Dream Theater Slays Calgary Fans alongside Opeth, 3 and Between the Buried and Me
Band Photo: Opeth (?)
Progressive Nation 2008 swung by Calgary, AB this weekend for a two-night musical extravaganza, featuring Dream Theater, Opeth, 3 and Between the Buried and Me.
While much of the sold-out crowd was still working its way through the doors at Friday’s show, the Woodstock, NY-based 3 kicked things off in MacEwan Hall. A wild blend of acoustic and electric guitars and a keyboardist pulling double duty as a second drummer fired up the crowd and a lot of people who came just for Opeth or Dream Theater were drawn into the hall, rather than going straight for the beer gardens – a rare feat for opening bands at shows of this caliber. A high energy stage presence and an increasing heaviness and rapidity to their music left the crowd wanting more – and 3’s frontman Joey Eppard probably wanting some new guitar strings as they snapped up from his acoustic at the end of their final song, “Amaze Disgrace.” When I caught up with him after the show and commented on the serious string breakage going on up there, he gleaned proudly and stated “I broke all of them!” Turns out the guy plays so hard, his Knucklehead strings can’t always keep up. Sometimes they stand up to the abuse, sometimes they don’t. Somebody get this guy an endorsement!
After a quick switch of the gear, North Carolina’s Between the Buried and Me took over. To the disappointment of some fans, they only played two songs, both off their latest disc “Colors.” But seriously folks, “Ants of the Sky” is more than, like, 13 minutes long, and the second they played was even longer so, when you think about it, when four bands are taking the stage, half an hour really doesn’t suck for an opening band. I know, these guys can pull in a decent sized crowd on there own, but when you’re on tour with Opeth and Dream Theater?
I really dug this one section during “White Walls” where the band transitioned into this random rockabilly sounding groove for a few seconds before thundering back into some heavy synth-driven metal. It really caught me off guard after a few minutes of drifting away mindlessly from what they were doing, which was cool, because I was starting to think they were trying to brainwash me into watching “Labyrinth” or maybe zoning out the pictures of David Bowie in full Jareth the Goblin King gear taped to the back of the Korg synth was just me. It’s possible I’m just drawn to men in white tights, but it turns out I’m not, so it must be these guys just seem to know when they’re losing people. It’s too bad the vocals weren’t a little louder, though, as vocalist Tommy Rogers looked like he was screaming quite feverishly when he wasn’t trapped behind the keyboard.
Another quick gear shift and it was soon clear just how many fans of Opeth were in the house. Instantly, as the lights dimmed, almost as though attached to some light-dimming/crowd spazzing remote control, the audience stared chanting “Opeth, Opeth.” Stage lights up, band appears, crowd freaks. The Swedish death metallers opened with “Masters Apprentices” from “Deliverance,” following that up with “The Baying of the Hounds” from 2005’s “Ghost Reveries.” As always, Opeth delivered an intense, almost ethereal live sound that makes me like them more each time I hear them. I had never really gotten into these guys’ music until the first time I saw them live a few years ago, and I don’t know what it is. Their overall stage presence has always been a little lack luster, although it has improved greatly since I saw them last, but I guess, simply put, it’s just the way they sound. They fell apart with a few sloppy transitions during their second last song, “The Drapery Falls,” but overall, they amazed.
The gear switch between Opeth and Dream Theater was not all that quick. Purposefully waiting, gearing the crowd up with some loud orchestral music through the PA, they finally took to the stage at 10. Unfortunately, the only half-decently priced parking even remotely close expired at 10, so I only stayed as long as the “Oh, my watch must be slow,” might still be a remotely believable excuse. Overall, Dream Theater slayed. The sound was nothing short of spectacular, James LaBrie seems tireless, even in the midst of a major tour, and completely inspirational. The giant screen with live close-ups of the band members playing was also pretty rad, as were the many paper maché ants “crawling” over the stage and up the keyboards. You know, I seriously have to get me one of those multi-synth turntables Jordan Rudess was sporting. Very, very cool. I only hope tonight is as good as last night was!
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