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Mike Portnoy not missed at Dream Theater show in Mesa

Mike who?

It’s been four years since progressive metal veterans Dream Theater headlined a show in the Valley and they’ve gone through considerable drama in the interim. They lost founding drummer Mike Portnoy, who left abruptly in September 2010. But despite the loss of Portnoy’s monstrous talents and stage presence (not to mention his enormous drum kit), he was not missed Sunday night, Dec. 4, as Dream Theater wrapped up their 2011 American tour with two hours of jaw-dropping solos and tricky time signatures to a sold-out crowd at Mesa Arts Center.

New drummer Mike Mangini was more than up to the challenge of filling Portnoy’s kit. Recognized as the fastest drummer in the world, the former skin-beater for Extreme and Steve Vai more than capably handled Portnoy’s parts, injecting his own style and humor into Dream Theater classics like “The Ytse Jam” as well as showing off his award-winning chops during an extended solo that had the entire crowd on its feet with camera phones recording.

Opening act Andy McKee was a refreshing change as well. Recent opening acts have emphasized the metal side of Dream Theater, much to the dismay of their prog fans. But McKee’s percussive, inventive acoustic picking, reminiscent of the late guitar virtuoso Michael Hedges, drew cheers from Dream Theater’s prog fans without alienating the metal contigent.

A rearrangement of Toto’s smash hit “Africa” was a highlight of his half-hour set — the others being his perseverance and game face as the stage curtain fell and nearly covered him during his final song.

For most of the show, Dream Theater showcased their new album, the Top 10 “A Dramatic Turn of Events,” with songs like the world music-tinged opener “Bridges in the Sky” and the Grammy-nominated “On the Backs of Angels.” “Outcry” was a highlight, featuring passionate vocals from singer James LaBrie and accompanied by video footage of the Arab Spring demonstrations from earlier this year.

LaBrie also shined during a short acoustic set, something which he said they hadn’t done in nearly 15 years. Accompanied by guitarist John Petrucci and keyboardist Jordan Rudess, he sang emotional versions of “The Silent Man” and the new “Beneath the Surface.” They also dusted off some rarely played older material, including the dramatic “Forsaken,” from 2007’s “Systematic Chaos” and “Fatal Tragedy” from 2000’s “Scenes from a Memory”, which featured some furious instrumental interplay between Petrucci, Rudess, Mangini and bassist John Myung.

LaBrie did not handle some of the older material as well, however. The encore of “Under a Glass Moon,” from Dream Theater’s 1993 breakthrough album “Images and Words” fell apart as he screeched the high notes on the song’s chorus. With such a poor-sounding performance of the fan favorite, perhaps they should reconsider keeping it in the set.

The absolute climax, however, was the new track “Breaking All Illusions,” which closed the set. The song was a distillation of everything that is Dream Theater — prog rock and thrash metal, instrumental chops, soaring vocals, all delivered in an exhilarating 15-minute package.

Set List:

“Bridges in the Sky”

“These Walls”

“Build Me Up Break Me Down”

“Endless Sacrifice”

Drum solo

“The Ytse Jam”


“The Silent Man”

“Beneath the Surface”

“On the Backs of Angels”


Keyboard solo

“Through My Words”

“Fatal Tragedy”

“Breaking All Illusions”


“Under a Glass Moon”

Read more: http://www.azcentral.com/thingstodo/music/articles/2011/12/05/20111205dream-theater-mesa-review-concert-mike-portnoy.html#ixzz1gR4dkZ7k