Dream Theater to bring Distance over Time tour to Syracuse

Dream Theater to bring Distance over Time tour to Syracuse

Keyboardist Jordan Rudess shares his history with the band in light of their new album and the 20th anniversary of Scenes from a Memory.
Published: November 7, 2019
Dream Theater - Courtesy of Serwis MetalSide.pl / Creative Commons
2019 marks keyboardist Jordan Rudess's twentieth year as a member of Dream Theater.

Some music fans may know Dream Theater as that prog-metal band that managed to find success in an era where flannel shirts and gruff vocals were the norms.

But, ask any faithful fan of the band and they’re likely to describe them as a group of untethered angels riding on a train of thought, intent on bringing systematic chaos.

Dream Theater will bring their systematic chaos to the Oncenter Civic Center Theaters this Saturday to perform songs from their latest studio album, Distance over Time. The tour also celebrates the 20th anniversary of the band’s fifth studio LP, Metropolis Pt. 2: Scenes from a Memory.

For keyboardist Jordan Rudess, this tour proves to be a special one, as Scenes from a Memory was his first album with the band.

“I love the music to that album,” Rudess said during a recent phone interview. “It was fun to go back and kind of brush off all the sounds…and also it’s amazing because the fans are just so totally invested in it.”

The themes for Distance over Time differ greatly from the band’s previous release, The Astonishing: a 34 track concept album that was later adapted into a book by author Peter Orullian and lead guitarist John Petrucci. According to Rudess, the group wanted to take a more straightforward approach for their latest album.

“We felt that we wanted to just try to get back to kind of our core sound,” Rudess said. “We wanted to produce something that was a little bit more focused.”

Dream Theater - Courtesy of Serwis MetalSide.pl / Creative Commons
Jordan Rudess focuses intently through one of Dream Theater's rigorous instrumental passages.

Dream Theater was originally formed by a trio of students at the Berklee College of Music in Boston in 1985. Guitarist John Petrucci, bassist John Myung, and former drummer Mike Portnoy bonded over their shared taste for progressive rock bands such as Rush and Yes as well as popular metal groups Metallica and Iron Maiden.

Initially called Majesty, the group decided to drop out of school in favor of pursuing the band, recruiting Kevin Moore, the band’s first keyboardist, and former vocalist Charlie Dominici in the process.

After changing their name to Dream Theater, the band was able to record their first album, When Dream and Day Unite, and release it through Mechanic/MCA Records in 1989. While the album produced fan favorites such as “Ytse Jam” and “A Fortune in Lies,” the LP was met with little industry success, yielding only a small club tour after the band cut ties with the label.

“We thought that this was it, you know, ‘we’re going to make it’,” Petrucci said in a 2015 interview with Guitar Center. “And then it came out, people seemed to like it, but that was the end of that.”

This lack of success led to creative differences within Dream Theater, prompting Dominici’s firing from the band.


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John Petrucci adds rich layers of guitar to Dream Theater's eclectic sound.

The group was able to turn their luck around in 1991 when they acquired Canadian vocalist James LaBrie from glam metal band Winter Rose. After signing with ATCO Records, the group released their second LP, Images and Words, the following year. The album was met with widespread acclaim from music critics and the opening track “Pull Me Under” received substantial airplay on the radio and MTV.

“I remember the real sort of pinnacle of that feeling…is when I started to hear the song ‘Pull Me Under’ on the radio,” Petrucci told Guitar Center. “I never would have imagined that in a million years.”

The song went on to reach #10 on the Billboard Rock Charts. In 2017, Rolling Stone ranked Images and Words at 95 of the “100 Greatest Metal Albums of All Time.”

Jordan Rudess’s history with Dream Theater began when Moore departed from the band after the recording of their follow-up album, Awake, in 1994. The keyboardist was called up for one show at the Foundations Forum in Burbank, California. Despite the successful gig, Rudess was not ready to commit to the band, giving the job over to then Alice Cooper keyboardist Derek Sherinian.

“I ended up saying no to them and joined a group called The Dixie Dregs,” Rudess said. “And then I was asked to join Liquid Tension Experiment.”

In 1998, Rudess was able to work with Petrucci and Portnoy again in Liquid Tension Experiment: a separate, instrumental project that featured famed bassist and chapman stick player Tony Levin from King Crimson. After the project released its second studio album in 1999, Rudess felt that he was ready to join Dream Theater.

“We realized that the chemistry was really good and they were very successful,” Rudess said. “We just worked really well together in the studio.”

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John Myung feels the music while contributing sharp, supportive bass lines.

After letting Sherinian go due to creative differences, Dream Theater accepted Rudess as a permanent member of the band. Ten studio albums later, he continues to man the helm at his various keyboards and other technologically advanced instruments. While his skills as a pianist are more than exemplary, Rudess’s talents extend far beyond his virtuosic musicianship, making him one of the main compositional forces behind the band’s sound.

“I was brought into Dream Theater not only as a keyboardist, but they also wanted to hire somebody who was a composer,” Rudess said. “Kevin Moore was instrumental in forming the sound of Dream Theater back in the day…when he left, it was kind of, I think, a little bit of a void there. They wanted to try to bring that back.”

In 2010, Dream Theater found themselves in a dire situation when founding member Portnoy decided to leave the band. After a lengthy audition process captured in the three-part documentary series “The Spirit Carries On,” Mike Mangini was accepted as the group’s new drummer and has held the position ever since.

Through the ups and downs they have experienced together, the members of Dream Theater continue to draw concertgoers for their unique blend of advanced musicianship, variety of lyrical themes, and dedication to their fans.

“We’ve learned a lot over the years about what kind of sections really touch a crowd,” Rudess said. “We see the response all over the world.”

Rudess admits that Syracuse is a relatively new territory for the band, but he is eager to see how Saturday’s show will play out.

“We haven’t played Syracuse that much so it’ll be kind of cool to see what the vibe is,” Rudess said.

Tickets for Saturday’s show can be purchased through the band’s website. The show begins at 8 p.m. Distance over Time and Metropolis Pt. 2: Scenes from a Memory are available on Spotify and other music streaming services.

Dream Theater - Courtesy of Serwis MetalSide.pl / Creative Commons

Known for his technically precise drumming style, Mike Mangini is Dream Theater's most recent member.

Dream Theater - Courtesy of Serwis MetalSide.pl / Creative Commons

James LaBrie showcases his dynamic vocal range.