Sound Advice: Dream Theater

Wednesday • Taft Theatre

click to enlarge Dream Theater
Dream Theater

It seems impossible that 31 years have passed since guitarist John Petrucci, bassist John Myung and drummer Mike Portnoy assembled as Berklee College of Music students and formed the Prog Metal band Majesty. The trio soon dropped out of Berklee to focus on the band and expand both their ranks and musical vision for the aggregation, which, in 1987, had to legally change its name to Dream Theater.

With keyboardist Kevin Moore’s addition and a succession of lead vocalists, the band played in and around New York City for months, eventually signing a contract with MCA Records’ Mechanic imprint. Dream Theater’s debut album, 1989’s When Dream and Day Unite, generated a less-than-enthusiastic response after which the band fired its vocalist and conducted countless auditions in search of a new frontman. The demo from Winter Rose singer James LaBrie provided Dream Theater’s voice for the next quarter century.

LaBrie’s studio debut (and Dream Theater’s debut for Elektra imprint East West), 1992’s gold-certified Images and Words, remains the band’s best-selling album. Moore left after 1994’s Awake, and Dream Theater wanted to hire Jordan Rudess, a hot up-and-comer, but he was committed to the Dixie Dregs. So they went with Berklee alum Derek Sherinian on keys for the Awake tour. At tour’s end, Sherinian became a full-fledged member, continuing for five years before creative differences led to his departure. The band then hired Rudess, whose first album with the band was Metropolis Pt. 2: Scenes from a Memory, a concept album that became a big seller and a critical hit, with some citing it as Dream Theater’s masterwork. The album was followed by the equally well-received Six Degrees of Inner Turbulence, featuring the 42-minute-long title track.

After the release of 2005’s Octavarium, Dream Theater completed its Elektra contract and signed with Roadrunner for 2007’s Systematic Chaos and 2008’s Greatest Hit (and 21 Other Pretty Cool Songs), a self-effacing jab at the band’s only radio success, the single “Pull Me Under.”

In 2010, Portnoy left the band and was replaced by Mike Mangini. Since Mangini’s arrival, Dream Theater has released a trio of amazingly intricate and powerful albums, culminating with The Astonishing, the band’s early-2016 concept album influenced by Game of Thrones and Star Wars.

Over its nearly 30-year history as Dream Theater, the band has released 13 studio recordings, eight live sets and five cover albums and has been nominated for two Grammy Awards, while winning numerous accolades from publications like Rolling Stone, Metal Edge and many others.

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