John Petrucci and Meanstreak at the Danforth Music Hall in Toronto

The three legends on stage

In the midst of the pandemic, John Petrucci announced a new solo album entitled ‘Terminal Velocity’, 15 years after his previous effort ‘Suspended Animation’ – widely renowned for being one of the most respected instrumental guitar albums of all time. Reuniting with Mike Portnoy and Dave LaRue, John shredded up the guitar world once again with his unbelievable chops.

When the tour in support of this album was announced, I knew that I had to bend whatever logistics I could to make sure that I was able to attend. John Petrucci and Mike Portnoy on stage together for the first time in 12 years? That combined with a near 30-year reunion of Meanstreak? This tour was truly one not to be missed. Particularly so as Dave LaRue was also announced to take on bass duties for the shows.

Being of the younger generation, I never had the chance to see Dream Theater in their Mike Portnoy days, and have simply had to make do with catching the Shattered Fortress tour back in 2017 where Mike Portnoy played all of the ‘Shattered Fortress’ suite with members of Haken and Eric Gillette. I have great love and respect for all the musicians surrounding Dream Theater over the years, but I think like many others, there was a Mike Portnoy sized hole in my heart.

So, me being me, I travelled over to Toronto to catch the show as it sounded very final that they weren’t going to bring the show over to Europe. Generally, when Mike Portnoy has stated that a show has limited availability in the past, it’s generally been true given his jam-packed schedule. So on a snowy evening in an unknown city, I descended onto the Danforth Music Hall to make sure I was there bang on time to see Meanstreak.

(A very blurry) Meanstreak rocking out

Now, Meanstreak has a very intertwined history with this evening’s performers as the two guitar players, Marlene Apuzzo and Rena Sands, are married to Mike and John respectively. Plus, Lisa Pace on bass is married to John Myung. Now that’s what I call keeping it in the family.

Tonight was apparently the first time that Meanstreak had toured internationally, ever. But also the tour respects another reunion after 28 years of inactivity. So it really was a double reunion of sorts for all acts on the stage.

Meanstreak kicked ass quite frankly and put on a super fun show full of energy. This all-woman thrash band held no punches, focusing on tracks from their original LP ‘Roadkill’, plus some bonus tracks – even teasing new material off an upcoming EP. Who woulda saw that one coming after so many years of inactivity? Although I guess with Pantera coming back this year, anything can happen…

They’re certainly going to be a band to keep an eye on in the future for me, as the raw energy of that classic thrash sound was a refreshing break from some of the uber ‘quantised to a click’ sounds of modern metal bands.

Next up after a brief interval, and discovering that there was an entire popcorn machine in the foyer, John Petrucci came to the stage much to great cheers from the audience – immediately starting with the title track from his new album ‘Terminal Velocity’, the crowd, although seated, went nuts immediately.

They made it look effortless

The night was a combination of John’s two solo albumsΒ  ‘Terminal Velocity’ and ‘Suspended Animation’, with a focus on the former. The set weaved between the two with rock-solid playing throughout the evening.

Now at this point, I turned around and realised that James LaBrie was in fact sat directly two rows behind me which was slightly surreal, but also felt very wholesome seeing him come out in support of the show given uhh… ‘historical controversies’. I’m very here for the new era of the Dream Theater members being on good terms once again after such a long period of distaste.

Throughout every moment on this show, I found myself struggling who to follow on stage. It goes without saying all three of the musicians on stage are outrageously good at what they do, which meant my eyes were juggling all over the place trying to witness and take in what they were doing to their musical instruments. No gimmicks, no fancy lights, no background videos, just a trio of hardworking musicians schooling the audience in how to be a professional.

The three musicians made their playing look entirely effortless whilst zooming through the complicated parts written on these studio records – replicating them to an absolute tee. But they still managed to play around with some of the melodies, blending in improvised sections to keep the audience on their toes.

And it goes without saying, finishing with ‘Glasgow Kiss’ as the encore was the only possible expected move given how loved that track has been over the years since its initial release nearly two decades ago.

It’s possibly worth mentioning that no Dream Theater songs were played on this tour, and I think speculatively that was probably in an effort not to step on what are now Mike Mangini’s toes. Although it can be collectively agreed upon that if they did play any tracks from Dream Theater, fans worldwide would have lost their minds. I am personally however glad that they avoided this because it would have taken away from the magic of John’s solo album that deserves its own spot in the limelight away from his other associated works – even though the reunion with Mike Portnoy is a big part of this album’s story.

At the end of the day, I didn’t learn anything I didn’t already know. John released a killer solo album showcasing his ever-astounding technical abilities and proved once again that he can wipe the floor with any other guitarist in the modern prog metal scene with his fingers. Not that he needs to prove anything at all at this point…

I’m so incredibly glad I had the pleasure of witnessing this tour while it happened – and while it now feels like a distant memory, it’s certainly one I’ll never ever forget.

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