See you very soon India, it will be a night to remember for a very long time,” writes James LaBrie, the Canadian frontman of Dream Theater, in an email interview, a few days before the world’s most revered progressive metal band make their debut in India. For fans of the American band, that began in Boston in 1985 as Majesty, the chance to see John Petrucci (guitars, backing vocals), John Myung (bass), Jordan Rudess (keyboards), Mike Mangini (drums, percussion) and LaBrie (lead vocals) live in concert has been a long time coming. On Sunday, Dream Theater will take the stage at the MMRDA grounds in Mumbai, as part of their grand “Images, Words & Beyond” tour, that celebrates 25 years of the prog metal pioneer’s second studio album, Images and Words. It’s a special one for LaBrie, the album was his first with Dream Theater.
In this interview, he talks about his favourite songs from the album, the thrill of the tour, and what Mumbai can expect from them on October 8. Excerpts:
It’s been 25 years since Images and Words came out. How did you go about preparing for a tour that looks back at some of your earliest work? What’s been the best and the strangest part of rehearsing for this?
You go about preparing for any tour pretty much the same way because you know what works best. I would say the strangest part is that it has been 25 years since that album came out, and it just doesn’t feel like that to me. It’s very surreal. The best part has been reliving these songs not only in rehearsal but live, in front of our fans, each and every night. It is a thrilling ride for the band at every show.
Are you doing anything different for the tour — in terms of tweaking any of the songs, reworking any of the lyrics?
I would say the songs are being played as they were on the album. I personally have changed some of the melodies here and there, and the other guys are a little improvisational with some of the sections, but we’re pretty much on the mark throughout. The other songs choices were easy. We knew in the first set that we wanted to play various songs from our catalogue, and songs we knew the fans would appreciate. Obviously, the second set being primarily Images… we wanted to resurrect A Change of Seasons for two reasons. One, we haven’t played the song in its entirety for quite a while. Two, it was originally meant to be on the Images and Words album but the label thought it would make the album too long and take the focus off the other songs. So, it had to be a part of the 25th celebration as it was written in the same period of time.
Which are some of your favourite songs from the album that you love performing live?
Surrounded, Metropolis, Wait for sleep and Learning to live.
In an interview with Rockbook, you talked about the 14th studio album, to be released next year. You said, ‘It should be who we are at that particular moment.’ Could you elaborate?
What I meant by that statement is that each album is like looking into a crystal ball. It’s where each person is at, that point in their lives, in what influences you, what affects you, what inspires you — whether it be socially, politically or in literature. This always lends itself to creating emotions and everything in music is emotionally tied. That is why it is universal in the way it moves and touches each and everyone of us. It is undeniably the one element that brings us all together, truly weaving the human tapestry that connects us all.
Will you ever do another concept album like The Astonishing? What was the challenge of putting that one together and touring with it?
It’s too early to say. The biggest challenge with an album like that is making it believable from the studio release to the live environment — being able to do it justice each and every night, so that every single person is enraptured and embraces the experience.
Are there any recent bands or musicians you love and want more people to listen to?
There are many bands I’m currently into, both new and established, such as Nothing More, Big Wreck, Bell X1, Andy McKee, Nothing But Thieves, Shiny Toy Guns, Jeff Buckley, Radiohead, Coldplay, Young the Giant, Mutemath, One Republic and many, many more.
Which other countries are you visiting for the first time as a part of the anniversary tour? What are you looking forward to the most in India?
Besides India, the other countries are the Philippines, Malaysia and Dubai, the United Arab Emirates. The response, so far, has been unbelievably great. We’re looking forward to finally playing for our Indian fans, it is well overdue. Also, I’m looking forward to Indian food, which is one of my favourite cuisines.