Concert Experience: Jogjarockarta and Dream Theater: Images, Words and Beyond

Jogjarockarta: great rock festival featuring legends. Please come back next year!

I first listened to Dream Theater 25 years ago in Jogja. Their skilled musicianship were displayed prominently in a masterpiece sophomore album, titled as “Images & Words”

Intrigued by their complex song writing, yet with catchy melody lines, I joined the band wagon of my friends in Jogja, to buy the cassette. And honestly, I consider the album as one of the best rock album of all time. Well, take a look at the title of my blog then you realize from where I get the inspiration.

With my fellow concert goers, who also listened Dream Theater for the first time in Jogja
That’s why when Dream Theater announced they will be playing in Jogja, celebrating the 25th anniversary of this monumental record, I wasted no time. Bought the pre-sale tickets for me and my old Jogja friends, and here we go, back to Jogja, the city where we listened to Dream Theater for the first time. 

The concert, as part of new rock festival in Jogja billed as “Jogjarockarta”, was held in Kridosono. An old stadium in center of Jogjakarta. The stadium can house up to 10,000 audiences. But apparently, Dream Theater has many more fans in Indonesia. The tickets were sold out in days. But thank God, John Petrucci and co were kind (and smart) enough to realize this, and add one more concert the next day. Looking at this animo, the promotor even thought of moving the venue to larger place in Prambanan temple. Unfortunately, some voices of disapproval from archeologic association, blocked this idea. That would have been perfect though. A majestic band like Dream Theater to play with backdrop of majestic temple of Prambanan. I already dreamed of buying blu-ray disc of “Dream Theater: Majestic Night in Prambanan”

Maybe in different life 🙂

The ticket still says “Prambanan”. Too bad 🙂

First Act: Power Metal

We came to Kridosono at around 6 pm. The crowd had not fully gathered, so there were many empty spaces on the field. But soon after, one of legendary rock band from Surabaya, Power Metal, came to the stage. And the crowd started to flock in.
This is the second time I watch Power Metal. The first time was when they opened for Sepultura in Surabaya, 25 years ago (yeah, I’ve been concert goers for 30 years LOL). Arul, its vocalist, didn’t change much. His wailing vocal still can reach high tones, although of course unlike 25 years ago. The other personnel, well, they are still pretty good musicians, only their vanishing hair and increased weight made them unrecognizable. 

The concert stages. Dream Theater’s stage was on the right
And unfortunately the set list they played last night was almost unrecognizable as well for me. Only “Angkara” which I could join to sing along. I was waiting for their legendary songs that made them famous: “Timur Tragedi” or “Cita yang Tersita”, but none of them appeared. Power Metal playe another 6-7 songs, maybe from their newer albums. Don’t get me wrong, it was good performance from them, but not knowing the song made me hard to enjoy fully the show.


Second Act: God Bless

Next on the stage is even more legendary band: God Bless. Probably the pioneer of rock band in Indonesia, they came out to the foray back in 70s. They didn’t release many albums, but their name is safely carved as legend in Indonesia
Last night, the three original line up – Achmad Albar (vocals), Ian Antono (guitars) and Donny Fatah (bass) – were joined by Abadi Soesman (Keyboards, Bharata) and Fajar Satritama (drums, Edane). Considering their ages (they’re mostly in 60s and 70s), they still showcased high energy performance. Not sure if it’s because they’re playing with Dream Theater, but last night God Bless showed their progressive side as a band. They played set list mostly from their early years repertoire, which some of them recently was remixed. The presence of Abadi Soesman introduced some of the ethnic elements into the mix. And there were no songs post “Semut Hitam” era, well probably Ian Antono didn’t want to play Eet Syahranie’s guitar works. 

Achmad Albar on the big screen
However, the biggest reception from the audience of the night was when God Bless played their songs in 80s era. There’s no doubt, most of the crowd grew up in 80s. So when “Kehidupan, “Semut Hitam”, “Rumah Kita” and “Bis Kota” were played, the concert turned into mass karaoke. Crowd were singing, jumping and dancing with the old gang. There were times when I felt the night already reached it peak. 

But, obviously, I underestimated what about to come. 

Final Act: Dream Theater

Approximately at 9.00 pm Dream Theater came up to the stage. Their opening song, “The Dark Eternal Night” was delivered in usual Dream Theater’s fashion: tight, technically adept performance. The crowd was instantly electrified. I was mesmerized with their skills from the get go.

The crowd reacted to the band
But somehow Dream Theater chose to play their lesser known repertoire for their first part of concert. From 7 songs they played, the highlight was the last one: “As I Am”, taken from Train of Thought album. It was one of great live staple from Dream Theater, and was even better last night when they included Metallica’s classic hit “Enter Sandman” in between. Again, because the popularity of the song, the crowd erupted in joy.

Me and Joko, my old friend from Jogja. We both listened Dream Theater for very first time at Pogung
Then we had 20 minutes break, which was great idea. Many of the crowd were like me, guys above 40s. So we welcomed the idea, as it gave our old legs and backs huge break. Sitting on the grass and drinking water for a while helped us to regain the energy, before watching the second part of Dream Theater’s performance.

And honestly, this part was perhaps the best segment of concerts I’ve ever experienced. No kidding. It was because the set list. Dream Theater played all songs on the monumental “Images & Words” in entirety, in order, exactly as we heard on cassette! (hey it was 25 years ago). And the band nailed it, exactly as it was recorded. Since the album is still my favorite album ever, it is on heavy rotation through all the years. I am, thus, able to memorize all James Labrie’s melody lines, John Petrucci’s sequences,  intriguing bass skills from John Myung, catchy keyboard melodies of Kevin Moore, and of course the complex, unbelievable drum plays from Mike Portnoy. And I can testament, all of them were wonderfully recreated last night on the stage. Again, it was like listening to the cassette. Okay, James LaBrie vocal was probably the farthest from the original version in records. But I do think, he still delivered an amazing performance. Considering his age and the high pitch of Dream Theater’s songs, he was not a disappointment, not at all. I watched Axl Rose, and Jon Bon Jovi in concert before, and definitely James LaBrie’s performance couldn’t be categorized in same bracket with them.

Dream Theater on stage, from the place I stand
Song by song was played. From the opening track “Pull Me Under” to the very last track in the album “Learning to Live”. It felt like I was in transcend. Really. The fatigue was gone. And I was literally in tears when I sang outloud the lyrics of “Surrounded” and  “Metropolis”. It was that good. 

Then after another short break, the band came out again playing the encore. It was the epic 23-minutes song “Change of Seasons”. Such a rare track for them to play, full of complex musical arrangements. And again, the way they delivered it, made you just amazed, mesmerised and astonished. When James LaBrie introduced Jordan Rudess on stage, he was jokingly said that Jordan was “half a man, quarter an alien, and quarter a computer”. I guess James could say the same to John Petrucci, John Myung, and Mike Mangini (well, as a drummer, I can only say he is a beast!)

In the end, we left the concert stage feeling exhausted but very satisfied. I discussed with my friends afterwards what made this concert was special.The answer was the songs. The set list. Dream Theater became legendary because of the music they created. After “Images & Words” they still produced many great albums until this very date. But many fans would argue, that “Images & Words” was probably their masterpiece, which couldn’t be reproduced. 

I tend to agree. But such legendary record could be still recreated on stage. 

And that was exactly what we witnessed last night. Thank you for the show. Thank you for the music, Dream Theater. You’re a legend. I am sure one hundred years from now, even when we’re all be gone, your music (and spirit) carries on.

Dream Theater Setlist, Kridosono Jogjakarta, 29 September 2017

Act 1:

  • “The Dark Eternal Night”
  • “The Bigger Picture”
  • “Hell’s Kitchen”
  • “The Gift of Music”
  • “Our New World”
  • “Portrait of Tracy” (Jaco Pastorius cover) (John Myung solo)
  • “As I Am” (bridged with an excerpt of Metallica’s “Enter Sandman”)
  • “Breaking All Illusions”

Act 2 (Images and Words):

  • “Pull Me Under”
  • “Another Day” (extended outro with a Jordan Rudess keyboard solo)
  • “Take the Time” (extended outro dwith a John Petrucci guitar solo)
  • “Surrounded”
  • “Metropolis Pt. 1: The Miracle and the Sleeper” (with a drum solo by
  • Mike Mangini)
  • “Under a Glass Moon”
  • “Wait for Sleep” (with extended keyboard intro)
  • “Learning to Live” (extended outro with a Jordan Rudess keyboard solo)

Encore:

  • “A Change of Seasons”
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