I know they say that “Variety is the spice of life”, however there are times when I wonder if I should possibly be using a little less spice…

Friday night Kris, Morgan, Craig, Kate & I wandered around a few pubs in London, including the fairly impressively situated “The Heights” bar – definitely have to go back there for a meal at some stage !!

Saturday night Paul, HC and I went to see the Young@Heart Chorus – a semi choreographed choir comprising only members between the ages of 60 and 93. Whilst it was interesting and even a bit fun, I don’t highly recommend downloading the mp3s they have on their site.

Sunday I spent in a Tai Chi seminar learning from our Grand Master, Eddie Wu Kwong Yu. If I thought a regluar tai chi class was punishment, that was NOTHING on this !! It was a great morning though, and I certainly learned a lot.

Sunday night we went out for a tai chi dinner at an awesome restaurant in Swiss Cottage with Grand Master Wu. It was a 10 course Chinese banquet, with lobster, Peking duck, scallops… and a whole bunch of other stuff I can’t begin to identify, but which was all excellent.

Tonight, as if the last couple of nights weren’t incongruous enough, Paul & I went to Hammersmith (the spiritual home of rock), and saw prog-metal icons Dream Theater. DT are a band which I’d never really listened to before, but had heard Greg, Spiro & co wax enthusiastic about back in the days when I was just discovering Pink Floyd and Led Zeppelin. As there was a gig going on, I figured it’d be worth getting along to – those guys haven’t let me down musically just yet. By some weird fluke I managed to get a seat in the 2nd row. It was a bit of a recreation of my experiences at the Motorhead gig last year: I was the only person down the front who didn’t appear to know the band’s entire back catalogue intimately, and I felt a lot like the only Celtics fan at a Rangers game. The chief difference being that if it had been a Motorhead gig, I probably wouldn’t be alive today.

One of the interesting challenges of the gig was trying to figure out the dominant demographic, however the mix was pretty thorough – I guess with any gig that ‘s been around 20 years, they’re bound to attract people from different walks of life, or probably more relevantly, who end up going to different walks of life. One thing’s for certain – the couture de jour was black band t-shirts. Mostly Dream Theater, but also a lot of Queesnryche (apols for lack of apropriate umlauts in this post, by the way), Motorhead, Rush, the odd Led Zeppelin & Pink Floyd shirt… and a ceaseless tide of mullets.

It’s very hard to say anything specific about a band whose songs you don’t know, particularly when they tend to run one song into the next and occasionally break out into a cover verse from another band (for instance at one point they moved into Pink Floyd’s “Wish You Were Here”, and Metallica’s “Enter Sandman”), but also when the band’s actual songs are in the 12-15 minute bracket.

The band members themselves were incredibly skilful musos – a fact it was easier to appreciate from row B. John Myung was sporting a Yamaha 6 string bass, and the guy’s fingers just never stopped ! Very little in the way of solo work, but man he was intense. Mike Portnoy was playing the biggest drum kit I think I’ve ever seen (which is known as The Albino Monster, apparently), with a relentless intensity which you only see in highly polished acts. John Petrucci on guitars swapped between a 2-pack painted 7 string and a double-necked guitar and like his bass-playing colleague, he just never stopped. Jordan Rudess was on keys with a column-mounted synth – whether that was because he gets back trouble from sitting down, or just cos walking around allows him to strike more ROCK poses, I don’t know – and a sort of analog fingerpad which Paul described as a “musical bathmat”. And James LaBrie didn’t have an instrument, but the kind of voice that I’ll bet Robert Plant wishes he still had. Apparently a lot of people find LaBrie’s voice hard to take after a while, but as I was positioned immediately under the power PA, I didn’t get the full-on brunt of most of it.

Like I said, I’m not completely familiar with the material, however in the first half they did a career retrospective, with a few songs from each of their albums, foreshadowed by the album cover and the year being projected up onto the enormous video screens. This gave the effect of a fairly sad TV special, however it was also useful because now I have some idea which periods of their work I like and which to avoid (hell, any band that’s around 20 years is gonna have flat spots – look at the usually infallible Herbie Hancock in his “Dis is da drum” phase. Shudder.)

Well that’s probably enough about that – the rest of what I was going to say was only stuff like how funny I thought it was at how many people were wearing their black band t-shirts (laden with iconic and epic imagery and exaltation of the band) tucked in – just doesn’t seem particularly Rock to me. But nobody wants to read that sort of tripe.

In summing up, it was a truly awesome gig, and I’m extremely glad I branched out & took a gamble on a “new” band. Next time however I might aim for further back in the crowd and not take up the hallowed “worshipping ground” of the front row, from people who would no doubt appreciate it a great deal more than me.

Whilst reading up on Dream Theater, I was looking around for information on the covers that they sometimes do. It surfaced that at their gig in Amsterdam earlier this month, they surprised the crowd in the second set by performing a cover of the complete Dark Side of the Moon album. Further research uncovered a rumour that they were planning to repeat this at the 2nd London gig (Last night). I mentioned it to Paul, who immediately shot off to eBay and scored himself a ticket.

Whilst I really enjoyed Dream Theater, and am near obsessed with the music of Pink Floyd, a chat-forum based rumour wasn’t enough for me to go see a band I’d just discovered on 2 consecutive nights.

About 9:30 last night, I got an SMS from Paul with just the word “Heartbeats…”. That was followed about 30 mins later by a phone call where I could hear a guitar wailing out “Money”.


God I hope I can find a bootleg online sometime soon.

2005-10-25 : Never a dull moment, to be sure.