Dream Theater astonish Bangkok with images and words

Dream Theater on stage in Bangkok. (Photo/IME Thailand)
Dream Theater on stage in Bangkok. (Photo/IME Thailand)

Dream Theater are no strangers to the Land of Smiles, having visited the Thai capital city on three previous occasions, yet it had been a long five year wait since Bangkok got its last fix of the technical wizardry from the masters of progressive metal.

This concert on Sept. 26 at the Thunder Dome was part of a tour to celebrate the 25th anniversary of the band’s breakthrough sophomore album, “Images And Words” – still their biggest selling album to date.

An album released at the height of grunge, Dream Theater went against the tide to ride a tidal wave that saw the band from Boston catapulted onto the global stage with an album that blended the crunching riffs of Metallica with the pompness of Saga and the complexity and tenacity of Rush.  The hard hitting single “Pull Me Under” become an MTV smash, resulting in a top ten hit.  “Images And Words” was the first album to feature Canadian vocalist James LaBrie and went on to sell over a half million copies in the States alone.

Dream Theater are no strangers to getting their passports stamped and visiting countries many fear to tread.  This leg of their tour included not only most if not all of the Southeast Asian countries but also Japan and Australia as well.

In Bangkok, before playing anything bordering on nostalgia, Dream Theater got their claws into latter day material including the aptly titled opener “The Dark Eternal Night”, featuring bone crunching riffage from the bearded John Petrucci and devilish snarling vocals from James LaBrie.

Dream Theater’s last opus, 2016’s “The Astoning” was represented with “The Gift Of Music” and fellow single “Our New World”.

Six string bassist John Myung then paid tribute to Jaco Pastorius with an expressive solo called “Portait Of Tracey’.

The doomy “As I Am” segued into dangerous territory with a snatch of Metallica’s “Enter Sandman”, which received one of the loudest cheers of the night.

The engaging vocalist had trouble with his unbalanced wandering mic-stand which at one point fell into the pit, but Labrie had no problem with his vocals, which filled the hall above the majestic cacophony of sound.

After a twenty minute intermission, those roars got even louder for the piece de resistance whose entrance was signaled by a 1992 Happy New Year radio recording followed by the band belting out their ten minute epic “Pull Me Under”, which made the Bangkok arena come well and truly alive with arms outstretched as the Thais faithfully sang along to every word.  And voices were raised even higher as they angelically knew every lyric to the dream like ballad “Another Day”.

John Petrucci got to grips with “Take The Time”, impressing all budding guitarists in the audience who looked on in amazement and the europhia continued with a soaring rendition of “Surrounded”.

Keyboardist Jordan Rudess and drummer Mike Mangini may not have been around when “Images And Words”’ was released 25 years ago but their contribution on this night was wholeheartedly impassioned with aplomb and precision.  Mangini proved his worth with a captivating drum solo on “Metropolis Pt I” ,and Rudess added his own intricate intro to the ballad “Wait For Sleep”, emotionally sung by Labrie.

A complex “Learning To Live”, which has more time changes than the opening hours of a Pattaya bar, signalled the end of a remarkable album.

The grand finale saw a twenty-five minute encore with the challenging eight parts “A Change Of Seasons”, which was originally intended to fit onto the “Images And Words” album but was released three years later on an extended EP.

Many here on this night were too young to remember the original release of either the album or the EP and for them this concert by Dream Theater united the Thunder Dome into a theater of dreams.