Prog bellwether Dream Theater hunkered down in San Jose, California on July 24 with colleagues Animals as Leaders and Devin Townsend for another night of its traveling festival Dream Sonic. With only three stops remaining in the inaugural North American tour, the triumvirate of metal inspiration had set sights on making a splash with its most diverse and eclectic audience in the heart of Silicon Valley. On a searing summer evening, concertgoers snaked out the doors of the historic downtown San Jose Civic theater, thirsting for the most bohemian of artistry.

Onward with part two of JROCK NEW’s special coverage on Dream Theater. Discover how the band imprints such a lasting international legacy and how music, as guitarist John Petrucci described during our interview, “all has to do with the emotional connection.”

Animals as Leaders, the Isaac Newton of djent, open the evening and school the crowd with their dizzying polyrhythmic calculus. On the chilling number Ectogenesis, Guitarists Tosin Abasi and Javier Reyes slap, thump, and glide across all eight strings of their extended range instruments, while drummer Matt Garstka effortlessly keeps time. Then, Devin Townsend, hand to his chest as he professes, “I’m a 50 year-old Canuck! And I’m here to play awkwardly euphoric prog metal for the next hour,” pulls everyone closer with his zany antics. Effortlessly switching from operatic vocals to guttural growls and even bringing a theremin on stage for the song Dimensions, Townsend’s creativity spires to new heights.

Capping the fest with a third hour of metal mastery, Dream Theater enters to an orchestral overture. A visual backdrop paints majestic mountains and rising empires, some falling to ruin, as witnessed through the coin-operated tower viewer. The ultimate scenery: The Dream Sonic headliner and a geyser of inspiration about to erupt in front of 3,000 metal fans.

Without hesitation, drummer Mike Mangini fires off the opening blast beat of the GRAMMY winner The Alien. With guitarist John Petrucci, bassist John Myung, and keyboardist Jordan Rudess joining in sync, the instrumentalists grind out the breakneck intro with astonishing precision. As the riffs pivot into a gliding guitar solo, frontman James Labrie races onto stage and straddles his mic stand. The quintet makes the theatrics look so easy, a testament to the decades of ascent culminating in its most recent album, aptly titled A View from the Top of the World.

Next, a haunting sequence of Rudess’ Rhodes piano-like pings descends upon the hall turned blood red. Imagery of fighter jets, bullet casings, and bipedal mecha juxtapose those of an impressionable child. Petrucci’s girthy chord strokes cut through the air like an emergency alert, and the band chugs onward with Sleeping Giant, another sinister cut from the latest album.

“We’ve been out with Animals as Leaders, Devin Townsend… They’re all fantastic guys. Friendship. Family. That’s rich.” Labrie welcomes, as he reverts time to 1994 for the Awake album classic Caught in a Web. The onslaught resumes with Petrucci and Myung digging into the lowest string of their respective axes for Answering the Call, a brooding call to resist divisive doctrines that turn humanity against itself.

This tour makes ample room for 2002 album Six Degrees of Inner Turbulence, a vulnerable concept album that explores the struggles of psychological hardship. Solitary Shell, a cheerful folk melody sung to the memoir of crestfallen parents who pour their love into their son as he slips away into self-isolation, touches the audience, many attending with children of their own. Album closers About to Crash (Reprise) and Losing Time / Grand Finale follow; nostalgia reaches fever pitch.

As the main set nears its end, Petrucci’s dissonant arpeggios picked to Mangini’s tom beats cue the long-awaited Pull Me Under, 1992 debut single and Dream Theater’s “only top 10 radio hit” by the band’s own admission. Amidst the roaring applause, the program moves into the finale The Count of Tuscany, a breathtaking 20-minute epic that recounts being swept away by grandiose royalty. Petrucci displays some of his most melodic work on stage, segueing into a cover of When You Wish Upon a Star with mellifluous, violin-like volume swells.

Dream Theater returns to the stage with Devin Townsend and guitarist Tosin Abasi of Animals as Leaders for its only encore, The Spirit Carries On. This time, Townsend shares the vocals and Abasi lead guitar in a symbolic unity of the rock and metal community. As anticipated by Petrucci just days before, the familiar hymn resonates deeply with each person, some with hands through the air and others holding back tears. Indeed, the music really is all about the emotional connection.

Despite a few jokes from Labrie about how the band could claim zero women followers in its younger, more formative years (they do now… “because girlfriends, wives, or daughters were dragged out by their boyfriends, husbands, and dads!”), the evening’s audience made clear its tremendous reach across not only gender identities but also generations and ethnicities. From grandparents in the balcony to teens passionately clutching their fists in the front row, from the women head-banging with horns held high to the Spanish, Hindi, Chinese, and Japanese overheard between songs, Dream Theater’s philosophy has always been about breaking barriers and bringing people together through music.

Perhaps, just as much as all the virtuosity, it’s Dream Theater’s welcoming attitude that’s captured hearts across the world.

Dream Theater at San Jose Civic, Monday July 24, 2023


  1. The Alien
  2. Sleeping Giant
  3. Caught in a Web
  4. Answering the Call
  5. Solitary Shell
  6. About to Crash (Reprise)
  7. Losing Time / Grand Finale
  8. Pull Me Under
  9. The Count of Tuscany


  1. Scene Eight: The Spirit Carries On
    (with Tosin Abasi, Devin Townsend, Mike Keneally, and Darby Todd)

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Dream Theater:
Instagram James Labrie
Instagram John Petrucci
Instagram Jordan Rudess
Instagram Mike Mangini
Twitter James Labrie
Twitter John Petrucci
Twitter Jordan Rudess
Facebook James Labrie
Facebook John Petrucci
Facebook John Myung
Twitter Jordan Rudess
Twitter Mike Mangini
Animals as Leaders:
Instagram Tosin Abasi
Instagram Javier Reyes
Instagram Matt Garstka
Twitter Tosin Abasi
Twitter Javier Reyes