Thoughts on Dream Theater's Show in Chicago

--------- blue-line separator --------------------

Okay, one-word summary of the Chicago show: Terrific! In fact, it was the best DT show I've yet seen. :)

Here's a look at how our weekend went, with comments on the show. For me, one of the biggest surprises came on the plane ride home!

Wes "Beavis" Foll and I flew up Friday night before the show on a Delta L-1011 TriStar that left almost an hour late because they apparently overfilled it with fuel and they had to do some paperwork. Joy-y-y-y-y..... I was in the very last row of the plane and in the middle, so I didn't get to see much out the windows -- it was like sitting in a movie theater. Worse, there was no "decent" music channel on the plane. :)

After an uneventful -- though quite bumpy, especially for a beast as big as an L-1011 -- arrival at O'Hare it was time for the loong two-leg train ride to Wes' sister Kelly's apartment. Chicago Transit Authority trains cover a lot of territory, but they're really loud and quite bumpy and, on this Halloween night, very crowded, with many people in costumes. (No decent costumes, though. We gave out no awards. :)) Great, a chance to stand up for an hour and avoid falling into other people. We'll get many more chances to do THAT before the weekend's over..... It's night so we don't see too much of Chicago itself. Maybe a mercy. :)

Foot Punishment I: Next day, with Kelly playing hooky from her classes at the Art Institute we decided to go to Tower Records before the show, then walk uptown to House of Blues. Yeah, we were gluttons for foot punishment, but we wanted to see parts of Chicago. It looks, uh, old. :) Tower had a copy of Ozric Tentacles' Erpsongs. They don't anymore. :) On the way to House of Blues we encounter That Street It's Fun to Make Fun Of, namely Wacker Boulevard. Leaving out our cruder jokes, I became, briefly, a Walker on Wacker. (Those who know me well will recognize a double entendre there. heh)

After tacking against the wind to get to House of Blues (ye gods, it was windy. Gee, hence the city's nickname), we arrive inside where I'm immediately greeted by Pat "Gabbo" Griffin. Yay, a fmailiar face. Irene's there too, and so is Chris "Madsman" Ptacek (who's only one percent as evil in person as he is online :)). Other Jammers I remember meeting were Chris' Maddie, BigMan and MattyMo from IRC, Ryan Good (who WAS able to get a ticket for his friend, hooray), and several others whose names, alas, I've currently spaced. Great to meet other jammers as always!

Foot punishment II: long wait in line, and again at the stage, but we're RIGHT THERE at the stage, me and Wes. Closest I've ever been to the stage for DT, hooray. I wasn't about to go anywhere. :) House of Blues is a beautiful venue, so it was easy to see why DT's photog was taking shot after shot during their set. Those in front will probably be in some of these if they're used, so keep an eye out.

I'm sure others have already commented on the just-printed T-shirts; "uninspired" design aside, it fits me (hooray!), but mine has really weird half-length sleeves. They were probably rushing to get these shirts out, and I doubt this will be the "full tour" shirt.

Big Wreck weren't as bad as Pat G. said, but they weren't that great, either. They featured Emilio Estevez, Brad Pitt singing and, uh, me on drums. :) Their bassist was fun to watch, but after the lead singer's comments to Madsman I wouldn't buy so much as a Tootsie Roll from them, let alone their CD.

Those forthcoming DT songs followed on the club PA, and Wes and I agreed that "The Way Things Ought To Be" sounded the most impressive of the bunch. Then, right on cue as we yelled "Rooster!", Alice in Chains started. Whee...we're only five minutes away from sonic nirvana! :)

DT were, simply stated, stupendous. I didn't notice many major flaws; James' voice seemed back on track (difficult to judge for sure, since we were almost too close to hear him). Audience was very enthusiastic but well-behaved, no crowd surfing (what joy!) and little if any moshing (hard to tell, maybe some during "Pull Me Under" judging from a bit of crowd surge). This was one of the best features of the show; unlike Birch Hell, I didn't have to fear for my life. :)

Myung on the Stick, wow. Petrucci on one knee right in front of us, close as life. Wow. Derek making love to his keyboards. Wow. ("Was it as good for him as it was for us?":)) Nice lava lamps, optical fiber "planters" and TV space-helmet, too. We're so close to the stage (no barricade, indeed no stage security at all) that James could be stepping on our fingers if we're not paying attention. Wow. (Caution; his mike stand can be a deadly weapon, as Wes almost found out!) Wes proudly displayed his borrowed Trey Allen-issue YtseCon shirt with "ytsejam" on the front and Portnoy gave him a grin and a thumbs-up.

Hand Punishment I: My right hand is still aching from tapping madly along with every song on the front of the stage. :) James' megaphone appeared to work, hooray. Everyone seemed to be having a great time on stage, too!

'Twas great, too, to hear the, err, "Spastik Children version" of Deep Purple's "Perfect Strangers," even if James forgot the words. They were having so much FUN. :)

After their set finally ended we were all swingin' along to the Lounge Version of "UaGM." Pat/Gabbo and his friend had passes and got backstage, but no-one else could; after a while they eventually kicked everyone else out, even Irene (the rat-bastards!). This was the only real disappointment of the trip.

Madsman's after-show gathering was planned for a restaurant near Wrigley Field, but we skipped out with REAL regret as it was late, we were all walking wounded at this point (ears ringing, feet and ankles protesting, throats dry from singing along, and desperately seeking an open restroom), and my flight was leaving at 9:10am Sunday. Damn......

After grabbing two hours' sleep (turned out Wes, a "non-rev" standby passenger, had to take an even earlier flight than me), we made our long way back to O'Hare for our flights home. The older guy seated next to me on the 727, completely by chance, turns out to be Samuel R. Delaney, one of the world's legendary SF writers (whereas I've only been published once), so the biggest surprise of the trip was saved for last! We "talked shop" for about half the journey back, which was really cool.

Foot Punishment III: back in Atlanta I changed into my Rennaissance costume at the airport and drove down to the Renn. Faire here, since it was the very last day of the Fall Faire and I wanted to see many friends there before they journeyed off to their "winter quarters" in various parts of the country (I've worked at the Faire many a season selling swords; see Great, more walking!

Hand Punishment II: Afterwards, I went to the traditional post-Faire gathering and drum-jam, which was hella fun. Due to the chill of November it was held inside at the restaurant instead of the outside deck, so we didn't get to echo the call of the drums around the supermarket parking lot like usual. :) We had about twenty drums in the circle including my doumbek, which was cool, but ouch! My hands hurt now even more! Alas and damnit, I had to leave early at 1 a.m. for work at 7:30 on Monday.

What a long, strange trip it'd been, but damn, we had a great time! :)

------------- blue separator ----------------------