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Dream Theater

Once In A Livetime

Review by Sean Faust
or the past 9 years, progressive virtuosos Dream Theater (currently Mike Portnoy, John Petrucci, John Myung, James LaBrie and Derek Sherinian) have been blessing the music world with their highly textured (and sometimes ethereal) music and thought-provoking lyrics. Now they present us with a double-live CD of their "greatest hits".

Anyone who has seen them live knows that this is a different world. There are extended parts, improvisational jams, new intros to or alternate versions old songs, and sometimes medleys of Dream Theater favorites, making this live experience a whole new tinge in the DT realm.

Packed with all of the ingredients mentioned above and more, "Once In A LIVETime" is a live album in the same class as past albums such as "Frampton Comes Alive", "EXIT Stage Left", and so on. This is a "must-buy" for fans of Dream Theater as well as fans of live, progressive, fun music.

This review is available in book format (hardcover and paperback) in Music Street Journal: The Early Years Volume 1 at


Track by Track Review
Disc 1
A Change Of Seasons - I. The Crimson Sunrise, II. Innocence
The album opens with a medley that feeds us with highlights from a highly requested DT favorite. Always welcomed with open arms from fans, the first two parts of DT`s magnum opus is performed with precision and enthusiasm, preparing us for over 2 hours of great performances.
Puppies On Acid
Known as the intro for "The Mirror" from the album "Awake", this perfomance, although, not as fat and crunchy as the original, it still possesses it`s original "evil" sound. We`re still drawn into DT`s world in the second part of the opening medley.
Just Let Me Breathe
The opening medley is closed with a straight-ahead, in your face rocker with the traditional DT solo section. One of the best tracks from "Falling Into Infinity" translates even better live!
Here we have another magnificent opus portrayed in a wonderful array of harmony and melody. These guys know how to enjoy themselves live, and this fact shines on this track.
Take the Time
"Classic" DT in one it`s finest moments. Although the mix is lacking in some parts, John Petrucci and Mike Portnoy taking over vocals for the first verse once again shows how entertaining and fun this band really is. The song ends with a transition into Lynyrd Skynyrd`s "Freebird", excellent!
Derek Sherinian Keyboard Solo
Short, to the point, and executed with grace and perfection, this is one of those keyboard solos among the ranks of Emerson. Although Sherinian is from a different world than former keyboardist Kevin Moore, his playing here, and throughout this album, show him as a more than worthy addition to Dream Theater.
Lines in the Sand
One of DT`s grandest epics, this song translates better live than most aspects of most songs of this caliber. This emotional roller-coaster, one of the greatest rock epics ever written, has been performed wonderfully for your listening pleasure.
Probably their most requested live song, after listening to this performance, should anyone wonder why? The emotion and raw energy is captured here. The middle solo section has been replaced with an amazing outro that not only leaves the listener smiling, but is also a transition into the next cut.
A.C.O.S. IV - The Darkest Of Winters
A heavy, complete jam-oriented instrumental section, performed with excellence and freedom, this is a lot of fun to listen to.
The Ytse Jam
Ytse Jam is by far one of the most acclaimed instrumentals in rock history. Derek Sherinian brings in a new twist to a great song, making it even better than you`ve ever heard! The solo section has a few new things to it, so "Fasten Your Seatbelts"!
Mike Portnoy Drum Solo
Not that a Dream Theater show isn`t sometimes a musician`s clinic in and of itself, here, the listener is presented with 5 minutes of Mike Portnoy showing off a hint of what he`s made of. You`ve never heard drumming like this before.
Disc 2
Trial of Tears
Disc 2 opens up with a rush of classic progressive rock style in DT vein! With all of the right ups, down, and in-betweens, Trial Of Tears is not only a crowd pleaser for fans of progressive music, but also a great opener for a "second set".
Hollow Years
The set mellows out here with an intimately performed acoustic rendition of the gorgeous ballad from "Falling Into Infinity".
Take Away My Pain
Another acoustic rendition, this is similar to the original demo version. The performance here is a more visceral version, with Jay Beckenstein of Spyro Gyra taking over the leads on saxophone. There is much heart and soul here; even better than the original.
Caught In A Web/ Lie
These tracks bring us back into the energy field DT always delivers with a jolty charge. The mix on these two songs is desirable, and the performance is fresh and outstanding.
Peruvian Skies
Mellow and heavy, this is a really good performance with a few surprises in between.
John Petrucci Guitar Sol
Shred guitarists, open your ears and get out your notebooks. There`s some great stuff in here, including an excerpt of "Paradigm Shift" (Liquid Tension Experiment) and "The Flight Of The Bumblebee" played with Petrucci`s well-respected accuracy and technique.
Pull Me Under
For some, this is the song that put DT on the map. This live version relegates the original, from "Images And Words", into a shoebox and under the bed.
Metropolis/ Learning To Live/ A.C.O.S. VII- The Crimson Sunset
Here`s the show closer. The grand finale consisting of pieces from DT`s greatest epic compositions. Each of these songs are played (and received) with passion and justice. The jam between Metropolis and Learning to live is all too great, as well as climactic (check out the crowd adding their voices to instrument the end). "The Crimson Sunset" closes out a spectacular concert where it had begun, breathtaking, leaving our tastebuds craving more!
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