LIQUID TENSION EXPERIMENT MASTURBATE FOR TWO FULL HOURS AT NYC SHOW
And I mean that in absolutely the most loving, adoring, fan-boy way possible. Watching three members of Dream Theater (Mike Portnoy, John Petrucci and Jordan Rudess) and the indomitable Tony Levin (bass, ex-King Crimson) play two solid hours of instrumental, mind-fucking, skull-bending, so-good-I-may-as-well-never-touch-an-instrument-again prog metal was a true treat. To see these masters of their fields up close in such a relatively small venue was an honor. All the people in attendance — check that, there were about 2 women there. all the DUDES in attendance — couldn’t help but be utterly fascinated and fixated on the always impressive but never pretentious top-flight musicians on the stage. It was truly a sight to behold.
What’s fun about side projects like Liquid Tension Experiment is that they allow the musicians to really stretch out and have fun beyond what they’re obligated to play with their “day job” bands. Playing “Metropolis” for the 1567th time has got to lose it’s luster, and I’d imagine the members of Dream Theater that comprise LTE look forward to getting together to play other material. What’s more, they don’t even have to worry about a singer or writing real songs — just pure, musical, unadulterated bliss, a pleasure in which they mightily indulged last night. This kind of wankery would never fly for a primary band, but for a side project that hasn’t been touched in 10 years it works out perfectly.
Portnoy slammed, Petrucci shredded, and Rudess sliced their ways through solo after solo after solo, tying them in to larger frameworks of songs. Tony Levin, the least known of the group, should not be overlooked. Now in his SEVENTH MOTHERFUCKING DECADE ON PLANET EARTH (god damn that is metal. When I’m 62 will I still care about this shit?) came out on stage with a MOTHERFUCKING CHAPMAN MOTHERFUCKING STICK! If you don’t know what a Chapman Stick is look it up. To say that the man made this beast of an instrument look easy is cliché, but… He made it look really, really easy, and wasn’t overshadowed by his more famous (in metal circles, anyway) bandmates. Oh yeah, and he played the regular bass like a motherfucker too for a few songs.
The audience seemed to have a good grasp on the band’s songs from their lone two albums, the last of which was released 9 years ago. But by no means did you have to know any of the material to appreciate it — I certainly didn’t know a lick. Things got most interesting when the band went off the grid, be it during solos that were clearly improvised or a true, completely unscripted jam that the band played later in the night. It’s during these moments when you’re able to see just how talented these men are not just as players but as musicians. The jams were fluid, there was great communication between the members, changes always worked out, and the results were at times song-worthy. I’d imagine Dream Theater writes albums this way and then fleshes out the ideas later.
What else is there to say? If you’re a fan of musicianship you would have loved to be at this show. I’d bet my left nut that at least 95% of the audience were themselves musicians. Even if you aren’t a musician you have to be able to appreciate the sheer ability of these men (PS: I’m so sick of the “they can play fast but can’t write songs / don’t have any soul” argument. It holds no water, especially not with this group’s pedigree). If you ever have a chance to see Liquid Tension Experiment, by all means do not hesitate to do it.