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Mike Portnoy’s Fingerprints All Over Progressive Nation Tour

Mike Portnoy has more than just a hand in the Progressive Nation tour, currently in its second year. While his band, Dream Theater, has headlined both years of the tour’s incarnation, the drummer, an avid music fan, also curated both years’ lineups. When Pain of Salvation and Beardfish were forced to drop off the tour due to problems with their label, Portnoy quickly recruited instrumental quartet Scale the Summit and Bigelf, who released one of his favorite albums in the past year, in ‘Cheat The Gallows’ (Zappa Plays Zappa are also on the tour). And instead of just appreciating the music, he joined the bands onstage at New York’s Beacon Theater this past week, as he does more often than not.

Scale the Summit started off the show with a confident half-hour set of instrumental music. The heaviest act on the bill, their music had more in common with Pelican. But the young band was enthusiastically greeted by the audience, some of which were easily twice their age.

Bigelf kept up their reputation as ‘the evil Beatles’ by playing a handful of songs that sounded like a hybrid of Black Sabbath and ELP. After singer Damon Fox told the audience how much he loved Mike Portnoy for bringing them on tour, Portnoy joined the band on the drums for ‘Blackball.’

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Progressive Nation Photos
Mike Portnoy of Dream Theater performs at the Beacon Theatre in New York City Aug. 9 as a part of the Progressive Nation tour.
Max W. Orenstein, NoiseCreep

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    And Zappa Plays Zappa, featuring Frank’s son Dweezil playing alongside a mix of musicans from his dad’s band and some newcomers, faithfully brought his father’s music to life. Portnoy came out again, this time singing a song before getting behind the drums for “Willie the Pimp.”

    But ultimately, it was all about the headliners. Opening with “A Nightmare To Remember” and “A Rite of Passage,” the first two songs from their current album, Black Clouds and Silver Linings, Dream Theater had control of the near-capacity crowd from the first note. Playing on a sparsely furnished stage, once again Portnoy was the focus, as his gigantic drum kit took up more space than anything else on stage. Musically, however, the whole band was on equal footing. Guitarist John Petrucci, bassist John Myung and keyboardist Jordan Rudess are all virtuosos, but never stepped on each other, and when vocalist James Labrie sang, his powerful voice cut through the mix. While the set was a little less heavy than it could have been, by the time Zappa came out to join the band for encore “Metropolis,” it was apparent that Progressive Nation is here to stay.

    Set List, Beacon Theater 8/8
    A Nightmare To Remember
    A Rite of Passage
    Hollow Years
    Prophets of War
    The Dance of Eternity
    One Last Time
    The Count of Tuscany
    Metropolis

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And Zappa Plays Zappa, featuring Frank’s son Dweezil playing alongside a mix of musicans from his dad’s band and some newcomers, faithfully brought his father’s music to life. Portnoy came out again, this time singing a song before getting behind the drums for ‘Willie the Pimp.’

But ultimately, it was all about the headliners. Opening with ‘A Nightmare To Remember’ and ‘A Rite of Passage,’ the first two songs from their current album, Black Clouds and Silver Linings, Dream Theater had control of the near-capacity crowd from the first note. Playing on a sparsely-furnished stage, Portnoy was once again the focus. His gigantic drum kit took up more space than anything else on stage. Musically, however, the whole band was on equal footing. Guitarist John Petrucci, bassist John Myung and keyboardist Jordan Rudess are all virtuosos, but never stepped on each other. And when vocalist James Labrie sang, his powerful voice cut through the mix. While the set was a little less heavy than it could have been, by the time Zappa came out to join the band for the encore, ‘Metropolis,’ it was apparent that Progressive Nation is here to stay.

Dream Theater set list, Beacon Theater 8/8
‘A Nightmare To Remember’
‘A Rite of Passage’
‘Hollow Years’
‘Prophets of War’
‘The Dance of Eternity’
‘One Last Time’
‘The Count of Tuscany’
‘Metropolis’

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