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Progressive Rock CD Reviews

Dream Theater

The Dark Side of the Moon

Review by Julie Knispel

As a way of providing something different and special to their fans, Dream Theater began a series of cover shows in 2002. Whenever the band were scheduled to perform two nights in the same venue/city, they would dedicate part of their second show to a performance of a classic album, covered in its entirety. With the advent of their official bootleg label, three of these special performances have been immortalized on album: Master of Puppets (Metallica), The Number of the Beast (Iron Maiden), and now Dark Side of the Moon (Pink Floyd). Performed in just a few select cities, the performance released on this 2 CD set comes from the Hammersmith Apollo in London England, recorded 25 October 2005.

Dream Theater makes every attempt to ensure that their album covers are as accurate as possible in every way. As such, the band used renditions of Pink Floyd’s infamous projections and mini-films, used to aid in recreating the kind of experience an audience member might have had watching a performance of the album by Pink Floyd in 1973. Keyboard patches and guitar tones are meticulously recreated to match the original, and samples of the still quotable spoken word interjections pop up in all the right places. Finally, special guests are brought on board where needed to perform parts without having to rely on pre-recorded tapes. This is not a reinterpretation or reworking of the material as much as a loving tribute to music influential to the group’s growth and development.

This review is available in book format (hardcover and paperback) in Music Street Journal: 2006 Volume 6 at lulu.com/strangesound.

Track by Track Review
Disc 1
Speak to Me/Breathe
One can only imagine what it was like in the Apollo the night this concert was recorded; the audience knew a cover album was going to be performed, but were unsure of what it would be. Not released on this album is the series of teasers the band put together trying to throw the audience off the track, with snippets of Yes, Queensryche and Rush album openers, before settling into the heartbeat opening of the longest running Billboard chart album ever.
On The Run
The 2005 tour saw keyboardist Jordan Rudess expand his arsenal of equipment to include a huge modular analogue synthesizer. This track cries out for the warmth and richness that only a modular synth can provide, and was one of two spots in this show where Rudess had an opportunity to give it a workout.
Time
John Pretucci’s guitar tone is eerily reminiscent of the slightly fuzzed, overdriven David Gilmour lead from the original PF release, bending notes and sustaining lines where other musicians might be tempted to add some flash and filigree. James La Brie’s vocals are solid here. Despite vocal issues in the past caused by major throat problems, he has improved markedly over the past years, and in 2005 was at his strongest since his earliest days in the band.
The Great Gig In The Sky
Special guest Theresa Thomason joins the band on stage to recreate Clare Torry’s famously improvised vocals. She acquits herself quite well indeed.
Money
The classic radio hit from DSoTM, Dream Theater remains true to the original by bringing out Norbert Stachel (from the Roger Waters band) to play the saxophone parts recorded by Dick Parry on the original album. The groove is deep and gritty, as befits a song about greed and money as the root of all evil. John Myung’s bass was far more evident on this tour than in the past, and here retains that presence as it powers the tune along.
Us and Them
This piece is a showcase for La Brie’s much improved vocals. From the breathy verses through the more insistent choruses, La Brie shows why the band picked him to be their new lead singer back in 1990.1991, and why they have stuck by his side throughout the years. DSoTM is the first cover album opportunity Rudess has had to show off his keyboard skills to their fullest (the previous covers being metal albums, Rudess was relegated mostly to recreating rhythm guitar parts via patches on his rig), and he takes full advantage of this. Norbert Stachel guests here as well.
Any Colour You Like
One of the few extended instrumental sections from the original album, Dream Theater handles the tones, twists and turns with equal parts dexterity and restraint. Again, for other bands this would be an opportunity to show off intense musical skill; for Dream Theater, it’s a chance to show off their mastery by not necessarily showing off. Rudess, Petrucci and drummer Mike Portnoy all shine here, adding their own flair and color, but it is as much because of what they don’t do than what they might have done.
Brain Damage
This is another solid recreation. However, this track in particular shows where the release on DVD offers a bit of an advantage. In concert, there is extensive use of projections and films to fit the themes of insanity and lunacy present in this song. Without these, the song simply becomes an excellent recreation.
Eclipse
The performance closes out with “Eclipse,” and it is suitably bombastic and powerful, building to a rage and a fury before ebbing away to the epochal and essential heartbeat and famous last words...”there is no dark side of the moon...matter of fact it’s all dark.”  

Disc 2
Echoes (Part 1): Philadelphia PA 2 April 2004
Recorded during sound check at the Tower Theatre, the band would perform this song at that evening’s concert. It’s a fantastic rendition of the first half of the epic piece from 1971’s Meddle album, as rearranged for the Live at Pompeii film.
One Of These Days: Rotterdam, Netherlands 18 January 2004
The second track on this collection of covers originally released on Meddle, this offers another opportunity for John Myung’s bass chops to shine through. 
Sheep
Another sound check recording, this time from Los Angeles CA on 9 March 2006. Animals is possibly the most underrated Pink Floyd album, stuck between the majesty of Wish You Where Here and the epic The Wall. “Sheep” is an angry song, and James La Brie spits the lyrics out with a venom worthy of Roger Waters at his most bilious.
In The Flesh
Recorded in Berlin on 26 February 1995, this track, like the two that follow, feature former keyboardist Derek Sherinian (replaced in 1999 by Jordan Rudess). With a few exceptions, songs from The Wall generally do not stand well on their own, being so tightly tied to the story and concept, and “In The Flesh” is really no exception.
Run Like Hell
Another cover from The Wall, performed live in Poughkeepsie NY on 30 December 1998 (trivia: this would be the final performance Derek Sherinian would have as an official member of the band, though he would join DT on stage in 2004 for one show). A brief 1:58 take on the song, it was played as part of a medley with the DT original “The Way It Used To Be” and a cover of the Who’s “Won’t Get Fooled Again.” As such, it is incomplete, and fades before the performance shifted to a non-Pink Floyd song.
Hey You
From Dream Theater’s 25 June 1998 concert in Paris France, “Hey You” is one of a small handful of songs that can comfortably be excised from The Wall to stand on their own. This is a solid, if unspectacular rendition of the piece.
Comfortably Numb
In 2003, Dream Theater worked with Queensryche on a lengthy summer tour. “Comfortably Numb” was one of the highlights of the tour, performed by both bands with singers Geoff Tate (Queensryche) and James La Brie trading off verses. With 2 drummers, 2 bassists, 2 singers, 3 guitarists and a keyboardist on stage, the sound is a bit over packed, and Tate’s vocals seem a bit more restrained and a touch flatter than La Brie’s. While there are moments of excellence on this song, as a whole it is perhaps the weakest performance on this otherwise solid 2 CD set.
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