Dream Theater's Live at the Marqee

(German pressing)

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Reviewed by Paul W. Cashman, <pellaz@adelphia.net>

Two versions of Live at the Marquee were pressed, one in Japan with "Another Day," the other made in Germany and including "Surrounded" instead. I obtained the German pressing, as I like "Surrounded" more than "Another Day." The German pressing is also five to seven dollars less than the Japanese. There is good reason to get the German version, too, as you'll see in a moment. Completists who want to hear the live version of "Another Day" from the Japanese pressing can hear it also on The Silent Man single.

Both pressings begin ambitiously with "Metropolis Part 1," the most intricate song on Images and Words, and the band manages a nearly seamless version, quite an achievement in a live setting. The only distraction is singer James LaBrie's highest range, where he renders notes here in a screeching shout -- this happens on all songs except "Surrounded" (and "Bombay Vindaloo," of course) and is really the only thing holding Dream Theater back from a truly stellar live presence. This reportedly varies show-by-show depending on how James' voice is that particular night. I've personally seen DT when James' voice was spot-on perfect (Detroit, November 1994), so we'll call the performance here on LaTM an "off-nite."

"Metropolis" is followed by "A Fortune in Lies", from the band's now-scarce first album When Dream and Day Unite. (It's still made in Germany on the Mechanic label and can be found at better importers, at Best Buy stores, or on the Internet from, e.g., ranjit@netcom.com.) Relative newcomer LaBrie's vocals on these older songs are, I think, hotter than original singer Charlie Dominici's.

An improvised instrumental jam called "Bombay Vindaloo" checks in as track three on both pressings. Guitarist John Petrucci's impressive chops and the jam's soaring middle make this a high point on LatM.

Whereas "Vindaloo" was great, "Surrounded" is stupendous. Kevin Moore embellishes his keyboard performance on I&W so well here that I consider this live version superior to the studio cut: high praise indeed! This is an unforgettable track, but it's available only on the German pressing; in this slot on the Japanese pressing is "Another Day."

From this point, both pressings are again identical -- seems WEA is quite adept at giving serious fans more items to buy for completeness!

"Another Hand -- The Killing Hand" follows, another intricate number from WDaDU, slightly retitled. If "Fortune in Lies" didn't make you curious about that first album, this one certainly will! LaBrie's vocals here are reminiscent of Ronnie James Dio's best efforts.

The final track is also the band's most-recognized tune, "Pull Me Under." As on Images and Words, this version takes no prisoners, with the now-signature rhythms of bassist John Myung and always-busy drummer Mike Portnoy crunching through Petrucci's riffs and the audience lending support on the song they all know best. Listen for JP's shanked note at the beginning -- a rarity you won't hear too often!

Although LaBrie's problems with his highest notes do sully some of this EP's biggest moments, it's still a masterful live recreation of intricate material, and their improvisations add an extra touch of class. An excellent live album closely bordering on true greatness: required material for Dream Theater fans and highly recommended for musicians, and fans of progressive rock.

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