Dream Theater - Once In A Livetime

Year of Release: 1998
Label: Elektra Entertainment Group
Catalog Number: 62308-2
Format: CD
Total Time: 154:39:00

This live disk by Dream Theater opens with "A Change Of Seasons I: The Crimson Sunrise" and if anyone doubts that Dream Theater are a tight unit need only listen to Once In A Livetime ... the chops and talent that this band show on a studio disk, where you can do it over and over it again until you like it (budget/studio time permitting), it apparant here. The production on this is great, in that each instrument is clearly heard. How much of this was finessed in the studio, I dunno. Sure, there are some off moments in their performance, but there on 90% of the time.

I don't know anything about the venue, La Bataclan in France, but the way this sounds, I'm thinking it's an open air venue. The quality of sound the intstruments have sound like that this played out of doors. In someways, I think outdoor venues are better than indoor venues. The sound carries outword more, their are none (or different) acoustic issues. Of course, at night, sound seems to carry. The "viewpoint" that this album has is slightly back and above the crowd ... a crane shot, if you will. You can see the whole stage, the front rows of the audience, and above, a clear late afternoon, moving on towards evening.

If the theater on the cover is La Bataclan, then I'm right, otherwise, that's influencing my impression. And the photos inside are taken from an open-air show, but whether it was this one, isn't explicitly stated.

"Voices" takes on a menacing edge, where the guitars churn darkly, a great sense of foreboding ... especially in the low key intro sung by LaBrie ... Sherinian's keys sound great, Petrucci's guitar sounds great, and LaBrie's voice is perfect, hitting those high notes without trouble. Here a jackhammer like drum pattern works, as you get that sense of churning ... of something running up to snatch you. Of course, its all inside...

The band jam towards the end of "Take The Time," grooving on Lynyrd Skynyrd's "Freebird" - and doing a *&%#ing great job at it, too. They're smokin'!

Sherinian's piano solo sounds familiar ... and sounds like Keith Emerson at times ... well, duh, it's the intro to the next track, played on keys rather than guitar and given an Emersonian-like percussive feel (Tarkus). Petrucci's stunning solo before "Lines In The Sand" truly begins is interesting and abstract ... like bursts of lightning electrifying the sky, ... becoming a chaotic lightshow ... and his solo during "Lines" is beautiful ... clear, crisp, emotive ... just the way I like 'em. If it were possible, I think it is, "Lines" sounds even better here than on the disk. There's a emotion here that you can kill in the studio, that spontineity that comes from living the song in a live performance, the interplay of the band onstage, the feedback from the crowd ... not there in the studio. (Though here the chorus makes me think of Soundgarden. Odd, that).

'Course Petrucci does it again leading into "Scarred" ... I become more and more impressed with Petrucci as a guitarist the more I hear him.

The biggest improvement over studio to live is "Just Let Me Breathe" ... this rocks, it's alive and ... uh, breathing. Each instrument, especially Petrucci's guitar, sound as if they are going to take off in flight. During the instrumental section, Sherinian's keys take on a Traffic quality ... like they'll break into "Gimme Some Lovin'." They don't, but that's okay, because there's plenty of opportunties for jamming (as noted above).

Like a summer thunderstorm, Mike Portnoy closes out disc one with a drum solo. In fact, this is so potent that I can almost smell it ... wet grass, mud, the air alive with electricity, that certain moisture in the air ... a sky filled with dark, onimous clouds. And then, after a pause, all hell breaks loose as everyone chimes in (no vox, but LaBrie may be on percussion) ... this was a monster storm that has everyone scrambling. Cool stuff.

Disc two starts off with "Trail Of Tears" - well, first an atmospheric keyboard intro by Sherinian accompanied by some light percussion ... Floydian perhaps, though I thought of Marillion, stylistically versus sonically. LaBrie seems flat ... not offkey, but ... unanimated, maybe because he's not singing for the fences here ... sounding more restrained.

Petrucci's acoustic apreggios that open "Hollow Years" are beautiful, crisp, and very deftly played. I found LaBrie flat and a bit off on the studio version ... unfortunately, I'm not much happier with his live performance of this one either ... it sounds strange, his over enunciation of the words ... and except for Petrucci's playing ... the song plods.

I don't know if twilight had fallen by the time "Take Away My Pain" began, but it has that hazy warmth of a summer evening at sunset, where a gentle, cooling breeze is blowing... (the show was June 28th of 1998) ... Jay Beckenstein contributes warm alto sax tones to this song ... very nice ... this plays like a shared moment between band and audience ... very intimate.

There is a certain energy missing here that was on disk one, and whether it's because after having played 12 tracks with little or no break (the stage banter has been cut), they're simply warn out. I wouldn't blame them, as they have rocked hard ... but there's an electricity missing. That doesn't mean Petrucci isn't playing blazingly fast, he is ... but ...

For the first time, I've been able to pick out Myung's bass from the mix, and that on "Peruvian Skies" ... it grinds slowly, adding to the sultriness here ... and breaks out into "Have A Cigar" (Pink Floyd) ... and yet, doesn't sound that odd having done so. I never noticed before how close the guitar and bass lines where to it ... of course, Petrucci and Myung may be emphasing it (have to listen to the original again). Actually, "Peruvian Skies" comes across a lot better here than on the studio album ... even without the excursion. Excuse me, excursions - a few bits of Metallica's "Enter Sandman" make an appearance here, too. Other non-Dream Theater tracks that get "sound checks" here are "Plat Opus" by Platypus (having not heard that, I can't direct you), "Paradigm Shift" by Petrucci and Portnoy's own Liquid Tension Experiment (during Petrucci's guitar solo - which is Petrucci and Portnoy), "Moby Dick" by Led Zeppelin, and "Flight Of The Bumblebee" by Nikolai Rimsky-Korsakov (again solo Petrucci).

Egads! Petrucci isn't worn out as his scorching solo attests ... not just speed, but he keeps it interesting, dynamic, fluid ... I'm floored ... he must have more than two hands. I'm so overwhelmed I don't even have hyperbolic terms that seem adequate.

All this leading into "Pull Me Under"... which, while not as powerful as the original, their energy level seems to have come back a bit. Maybe its because it's stronger material to start with.

Taking my leave of you on this, I recommend this to Dream Theater fans obviously - it's more on than off. It's further testment that even an off Dream Theater are still one of the best in the business.

Disc 1: A Change of Seasons I: The Crimson Sunrise / A Change of Seasons II: Innocence / Puppies On Acid / Just Let Me Breathe / Voices / Take The Time / Derek Sherinian Piano Solo / Lines In The Sand / Scarred / A Change of Seasons IV:The Darkest of Winters / Ytse Jam / Mike Portnoy Drum Solo

Disc 2: Trial of Tears / Hollow Years / Take Away My Pain / Caught In A Web / Lie / Peruvian Skies / John Petrucci guitar solo / Pull Me Under / Medley: Metropolis / Learning To Live / A Change of Seasons VII: The Crimson Sunrise

James LaBrie - vocals and percussion
John Myung - bass
Mike Portnoy - drums, percussion, and vocals
John Petrucci - guitars
Derek Sherinian - keyboards
Jay Beckenstein (Spyro Gyra) - alto sax (#3 D2)

When Dreams and Day Unite (1989)
Images and Words (1992)
Live At The Marquee (1993)
Dream Out Loud (1994)
Awake (1994)
A Change in Season (1995)
Falling Into Infinity (1997)
Once In A Livetime (1998)
Scenes From A Memory (1999)
Cleaning Out The Closet (Xmas CD 1999) (1999)
Scenes From A World Tour - Christmas CD 2000 (2001)
Live Scenes From New York (2001)
Six Degrees Of Inner Turbulence (2002)
Train Of Thought (2003)
Live At Budokan (2004)
Octavarium (2005)
Score (3CD) (2006)
Systematic Chaos (2007)
Greatest Hit (...And 21 Other Pretty Cool Songs) (2008)
Black Clouds & Silver Linings (2009)
A Dramatic Turn Of Events (2011)
Dream Theater (2013)
Live At Luna Park (2013)
Breaking The Fourth Wall - Live From The Boston Opera House (2014)
The Astonishing (2016)
Distance Over Time (2019)

Metropolis 2000: Scenes From New York (DVD) (2001)
Live At Budokan (DVD) (2004)
Score (DVD) (2006)
Chaos In Motion (DVD) (2008)

Genre: Progressive-Power Metal

Origin US

Added: August 23rd 1999
Reviewer: Stephanie Sollow
Artist website: www.dreamtheater.net
Hits: 1226
Language: english


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