Dream Theater at Manchester Apollo

Following a 6 year absence from Manchester, Prog Metal icons Dream Theater return to administer some of those technically demanding and sonically overwhelming music to ever be created by 4 New Yorkers and a Canadian. 

Finnish Symphonic Power Metal band Arion supported and they delivered a really solid show boasting technical proficiency and grand choruses in the vein of Queensryche. Tracks like Bloodlines made it clear that they have the chops to be on the same stage as Dream Theater, their solo work on guitar and synth was nothing short of breathtaking. 

They ended their set with At the Break of Dawn which featured Elize Ryd from Amaranthe on the studio version, even without her presence this song sounded massive and made a case for them being the next big thing in power metal and this song could be the one to make them break through. 

Mike Mangini acted as a starting pistol with the opening fill to The Alien, a fairly unsurprising track to open with but nevertheless, a satisfying start complete with Dream Theater’s signature carnival style harmonising from guitarist John Petrucci and keyboardist Jordan Rudess. 

Petrucci’s solo on this track is one of the more memorable inclusions from A View From the Top of the World and will likely be a live staple. 

After this, the band started to dip into the big catalogue starting with 6:00 which has one of Dream Theater’s best synth riffs and even the samples from this song are iconic with a number of people from the audience screaming “I know all about the honour of God, Mary Jane”. Caught in a Web was also from Awake and that made for a great crowd pleaser with its crushing seven string riff punctuated by the stabbing synth riff accentuating it. The 3D modelled spider in the accompanying visuals was also really cool. Nothing deep to add, just a cool spider. 

James Labrie seemed to struggle with some of the higher register parts of the older songs but he made up for that by being an active and engaging front man, something a band like Dream Theater absolutely needs to avoid becoming boring and unrelatable. Labrie may struggle at times but his versions of the latest material sounds excellent, Answering the Call was never a highlight of the latest record but he added a lot to the stomping riffs within. 


Dream Theater was hardly short on time but they still played a truncated version of Six Degrees of Inner Turbulence which included bright and flowery sing along classic Solitary Shell, the 70s inspired rocker About to Crash and they ended with the massive and iconic Losing Time/Grand Finale. It shouldn’t be surprising that Dream Theater didn’t play the entire 42 minute suite but every part of this song is required listening for budding proggers and the live experience of it is phenomenal and Mike Mangini helped deliver a lot of the huge bombast from the original with his monstrous fills culminating in the gong hit heard around the world. 

Images and Words is almost always represented in a Dream Theater show, it’s just a question of which one and the band brought out the big one. Their greatest hit and closest to breaking the mainstream they’ve ever gotten, Pull Me Under, this song is beyond iconic in the metal scene even going so far as to appear in Guitar Hero. Jordan Rudess does a lot of embellishment on this track and that goes a long way to helping modernise it and Petrucci’s guitar work is amazing as always. 

A View from the Top of the World is accentuated by the visuals on the screen behind the band, they go a long way to help establish a tone that the band has worked to create and the two of these may be forever interlinked after this tour, hopefully there will be a video version if the band were to release a live blu ray of this tour. A View from the Top of the World hasn’t had much time to establish itself as one of the classic epics yet but it likely will be a fan favourite in a few short years with it’s awe inspiring sense of scale and unpredictability, just like in nature. 

Once Dream Theater came back on for the encore, they began to play The Count of Tuscany, its opening guitar solo is really simple but so beautiful and could be worthy of David Gilmour and the reprise of it at the end is nothing short of magical. To say this song has some of Dream Theater’s most iconic moments would be an understatement and many would easily call this their best song. It feels like a disservice to go into graphic detail about all the moments in the track that make it glorious so it’s best to go experience it in person while you still have the chance. 

Dream Theater may be a polarising band but they do what they do better than most, their technical abilities are virtually unmatched in rock but to write them off as soulless robots who play every note known to man in every song is a gross misrepresentation and I would urge everyone who thinks this of them to try again, there may be something you missed. 

Words by Dale Unsworth 

Photos by Chris Ryan 


Philip Goddard

Back to top