DREAM THEATER - "METROPOLIS 2000: SCENES FROM NEW YORK" (DVD, ELEKTRA)
I hope you have a little time on your hands, because this is going to be a long review. It's going to be detailed, ergo it's going to spoil every single surprise on the disc if you plan on buying it. Press back on your browser now if you're planning to get the DVD anyway, but want to discover the nice bits yourself...
Still there? Good.
The Dream Theater legions worldwide have been buzzing with anticipation regarding this DVD. The release was postponed a few times, and the region 2 version turned out to have a sound/video sync problem... So thankfully I have a region-free DVD player so I could simply get a region 1 version from Amazon (.com). Officially, the DVD contains the full performance of 1999's "Metropolis 2: Scenes from a Memory" album. I don't know whether the VHS contains anything extra. And, lawd, there's a lot of extras on this DVD.
Primarily, however, the DVD is an attempt at capturing Dream Theater in concert. In this case the venue was the Roseland Ballroom, NYC, USA, August 30, 2000. The mix is superb, and I have to say drummer Mike Portnoy also availed himself capably of warming the director's chair. This CD is near exemplary when it comes to having the camera cover every single interesting bit that's going on, from band member interaction to solos, fills and other interesting instrumental bits: You're always witness to the bits you'd like to see.
Aside: I had to think back sometimes to a Deep Purple video entitled "Scandinavian Nights", where the director seems to be very much keen on Ian Gillan, as a result not discovering Ritchie Blackmore on the stage until about halfway through the concert. What with me being quite a Blackmore fan and a would-be guitarist to boot, you can imagine I wasn't too happy. End of aside.
Video effects are generally used to good effect, only rarely attaining an over-the-top quality during some of the more frantic instrumental bits. These do not prevent you from experiencing to the full what the Roseland Ballroom must have been like that evening. I've seen Dream Theater several times, including during their last tour, and the music in combination with the visuals simply whisks you back and lets you be right there again. Only this time you get to see everything even better, and the sound is better too, obviously (though not Dolby 5.1, 'just' stereo).
Aside: On the Ytsejam Dream Theater mailing list there have been discussions about Dream Theater not making their best use of the DVD medium by opting for stereo sound instead of Dolby 5.1, surround, whatchamacallit. I have to say I can live with the absence perfectly. I was told Mike Portnoy chose stereo so there'd be more space for bonuses...and the bonuses are way more fun than enhanced sonics, methinks. Having said that, my opinion is not entirely valid because I don't have a Dolby 5.1 setup to begin with... :-( End of aside.
The original album was a corker, and the live performance actually only increases the effect. It's always great, with Dream Theater, to see what they're getting up to. The music is supported by strong visuals to enhance the album's story line. In fact, the whole experience of watching at times sent goosebumps right up to my toes, I kid you not! And Dream Theater wouldn't be Dream Theater if the songs hadn't already evolved; the change from "Beyond this Life" to "Through Her Eyes" is worked out into a solo spot for John Petrucci and awesome vocalist Theresa Thomason. "Through her Eyes" itself also has an altered and extended ending climax. Both these changes significantly add to the originals. I wasn't prepared for the emotional effect the choire during "The Spirit Carries On" had on me. My breath started shuddering and before I knew it my eyes glazed over. Damn, that was good. With "Finally Free", the live album rendition comes to a close, with supporting visuals explaining who killed who in the story...and a nasty little twist near the end that I hadn't guessed myself.
So far the DVD would already get the highest rating, what with it being the perfect visual live registration with an impeccable mix. That was before I'd even checked out the bonus materials...
The major section of the bonus materials is comprised of three further live tracks, registered as perfectly as what came before. We get the whole "A Mind Beside Itself" cycle ("I: Erotomania", "II: Voices" and "III: The Silent Man", the latter in the live version that is much less naff than the studio original), "Learning to Live" (faithful to the original, played in full) and the excellent "A Change of Seasons" (now played in full and in one go).
Aside: "Learning to Live" and "A Change of Seasons" are songs with a very special meaning to me. In 1994, two weeks after I started going steady with my wife, she moved away for nine months of studies abroad. We saw each other occasionally, but to say that those were the happiest nine months of my life would not be stating the truth. Be that as it may, during that time a friend copied on tape for me the second disc of "Dance of Eternity", a double CD bootleg of the "Images and Words" tour that contained "The Killing Hand", "A Change of Seasons" and "Learning to Live", among others. For some reason (probably because it was very good quality and had this amazingly excellent, 20+ minute unreleased song on there) I played that a lot. And whenever I did, I often thought of where my sweetheart was, i.e. not at my side... The original version of "A Change of Seasons" is different in various sections, and one of the unadulterated climaxes was James' screaming "Please! Don't! Go!" at the start of the "Darkest of Winter" part. This was not in the recorded version, and lessened the overal song a bit for me. The live version on this DVD has it, though, so I am a happy camper indeed! End of aside.
However, the band played more tracks on that famous night in New York City. Some of it can be heard as backdrop music in the 'Behind the Scenes' documentary ("Metropolis 1", "The Mirror" and "Just let me Breathe") and even in the 'Scenes from a World Tour' photo gallery (some LTE stuff, and the alternative live version of "Caught in a Web" known as "Caught in Alice's Nine Inch Tool Garden"). I think a lot of people, if they were in the front row and sortof near the middle during a concert, will find themselves in there.
"Metropolis 2000: Scenes from New York" witnesses what I believe, nay, know, to be the finest bunch of rock musicians in the world. My appreciation of Mike Portnoy and John Petrucci knows no bounds, and Jordan Rudess is simply jaw-droppingly amazing. If you don't have the DVD yet (or, indeed, no DVD player), I suggest you start saving your money, or rob some old lady or something if you have to, because you will not musically have lived unless you have seen it. And purchasing it, I am told, will increase the chances of Elektra releasing "Live in Tokyo" and "5 Years in a LiveTime" on a DVD in the near future. So please do yourself, Dream Theater, and the world in general, a favour by clicking the below link and getting this DVD! If you don't have a DVD player yet, this product should single-handedly make it worth your while. I am not kidding.
Click here to check out or buy this DVD at 30% off!
Click here if you want to check out a DVD player for a mere US$ 200
Written May 2001
Go to the Official Dream Theater site
Back to the Main Menu