Progressive Nation 2009 – Oakland – August 27th, 2009
Remarks: Another year, another Progressive Nation… okay, well there has only been 2 so far, it’s almost enough to consider it a trend. After last year’s lineup, I was excited for this year’s; especially with Zappa Plays Zappa on the bill. I had missed them when they play in Santa Cruz so there was absolutely no way I was gonna miss them again this time. Then with Dream Theater headlining, there was no going wrong. Thinking back on last year and how 3 had blown me away, I was excited to see who Portnoy had decided to bring along this time… except we got there late. Oops. By the time we were in, Scale The Summit was already midway through their set. Plus the fact that I spent too much time milling about the merchandise table, they were done before we were seated. Scale The Summit, I officially owe you a listening!
Bigelf was a blast to listen to. They were very powerful and had this strong driving force behind their music. I found it very interesting that the second band this year and last year had singer/keyboard-player frontmen. This one however stayed at his keyboards the whole time, set up center stage to the left and right of him. He also had a nice hat.
Zappa Plays Zappa. Abso-fucking-lutely amazing. They were playing nearly constantly, so in my head, it blurred together as one big musical orgy. It was a little bit hard to tell when one song ended and another one started; it could’ve just been one humongous jam session and I still would be none the wiser. Every single person on stage was so freaking talented it’s not even funny. Like the keyboardist/saxophonist/flutist/backup singer. Or the percussion/xylophonist. Or Dweezil Zappa. Or fucking all of them. There were so many fantastic solos and instrumental parts, I lost track of who did what.
Dream Theater was as epic as one can expect from them. Although it seems like they played a smaller number of songs, they really filled up their time thanks to longer songs and extended solo/jams. I spent some time researching their past setlists to figure out what they were gonna play, and I was able to predict all the songs they played in the order that they played them; with only 2 over-predictions. I must say I was very pleased with their setlist too, it was a good mix of songs.
Zappa Plays Zappa‘s Setlist:
●Apostrophe (They started with an instrumental with Dweezil, the bassist, guitarist, and the drummer. A nice, but also impressive little jam to begin with.)
●Montana (The rest of the band joins in for some awesomeness.)
●Village of the Sun
●Echidna’s Arf (On You)
●Don’t You Ever Was That Thing
●Broken Hearts Are for Assholes (The reasoning for all the band members having a microphone became clear on this song. They all wanted to call us assholes. If they weren’t so awesome and the song wasn’t so funny, I might have been offended.)
●Bamboozled By Love
●Filthy Habits (Their last song involved solos from everyone in the band, I believe all improvised. Naturally, everyone kicked ass on their solos. Dweezil gave the xylophonist a thumbs down for some unknown reason :( )
While they were changing over sets, an interesting song started to play over the PA system. It was acoustic with a female singer. It took a while before people started to catch onto the fact that it was a cover of As I Am. When that happened, tons of people started singing along. Despite our iphone’s best efforts, we couldn’t figure out who it was. Anyone have a clue? :) It wasn’t long before we heard the frantic strings intro from last year. Then darkness. Then thunder and lightning. Uh oh.
Dream Theater‘s Setlist:
●A Nightmare to Remember (A large curtain remained on stage as we hear the song’s piano intro. Lightning flashes revealed huge silhouettes behind the curtain. I knew it was gonna be an epic intro so I pulled out my camera quickly. Oh how correct I was. With that first chord, the curtain drops… almost. The right side of the curtain doesn’t release and the stage tech frantically tries to get the curtain down. When he does, JP and JM step out to much applause and laughter. The rest of the song is awesome, with an animated driving scene and hospital to accompany. Mike Portnoy screams out something to the effect of “Are you ready San Jose? Can you handle this?” before his growly/grunty part. Yes, I believe we are.)
●A Rite of Passage (They wasted no time and continued on through BC&SL with this one. Not exactly my favorite but was played flawlessly. It was accompanied with clips from the video, naturally.)
●Hollow Years (I was really looking forward to this one. The lights went down and everyone left the stage except for Jordan, so I had expected a keyboard spot. Wrong. It was my one over-prediction of the night (the other being no Prophets Of War). Within 30 seconds, Petrucci had come out to join him and proceeded to do his pre-song solo. During the song, they pulled a fast one on everyone and James sang the demo version of the lyrics, which amounted to 2 extra lines before the chorus. Of course, what is Hollow Years these days without JP soloing? He was 100% pure awesome! Naturally I had my camera ready for it!)
●The Dance of Eternity (The big SFAM face on the screen meant it was time for, well, their SFAM section. Go go crazy instrumentals! It was so crazy hearing this one live, seeing how the song is so insanely complex. Up on the screen, they did a 4-way split screen so we could see each person go crazy on their respective instrument. Jordan donned his wizard hat for this song for whatever reason; it was funny nonetheless. We also got a taste of his digital clone on a little TV behind him. It’s a CG version of him, also in a wizard outfit, surrounded in an Octavarium of keyboards inside a tower. It also mimics the same thing Jordan plays; search for Jordan Rudess MIDI Wizard on youtube to have your mind blown. Also, John Myung + Bass Solo = Win!)
●One Last Time (They went directly into this one as expected. James really shone on this one.)
●Solitary Shell (A good fun song to hear. They did an extended jam in the middle of the song, a long, extended jam. Lots of jamming back and forth between Jordan and JP. At one point, MP must have gotten bored, so he decides to stand up, walk around his drum set, and sit down on his bass drum between Jordan and the Johns; keeping rhythm the whole time on his cymbals. Show off. Well, it was awesome too. A little boy decided to come sit on the drum riser as well; which I’m gonna have to assume was MP’s son.)
●In the Name of God (They ended with this powerhouse song. James really stepped it up again on this song. The instrumental section was also insanely cool.)
●The Count of Tuscany (I believe the song’s lyric “You took me for a ride/Promising a vast adventure” very accurately describes this song. They started with that mellow acoustic guitar part over the PA, then JP steps out to solo over it. Then when the rest of the band joins in, you know it’s gonna be epic. James sounded absolutely fantastic on this song and really brought the song to life with emotion. The animations of the countryside and the castle estate helped as well. On the choruses, they encouraged everyone to scream the “I” parts, and boy did the crowd deliver. As the song started to wind down, the stage darkened and everyone vacated the stage except for JR and JP. The spacey guitar solo was a nice breather before they started building it back up. I love the ending to this song, James really drives it home on the last few verses. Besides, anyone who can use the lyric “Now wait a minute man” automatically wins. When they got to the ‘woaaah’ part, I got tingles down my back. It was a very grand, majestic finish that you can’t help but feel good about when they play.)