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Music DVD Review: Dream Theater – Images and Words: Live In Tokyo

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I figured it was high time that I finally reviewed this DVD since I have watched the original 1993 VHS version about ten times already, and now this great DVD version about ten more. A few years ago Dream Theater combined their two excellent VHS videos: Images And Words: Live In Tokyo, and 5 Years In A Livetime into this amazing double feature DVD that contains about five hours worth of material – all for the price of your standard DVD. This was not a hard sell.

Images And Words: Live In Tokyo will always hold a special place in my heart since it represents the very first Dream Theater tour that I had the pleasure to attend. Their performance during a thunder and lightning filled night at Pier Six Pavilion, in Baltimore, Maryland is still my favorite Dream Theater concert to date – save for perhaps their amazing Scenes From A Memory show I caught at the 9:30 Club in Washington, D.C. a few years later.

I had only recently picked up the Images and Words album, after being blown away from hearing "Pull Me Under" on the radio. Yes, Dream Theater actually got some radio, and MTV, airplay back in 1993. The band was only beginning to make a name for themselves in the U.S., so less than a thousand people filled the 4,000 capacity Pier Six Pavilion this night to witness pretty much the same show you see on this DVD. That only meant I could easily push my way up to the front of the stage to witness these superhuman musicians from mere yards away. They have easily sold out this same venue almost every time they have played since.

Images And Words: Live In Tokyo was captured in Tokyo, Japan, on August 23rd, during Dream Theater’s 1993 Music In Progress world tour. It intermingles live footage with the three music videos that were released from the Images And Words album, “Pull Me Under,” “Take The Time,” and “Another Day,” as well as loads of behind-the-scenes footage taken during the tour. Don’t fret, the live performances are all complete, and the footage only appears between each song performance. I’d prefer that they just keep this stuff entirely separate, but it did not distract too much from the performances.

Most of Dream Theater’s landmark second album Images and Words, their first with lead singer James Labrie, is performed here, but unfortunately they left out a couple of the album’s best songs, “Metropolis Pt. 1,” and “Learning To Live,” which they played on the tour. Then again, these are the two longest songs on the album so they were probably sacrificed due to the time constraints of the original VHS release. Too bad they couldn’t have included their entire 16-song set on this DVD edition.

What you do get from that album is the killer opening performance of “Under a Glass Moon,” which is followed by Kevin Moore’s beautiful piano ballad “Wait For Sleep” – damn I miss Kevin Moore! Instead of flowing directly into “Learning To Live,” as on the album, “Sleep” precedes what is perhaps one of John Petrucci’s finest moments laid down to vinyl, err digital, and that is “Surrounded.” His guitar tone on that song can still give me chills. Maybe it was the Ibanez’s he used back then.

The middle of the DVD is dominated by the three previously mentioned videos, a couple of songs from Dream Theater’s debut album, When Dream and Day Unite, and the previously unreleased epic “To Live Forever,” which featured a mesmerizing Petrucci guitar solo. When I saw Petrucci play live this first time, I simply could not believe my ears. I kept asking myself, where in the hell have they been hiding this guy? Berklee College of Music it turns out. I was also kind of amazed at how impressive Dream Theater’s light show was already, considering that they couldn’t have had that big of a budget at this point. Maybe they pay well in Japan. The light show during “To Live Forever” was particularly hypnotic.

"Ytse Jam" is a ferocious instrumental that showcases an incredible Mike Portnoy drum solo. A very slim and baby faced Portnoy was already in a class of his own at this point. His solo kicked off with boxing announcer Michael Buffer’s now legendary “LET’S GET READY TO RUMBLLLLLE.” And rumble it did.

“Puppies on Acid,” which eventually became “The Mirror” on the Awake album, segued into the band’s virtuoso showcase “Take The Time.” At the show I attended, members of the opening band, The Galactic Cowboys, all came out on stage to sing the "Take The Time" chorus section, which was pretty wild. They show them rehearsing their part during some of the behind-the-scenes stuff.

Dream Theater closed out the first set of each concert on this tour with their semi-hit single “Pull Me Under,” and this is what concludes this DVD. For some reason, I still have yet to hear a live version of “Pull Me Under,” that I like as much as the original Images And Words version. Again, I think it was Petrucci’s guitar tone on that album, and probably because I was so blown away by the song when I first began hearing it on the radio back in 1992.

Although the DVD running time is about 90 minutes, the live performances only make up a little more than an hour of that. The audio has been remastered in Dolby Digital 5.1 surround for this DVD, and it brings a huge improvement over my original VHS version. The video looked reasonably good, and the camera work was superb.

The DVD also includes a new full-length band commentary track, which was recorded in April 2004 while they were back on tour in Japan, and it can get pretty hilarious at times. While the band was all commenting on their appearances at the time, Portnoy chimes in with “look at my hair!…it’s like twice the size of my body.” That’s exactly what I was thinking as I was watching the concert.

Images and Words: Live In Tokyo captures an awesome performance by one of the world’s most influential progressive-metal bands, just as they were breaking onto the scene. The fact that you can now get this together with their 5 Years In a Livetime video, all in the same package, makes it an absolute steal. So steal it already!

Set List
1. Under a Glass Moon
2. Wait For Sleep
3. Surrounded
4. Ytse Jam
5. To Live Forever
6. A Fortune In Lies
7. Puppies On Acid/Take The Time
8. Pull Me Under

Performance 8/10
Production 7/10

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