Release: Tuesday, August 29, 2006
This will be my first DVD critique. Given the masses of information on this triple-disc set, I’m electing to review only the special feature documentary on Disc 3, since the concert itself is far too difficult to review. It’s either that, or amazingly simple: those who love DT will love the concert.
More than anything, Dream Theater is a band standing wrongfully accused of thirty years of pretentious virtuosic musicianship and lifeless stage presence. Alright. I’ll concede the stage presence thing. That’s only because most fans (like yours truly) tend to go to these shows for the experience of any given song: they’re masterful story tellers, not Ozzy Osbournes biting the heads off bats (although he’s pretty great, too). That’s why you’ll find yourself, in this case, watching Radio City Music Hall filled with a relatively subdued crowd of some 6,000. As heavy as some DT riffs can be, more often than not they don’t generate mosh pits.
But damn it, do they inspire. From LaBrie’s controversial, operatic approach to the vocals, to guitarist John Petrucci’s mind-numbing swept arpeggios and heartrending solos (please give “The Spirit Carries On” a listen; it’s best enjoyed as the Score version at bottom of page); from the idiosyncrasies of keyboardist Jordan Rudess (a student of the prestigious Juilliard School of Music), to the quiet power of bassist John Myung, this band is one full of character and outrageous technical prowess that is given a complete in-depth look in The Score So Far, an hour-long documentary on the band.
Starting at the beginning, former drummer Mike Portnoy, John Petrucci, and John Myung are found recollecting how they met and formed what would later become “the biggest band you’ve never heard of,” at the world-renowned Berklee College of Music in Boston. Now, granted, from here you can’t expect a Rolling Stones or Foo Fighters story of sex, drugs and rock-n-roll, but what you do get is a highly unlikely tale of how several musicians, passionate about the music they’re creating (at the ripe age of 17/18, mind you), wind up dropping out of this school to pursue a career in the music business. In all likelihood, that would be a move these days that would simply kill any chance of being very successful. As Petrucci explains, “Convincing my parents that I wanted to go to music college was one step. Then, convincing them that I wanted to drop out of music college, it was a nightmare…”
Understandably so, since their debut album When Dream and Day Unite amounted to nothing more than a big stage teaser — sending these wide-eyed young guns in circles, refusing to allow them to do any touring apart from local gigs. As Portnoy puts it, “It left such a sour taste of the music industry in our mouths.” And so began a virtually religious rebellion against the norm, recording tracks that more than double your standard radio-friendly edits, much to the chagrin of then-label Mechanic Records. (By the way, their next recording company wasn’t too happy with their song selection and length, either.) The Score So Far accounts for all that emotion. It’s without a doubt one of the hallmarks of the band and without this footage, fans the world over likely would not have the same depth of passion as they do post-Score.
Along the way we are introduced chronologically to each member who has made its way into the Dream Theater family — some staying for a few months, some several tours, and some fitting into the blueprint perfectly. Some names include Kevin Moore, Derek Sherinian and Charlie Dominici.
We get most of the backstory via Petrucci and Portnoy, with the latter being the obvious spokesman for the group. Moving forward, the guys start talking their records — revealing some never-before-seen footage and bits of trivia surrounding each one’s release that do little to suppress the more obsessive fans’ needs to feel like they are truly connected with these musicians.
This documentary is the first near full-length-feature exclusive on the band, providing a good look at each of these individual’s personalities and quirks, as well as furthering the wonder as to how the heck they have managed to keep going all these years. As LaBrie says, it wasn’t easy.
Then again, nothing is. But really. Music and finding band chemistry ain’t easy. And this kind of music certainly isn’t everyone’s cup of tea. It’s just awesome to see how professional so-called metal/rock players can be. That, and they’ve managed to expand their audience with every release, an accomplishment that dates back to 1989. Their penultimate release in 2009, Black Clouds & Silver Linings, debuted at No. 6 on the Billboard 200. Their latest, and eleventh production (A Dramatic Turn of Events), at No. 8.
Not too bad for some college drop-outs.
Recommendation: I recommend anyone who has a passion for music. Those who play any instrument, check it. If you’re interested in the band but haven’t had the time to really scope ’em out, then this is one very good way to get into that process. Those who listen to nothing but Top 40s, you should come along for the ride as well!
Running Time: 56 min. 27 sec.
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Photo credits: http://www.wikipedia.org; http://www.dreamtheater.net