After 2 Years, Dream Theater Returns to Mesa Arts Center

Dream Theater at Mesa Arts Center, Mesa, AZ on February 02, 2022

Review by Kevin Kuhlman
Photos  by Fred Kuhlman
Promoter: Danny Zelisko Presents ( )
Venue: Mesa Arts Center (Ikeda Theater) ( )
Date:  Wednesday February 2nd, 2022

Dream Theater at Mesa Arts Center, Mesa, AZ on February 02, 2022

For the first time in nearly two years, Dream Theater has returned to the stage for a live performance.  The Top of the World tour kicked off at the Ikeda Theater (Mesa Arts Center) in Mesa, Arizona with the band performing a mix of new material, old hits, and some deeper cuts.

This is my eighth time seeing Dream Theater perform live, many of which have been at this same venue.  Even after two years off from touring, the band never seemed to have an iota of nervous energy or anxiety about performing.  It felt just like they’d never left.  The Mesa Arts Center – Ikeda Theater has been their venue of choice in the Valley of the Sun ever since the tour in support of A Dramatic Turn of Events, and it’s the perfect home away from home for the band.  The acoustics are impeccable and the auditorium is large enough to be comfortable yet small enough to be intimate.

James LaBrie of Dream Theater at Mesa Arts Center, Mesa, AZ on February 02, 2022

As for the show itself, it’s everything someone going to a Dream Theater concert would expect and enjoy.  Lengthy instrumental sections, solos that are blindingly fast and technically unbelievable, and time signature changes that break your left brain while simultaneously being toe-tappingly easy to follow.  Singer James LaBrie will come out, sing a verse, and disappear for a few minutes while the rest of the band performs some of the most intense musical virtuosic feats known to man, only to return and belt out vocal note that most rock singers half his age can’t touch.

Dream Theater at Mesa Arts Center, Mesa, AZ on February 02, 2022

One thing that always amazes me about Dream Theater’s performances is their understanding of how deeply invested their audience is in their music.  Many, if not most, musical artists just play The Hits and some new material, often never playing music that doesn’t fit that criteria.  Dream Theater has always understood that if you ask 50 fans what their favorite song is, you’ll likely get 50 different answers.  This tour’s setlist features plenty of music from their most recent album, A View from the Top of the World, but is also devoted to songs that have often been overlooked.  I saw the band on their Chaos in Motion tour back in 2007 and, even while touring for the album Systematic Chaos, they didn’t play “The Ministry of Lost Souls” which is my personal favorite song off that record.  I fully expected to never get to hear it performed live.

That’s the joy of being a fan of Dream Theater and of seeing them live.  There’s always a few surprises up their sleeves and there’s always something for every type of fan – Whether that be one of their 90s classics (“6:00” off the 1994 album Awake) or a cut straight from their magnum opus “Six Degrees of Inner Turbulence” (in this case, “About to Crash”).  The only thing that’s guaranteed is that you’ll be pleasantly surprised by something in the setlist.

Dream Theater at Mesa Arts Center, Mesa, AZ on February 02, 2022

It also can’t be forgotten that the best moment of any Dream Theater show is when keyboardist Jordan Ruddess pulls out his keytar and begins interchanging solos and harmonizing with guitarist John Petrucci. Always a wonderful sight to see, this year’s iteration of Ruddess’s weapon of choice is more of an anime sword than the Klingon Bat’leth-esque design of years past. It just speaks to the absolute blast the band has on stage, still after all these years, and how much they love performing for their devoted fans.

Dream Theater is back.

Dream Theater consists of guitar virtuoso John Petrucci, incredible bass player John Myung, keyboard and synthesizer wizard Jordan Rudress, drummer extraordinary Mike Mangini and the outstanding lead singer James LaBrie.  You can check out Dream Theater upcoming tour dates on their website and Facebook page.

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Photos by Fred Kuhlman, All Rights Reserved

Dream Theater Setlist:                                  (Album)
The Alien                                                        (A View from the Top of the World)
6:00                                                                 (Awake)
Awaken the Master                                         (A View from the Top of the World)
Endless Sacrifice                                             (Train of Thought)
Bridges in the Sky                                          (A Dramatic Turn of Events)
Invisible Monster                                            (A View from the Top of the World)

About to Crash                                                (Six Degrees of Inner Turbulence)
The Ministry of Lost Souls                               (Systematic Chaos)
A View From the Top of the World                 (A View from the Top of the World)
The Count of Tuscany                                     (Black Clouds and Silver Linings)


Arch Echo at Mesa Arts Center, Mesa, AZ on February 02, 2022

Arch Echo is a collection of 5 musicians that attempt to push the envelope of progressive metal music with an intermix of jazz fusion.  The band consists of guitarists Adam Rafowitz and Adam Bentley, bass player Joe Calderone, drummer Richie Martinez and keyboardist Joey Izzo.  They are an amazing group of musicians and complemented Dream Theater very well.  They are young and very talented and show a lot of possibility.  My only concern with Arch Echo is that they have no vocal presentation.  For a lot of people, without vocals, they get turned off or bored very quickly.  If you look at some of the most influential progressive rock/metal bands, they all have a lead singer incorporated into the band.  I believe that if Arch Echo wants to jump to the next level of the progressive metal scene, then they will have to expand and add a lead singer, just like Dream Theater.

Arch Echo will be touring with Dream Theater for most of their current North American tour through March.  You can check out their upcoming tour dates and other information about the band at their website or Facebook page.

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Photos by Fred Kuhlman, All Rights Reserved


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