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Manchester Apollo, 12 October 2007

It's a brave move for the main band to have a support like Symphony X and is a reflection of Dream Theater's generosity, not least their supreme confidence.

Symphony X have gathered a fair few fans in recent years, especially with the release of their seventh album 'Paradise Lost'. They're not exactly prolific - the latest opus coming five years after 'The Odyssey'. But supporters would say it was worth the wait.

Symphony X: Russell Allen

Photo: Ian Pollard/GRTR!

They're not musically dissimilar to Dream Theater either, which explains that band's supreme confidence. With a formidable frontman in Russell Allen, looking like a younger Bill Bailey (the comedian), the band rattled through their 45 minute set sweeping up most of the new album's highlights.

Symphony X: Michael Romeo

Photo: Ian Pollard/GRTR!

The title track 'Paradise Lost' came across as something of a prog metal classic, with a wonderful vocal delivery, strong melody, and heavy riffing courtesy of Michael Romeo who has garnered his own growing reputation in guitar circles.

As scene-setters for the main band this was just about perfect, and I'm sure - given the chance - they'd have been back for a much deserved encore.

Dream Theater, by way of contrast, were a disappointment. They wallowed for a good two hours in music that was - sadly - far too up its own sphincter. They've always been a technically proficient unit and I don't doubt their influence has reverberated through the years since 1992's classic 'Images And Words'. But a leaden 20-minute section in the middle of their set - 'In The Presence Of Enemies - Part 2' - made this an endurance test for all but the most hardened fan.

There's no doubting that musical prowess, and the staging was superb with excellent use of video, but - for me - Jordan Rudess' soloing is too samey and, whilst John Petrucci is a wonderful guitar player, the changing time signatures and overt noodling prevent the listener locking in to a solo, and being carried forward.

At times it seems that Dream Theater have adapted to the new kids on the block but forgotten their original modus operandi. Hence 'Systematic Chaos' sounds in places more like other metal bands than Dream Theater.

Vocalist James LaBrie seemed out of sorts on this occasion, deferring to his colleagues' musical bombast and spending a lot of time in the shadows. Where, oh where, was the more accessible, melodic stuff? 'Pull Me Under', and 'Forsaken' from the new album?

Almost as shocking and short-sighted as the seizure of camera phones by over-zealous security personnel. Shameful.

Review by David Randall

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