portion of the show. Besides the singing, he always excels in his crowd interaction, and he did so to an even greater degree on this occasion, sharing funny stories from the original ‘Images and Words’ tour of ’92, and connecting with the Denver audience with the mention of legalized cannabis. Of course, the proud Canadian that he is, he always finds ways to bring Canada into the conversation, and he boasted about Canada legalizing pot country-wide in 2018. Good, engaging crowd banter is of utmost importance in a prog show, otherwise it could get a bit tedious to watch a group of musicians playing for 3 hours without saying a word to the crowd.

James LaBrie

The music was accompanied by a spectacular light show emanating from the elaborate grid set up at various angles on and around the stage, making it a breathtaking, overwhelming concert experience for all in attendance. Every song on ‘Images and Words’ was performed to perfection and received with much elation by the fans, but ‘Metropolis I’ was certainly the standout moment, with ‘Learning to Live’ not far behind. Not many DT fans thought they’d ever get to hear these songs live. Despite the album being 57 minutes long, “Act II” lasted a little over 70 minutes, complete with crowd banter and extended guitar, drum and keyboard solos by Petrucci, Mike Mangini and Rudess respectively, blended into the songs wherever appropriate.

A lot of bands play albums in entirety nowadays to celebrate various types of anniversaries, but sometimes the live rendition of an album does not quite do justice to its studio version. Some albums are simply not meant to be performed live from front to back. But ‘Images and Words’ clearly does not suffer from any such problems, as it sounds and feels absolutely fantastic in the live setting, and I would venture a guess to say that even the band might be pleasantly surprised by how well it comes across live and how positively it is received.

Jordan Rudess

“Act II” left this audience completely overwhelmed, stunned and spellbound, but the show was still not over. In fact, far from it. After doing a pseudo-exit, the band returned for the encore, and what an encore it was. They went on to perform ‘A Change Of Seasons’, the entire 23-minute song, which was indeed a very special bonus for the fans. And only then did Dream Theater take their final bow and bid goodbye to a very grateful set of fans.

There are prog bands, and then there is Dream Theater. No other group of musicians on this planet puts on an exhibition of sheer musicianship quite like Dream Theater does, and they not only continue to inspire and motivate themselves to remain as creative as ever, but they also bring a different concert experience every time they tour, making each tour unmissable and memorable. That said, this particular tour takes it to a level you could not fathom, and all DT and prog fans in or near North American cities the remainder of the tour is scheduled to visit, owe it to themselves to experience this incredible concert.

The Denver prog community will remember Dream Theater’s ‘Images, Words & Beyond’ concert at the Paramount for the rest of their lives, as will those who traveled from far beyond the Centennial State.

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Mike Mangini

Set List:

Act I:
01. The Dark Eternal Night
02. The Bigger Picture
03. Hell’s Kitchen
04. To Live Forever
05. Don’t Look Past Me
06. Portrait of Tracy (Jaco Pastorius cover)
07. As I Am
08. Breaking All Illusions

Act II: Images and Words:
09. Pull Me Under
10. Another Day
11. Take the Time
12. Surrounded
13. Metropolis Pt. 1: The Miracle and the Sleeper
14. Under a Glass Moon
15. Wait for Sleep
16. Learning to Live

17. A Change of Seasons: I The Crimson Sunrise
18. A Change of Seasons: II Innocence
19. A Change of Seasons: III Carpe Diem
20. A Change of Seasons: IV The Darkest of Winters
21. A Change of Seasons: V Another World
22. A Change of Seasons: VI The Inevitable Summer
23. A Change of Seasons: VII The Crimson Sunset

Remaining Tour Dates:
11/09/2017 – Detroit, MI @ The Fillmore
11/10/2017 – Buffalo, NY @ Rapids Theatre
11/12/2017 – Toronto, ON @ Sony Centre
11/14/2017 – Albany, NY @ The Palace Theater
11/15/2017 – Boston, MA @ Orpheum Theatre
11/16/2017 – New York, NY @ Beacon Theater
11/18/2017 – Asbury, Park, NJ @ Paramount Theater
11/19/2017 – Philadelphia, PA @ Merriam Theatre
11/27/2017 – Baltimore, MD @ The Lyric
11/28/2017 – Raleigh, NC @ Memorial Auditorium
11/29/2017 – Nashville, TN @ War Memorial Aud.
12/01/2017 – Austin, TX @ Bass Hall
12/02/2017 – Dallas, TX @ The Pavilion
12/03/2017 – Houston, TX @ Cullen PAC