Review: Dream Theater falls into the light at the Oncenter

Review: Dream Theater falls into the light at the Oncenter

The progressive metal icons perform songs from their latest album as well as the entirety of 'Scenes from a Memory.'
Published: November 12, 2019
Dream Theater used images on a large screen and lights that were synchronized with the music.
Dream Theater fans spent much of Saturday's show in Syracuse singing back lyrics and grooving to the band's eclectic sound.

Heavy guitar riffs, heart-pounding rhythms and mesmerizing melodies.

That’s the formula to Dream Theater’s sound and precisely what the veteran progressive metal act delivered to its fans Saturday at the Oncenter Civic Center Theater.

Along with songs from Dream Theater‘s latest album, Distance over Time, the concert also served as a celebration of the 20th-anniversary of Metropolis Pt. 2: Scenes from a Memory.

The Syracuse crowd was swarmed with metalheads, both young and old, sporting shirts featuring their favorite bands and hair reaching down to their lower backs. The audience joined in a collective holler when the lights dimmed. Hues of blue washed over them and a clean, lingering guitar riff wafted through their ears.

In an instant, guitarist John Petrucci floored his distortion pedal, setting the opening song, “Untethered Angel,” free. As the first single from Dream Theater’s latest album, the track features a dark, foreboding riff that is supported by drummer Mike Mangini’s explosive percussion. The song’s chorus is haunting and memorable, as the crowd of devoted fans hung on to each and every word of James LaBrie’s vocals.


Dream Theater vocalist James LaBrie's sang the entire set even though he said he had a cold.
Despite fighting a cold, vocalist James LaBrie managed to sing through the entire Dream Theater set.

In between songs during the first set, LaBrie mingled with the crowd, joking with the Syracuse fans about their “frigid, frigid city.” Referring to the band’s breakout song, “Pull Me Under,” LaBrie quipped that in the years to come, the song title “would have a whole new meaning.” The longtime Dream Theater vocalist shared that he was struggling with a cold but nevertheless managed to make it through the three-hour set.

While the first act of the performance mostly showcased tracks from the band’s latest LP, two songs from previous albums managed to sneak their way into the setlist: “A Nightmare to Remember” from Black Clouds & Silver Linings and “In the Presence of Enemies – Part 1” from Systematic Chaos.

The other tracks featured from Distance over Time included “Fall into the Light,” “Barstool Warrior,” and “Pale Blue Dot.” In a recent phone interview prior to the show, keyboardist Jordan Rudess cited “Pale Blue Dot” as his favorite song off the new record.

“I tend to like the ones where we really develop the ideas… and the song on the album that does that for me mostly is ‘Pale Blue Dot,'” Rudess said.


Although not a sold out crowd, a passionate one showed up for Dream Theater's Nov. 9, 2019 concert in Syracuse.
While it wasn't a sold-out crowd, a large group of passionate fans managed to showcase their appreciation for the band.

Following a brief intermission, Dream Theater returned to perform the entirety of their fifth studio-album Scenes from a Memory. Accompanied by video graphics detailing the LP’s concept, the band swiftly transitioned through each song.

Fans chanted back eagerly to songs like “Strange Deja Vu,” “Through Her Eyes,” and “Home.” The crowd was also treated to perhaps one of the band’s most technically challenging pieces, “The Dance of Eternity.” Each instrumental member of Dream Theater showcases their immense talent on this track, as the song is littered with shifting time signatures and hypnotizing passages of notes.

The song that really brought the crowd together was the soulful, Pink Floyd reminiscent “The Spirit Carries On.” While performing the song, which is one of the slower numbers in their catalog, Dream Theater encouraged the fans to sing along to the track’s infectious melody. Petrucci broke out into one of his most passionate solos of the night, blending his unquestionable technical skill with his unique musicality. During the song, the video graphics paid tribute to some of rock music’s fallen legends through a graveyard, including David Bowie, Queen’s Freddie Mercury, Soundgarden’s Chris Cornell, and a handful of other greats.

Bassist John Myung plays during Dream Theater's Nov. 9, 2019 concert in Syracuse.
Founding member John Myung provides a solid foundation for Dream Theater's sound with his six-string bass.

Dream Theater finished their set with an encore performance of “At Wit’s End” off their new album. At the end of the show, the quintet gathered at the front of the stage and bowed to the grateful audience. Petrucci, in what has become an end of show tradition for him, threw a slew of guitar picks into the front of the crowd.

The band wrapped up the North American leg of the Distance over Time tour in Kitchener, Canada, on Monday and will hit the road again in December for shows in Brazil.

Distance over Time and Scenes from a Memory are available on Spotify and other music streaming services.