Show Review: Dream Theater, Devin Townsend, and Animals as Leaders at the Hard Rock Casino of Northwest Indiana in Gary, IN

Hitting the stage first were Animal as Leaders delivering a truly flawless set consisting of incredibly tight and in-sync musicianship that is rivaled by very few all without any vocals throughout their music. The absence of no vocals is a ballsy move, but it works perfectly for their songwriting and live performance approach.

Not being shackled to having to include vocals in their music allows Animals as Leaders to focus on elements of prog metal, or music in general, that may often be ignored or pushed to the side. A great comparison would be jazz music. Similar to jazz, the, often absence of vocals provides the opportunities for the musicians themselves to really revel in the moment, feel the grooves, improvise, and not feel imprisoned by common approaches and paths to storytelling allowing them the opportunity to break barriers and experiment with their craft in ways other genres and artists can’t. Animals as Leaders continue to craft technical and emotional music that transcends conventionality moving in their own unique and special direction.

Few names have that upper-echelon status of name recognition and even fewer hold up to the hype, so seeing Devin Townsend perform was an extra special treat for everyone in attendance. Devin Townsend has reached that legend status for good reason having got his start working with Steve Vai’s Sex & Religion, working with Front Line Assembly & Skinny Puppy, and leading the famous metal group Strapping Young Lad, but it was his solo work that truly launched him into stratosphere within the metal and prog rock community.

Recording and releasing over two dozen solo studio records and live albums, and even forming his own ensemble, the Devin Townsend Project, demonstrates his intense and unmatched ambition for out-of-this-world and provocative projects that not only is embraced by the prog metal/rock community but transcends the genre itself. Performing a setlist that consisted of a perfect blend of classic hits and newer material, Townsend is the definition of perfection showcasing his ungodly range as a songwriter and performer through his riffs, choruses, and stand banter getting the crowd energized and standing up during this fully seated show that only a true master of his craft can achieve.

Considered one of the big three of progressive metal, Dream Theater has been at the forefront of the sub-genre for over 30 years now, and for good reason. Not only are they one of the best technically proficient on record, but their musicianship carries over perfectly into their live performance. It’s always been said that if you can’t play something live then you shouldn’t even include it on your records and I’m glad to say this doesn’t apply to Dream Theater.

Dream Theater possesses a rare talent for having the ability to write and deliver tight, melodic, musically sophisticated songs that not only stand out for these reasons but also contain intricate and well-thought-out themes and stories within each song and throughout entire records. Filled to the brim with hard-hitting hooks, riffs that could fuel a fighter jet, catchy synths, and soaring vocals with refined lyrics, Dream Theater don’t hold back during their performances, especially as they debut their newest yearly traveling tour, DreamSonic.

Fans were able to experience their favorite band for nearly two hours as they played material from every era of their career delivering a glorious, captivating, and moving experience that transcends the usual concert experience. Performing an incredibly fast-paced, non-stop set, Dream Theater pulled no punches during their performance delivering upon their famous reputation of having one of the best live performances. Consisting of incredible stage and lighting production, Dream Theater’s strategy to utilize everything going on around them during their set adds to the experience, but never distracts from it placing their songs and musicianship at the center as that is the primary reason fans flock to their shows. Compared to other genres where the crowd interactions are at the center or theatrics are the largest role, the progressive rock community truly only cares about one thing, the music. If your performance doesn’t line up perfectly with your records or if you don’t perform as tight and pristine as they expect, they’ll let you know, thus creating high expectations for the band themselves to live up to. Thankfully, Dream Theater is always up to the task of hitting every item on the nerd rocker’s checklist for a picture-perfect concert.

The living definition of musical excellence, Dream Theater continue to showcase why they are one of the best prog metal bands ever, even after 30 years. With every element coming together perfectly without a hitch, it almost felt like a dream to experience this high level of musicianship making you feel as though you’re having an out-of-body experience. While personally I am not a big prog rock fan, after seeing this tour, it has made me have a whole new appreciation for the genre and for the artists within it, especially Dream Theater. By breaking rules, defying limitations, and going beyond traditional boundaries, Dream Theater continue to prove time and time again why they are one of the greatest prog metal bands ever.

Dream Theater

Devin Townsend

Animals as Leaders

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