Backstage in the bowels of the Nokia Theater in Los Angeles, innovative keyboard wizard Jordan Rudess, of Dream Theater, is relaxing in a purple-themed lounging area. With a calm and peaceful smile he is reflecting on their San Francisco show a few days ago, the kickoff for the band's first North American tour in support of their new album, 'A Dramatic Turn of Events.'

They recently toured Europe but the sets rarely included more than one or two new songs. This time out though, the band is featuring much more of the current album. The trek also boasts a vibrant new visual production and of course, new drummer, Mike Mangini - all of which has Rudess excited.

"The show is the best looking thing we've ever done," he explained to Noisecreep. "Visually, it's about 85% different than the European tour. We've got these three big rhombus screens that all the video and effects are projected onto. Some amazing stuff. Plus a whole sequence of new animations to kick the show off featuring all the band members as their respective characters. The light show is phenomenal. We've got some really great illusions happening up there. When I saw it in rehearsals I was just blown away. We've never had anything this cool."

And then there's their whole Mangini thing.

"Mike Mangini is a fantastic drummer and I think he's having a lot of fun so far," said Rudess. "He is over-prepared to a point like I've ever seen anybody; he's literally ready for anything, at all times. I know our fans are going to love seeing him on his first U.S. tour with us. It's a special moment."

Rudess describes a particularly special moment the night before in San Francisco.

"After the first two songs we stop so James can talk to the crowd. Before he spoke, we got the longest ovation in Dream Theater history. It's like the crowd was saying, "Thank god you survived all the inner turbulence and that things turned out so well. That was amazing. After the show everybody was saying that the vibe onstage felt so positive; that they were feeling the joy up there between us. This year was a rough transition for us, so I like where we are right now."

Charles Epting
Charles Epting

Rudess is obviously referring to the turbulent shakeup in the band after the split with founding member drummer Mike Portnoy, whom Rudess spoke seriously about.

"The reality for me is, we spent so many years playing with Mike Portnoy, he is so talented, but he expressed the need for a break and from that we all ended up moving on, dealing with it, and I think for all of us, the band and Mike, all of our focus remains on music. I wish Mike nothing but good things and at the same time I hope what we do is successful. And so far, we are excited about the great response to the new album. The fans seem to be loving it, even those that had apprehensions after everything that went down."

Rudess, who in a few weeks releases another new music app in his ever-growing line of innovative products (it's called GeoSynthesizer), intends to keep pushing the boundaries of musical expression - and making it possible for other musicians to explore as well. "The apps we make are made to be fun, but deep as well. They're a chance to turn on people that are not necessarily advanced musicians to new, cool ways of thinking, cool ways to make sound, cool way to be expressive and think in a special way," he said.

Charles Epting
Charles Epting

But right now, it's also about focusing on the new tour, which as Rudess described, is a feast for the eyes as well as the ears. Gorgeously orchestrated lighting cues and the aforementioned video cubes created a hyper-dynamic landscape that was beguiling and dramatic. The projected images were surreal one moment, literal the next, and then something else altogether in between.

The music soared, from older standards like 'These Walls' and 'Wait for Sleep,' to the new tunes, which included 'Bridges in the Sky,' 'Build Me Up, Break Me Down,' 'Far From Heaven,' 'On the Backs of Angels,' and 'Breaking All Illusions.' For their encore, Dream Theater unleashed their classic track 'Pull Me Under,' and left the capacity crowd reeling for more.

Charles Epting
Charles Epting

This is a wildly impressive show and Noisecreep didn't expect less from the progressive-metal behemoths. But the true revelation of the night was the new material. Presented in the live arena, the songs sound even bigger than they do on 'A Dramatic Turn of Events.' That's saying a lot.

Dream Theater North American tour dates:

9/28 Vancouver, BC- Queen Elizabeth Theatre

10/3 Royal Oak, MI-Royal Oak Music Theatre

10/4 Pittsburgh, PA- Trib Total Media Amphitheatre

10/ 6 Toronto, ON- Massey Hall

10/7 Montreal, QC- Place des Arts

10/8 Quebec City, QC- Pavilion de la Jeunesse

10/10 Boston, MA- Orpheum Theatre

10/11 Morristown, NJ-Mayo Performing Arts Center

10/12 New York, NY- Beacon Theatre

10/22 Cleawater, FL- Ruth Eckerd Hall

10/25 Houston, TX- Verizon Wireless Theater

10/26 Austin, TX- Bass Concert Hall

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