James LaBrie – Vocals, Percussion
John Myung – Bass Guitars
John Petrucci – Guitars, vocals
Mike Portnoy – Drums, Percussion, Vocals
Derek Sherinian – Keyboards
Dream Theater is in Paris, France for their second live album. This was recorded in the year 1998 – the last album keyboardist Derek Sherinian would be involved in. The energy and passion that went into each song is evident here, and Kevin Shirley does a great job with the producing. However, out of all the DT live albums I own, this one is probably the most problematic.
The Good, the Bad and the Ugly
You can tell the crowd is really getting into the music. Considering how small an audience they are, they are still very loud. This in turn means that the album is very atmospheric, which is one of the nuances of any good live album.
[+]The Performance of Lines In The Sand.
While Lines in the Sand strikes me as a rather mediocre track, the band does a much better job here live. For starters, the chorus is no longer contaminated by Doug Pinnick of King's X. While he is a very talented singer, i find his voice beyond annoying, and don't feel that his vocal delivery suits Lines in the Sand. Also, the live atmosphere gives the song some much needed new life. Sure this version has some awkward moments, but overall I can’t see too much to complain about here.
JP does a great job here, especially with his soling. He is often guilty of being rather sloppy live, but not on this occasion. He also has his own song; – track 7 of disk 2. Basically this is JP at his very best, and combines every attribute of his playing that we all know and love so much.
[+]Mike Portnoy’s drumming.
This guy sure is incredible. He is a master of utilizing his entire kit and coming up with some really cool, experimental fills. His drum solo, the closer of disk 1 also contains some very well executed double kicking – few drummers that I know are as fast on the pedals as he is.
[-]The decision to break the critically acclaimed "A Change Of Seasons" up into four parts.
This was a poor decision, and only made the song a chore to listen to from start to finish. While they do a great live performance of it overall, I don’t want to have to swap disks and fiddle around with my CD player just to listen to it as one piece.
[-]The keyboard tone.
I don’t know if Derek was just lazy or something, but basically for the entire duration of this album, his keyboard has the same sound. Sure, his signature synth sound is pretty cool at first, but I don’t want to hear it in songs like Take the Time, Pull me Under and Scarred where it just really doesn’t fit with the music. For me, it definitely hurts this album and stopped it from being as good as it could have been.
What makes James such a renowned singer is his phenomenal vocal range. However, he really does not show us that on this album. I understand he had a vocal rupture, but it still is a factor in decreasing the overall experience of Once In a LIVEtime. He particularly struggles in "Voices"; what was easy for him before his vocal rupture clearly is not easy for him now.
[-]Only one track from When Dream and Day Unite.
The only song from their debut is "Ytse Jam". I would have loved to see "Only a Matter of Time", "The Killing Hand" and "A Fortune in Lies" in the setlist. I suppose I don’t blame Dream Theater for this decision, as WDADU is the least popular album of theirs to date.
, one of DT’s best ballads is inexplicably absent from the setlist. It is such a shame; it seems this song gets bashed a lot by fans but I love it.
[-]Take Away My Pain.
Possibly one of the most uninspired Dream Theater songs to date, and it is not much better live. It really sounds out of place in a DT album and strikes me as filler material. The lyrics have reached an all time low here: "Take away my pain/I’m not frightened any more/Please don’t let it rain." A terrible song.
To conclude, this album is far from perfect but is overall a pleasing experience for the listener. The band does a very good job in “Lines in the Sand” and "Scarred", and for Mike and John’s solo alone this is a worthy purchase. However, if this will be your first experience of a DT live album, I recommend you avoid this for now. Get "Live at the Marquee" instead.