Dreamsonic Tour at the Oshkosh Arena in Wisconsin
Dreamsonic is a North American tour of Progressive Metal bands founded by the band Dream Theater. In its first inception, simply called Dreamsonic 2023, it includes Animals As Leaders, Devin Townsend, and the founders Dream Theater as the performers for the tour. I was able to catch the tour at its performance on July 12th, 2023 at the Oshkosh Arena in Oshkosh, Wisconsin.
Opening the show was Animals As Leaders. Its trio of Tosin Abasi (guitars), Matt Garstka (drums), and Javier Reyes (guitars) set the night in motion with a dazzling, and what seemed like a flawless set of songs. Highlights of their set included Gordian Naught which is the last track from their most recent album Parrhesia. From its trippy opening to the song’s end, the energy of the song just kept growing and getting more powerful. Physical Education, their most listened-to track, had a moment in its performance where the release from both the kick drum and the bass tones of the guitars simultaneously led to a big sonic wave that left the crowd holding on so as not to be thrown back by its force. I was also blown away by Abasi’s solo during the heavy drop section of their performance of the song The Woven Web.
Animals As Leaders also had the best light show of all of the performers of the evening and it was almost out of necessity. As the first performers of the evening, Animals As Leaders gear was pressed to the front of the stage with the other bands’ gear behind them blocking some of the routes of the regular stage lighting. To make up for not having full use of the regular stage lights they ended up including their own lighting that sat on the stage during their performance. This lighting was an impressive mixture of multicoloured strobes and spinning spot beams that matched the music perfectly and added a lot of visual stimulation to their performance.
Devin Townsend was next in the evening to perform. Townsend brought with him an impressive band member lineup that included Mike Keneally (Frank Zappa, Dethklok) on guitar, keyboards, and backing vocals, Darby Todd (The Darkness, Paul Gilbert) on drums, and James Leach (SikTh, Krokodil) on bass. Townsend opened his set with Lightworker, one of the singles from his most recent album Lightwork. At Lightworker‘s conclusion, Townsend greeted the audience by saying “Osh Kosh B’Gosh ladies and gentleman!” poking a little fun at the host town’s name and its relation to the popular children’s clothing brand. I found that fitting as Osh Kosh B’Gosh is known for its children’s line of denim clothing and Townsend who is Canadian, once donned an all-denim outfit known as a “Canadian Tuxedo” for a performance.
Highlights that followed during Devin Townsend‘s performance included another track off of the Lightwork album in Dimensions. Townsend entertained the audience by bringing out a Theremin to add some unique ambience to Dimension‘s intro section. While it was mostly a whacky prop to have fun with, Townsend was able to get the Theremin to pulse and transition into the same pulse as the song’s main groove. The band’s performance of Townsend‘s cinematic song By Your Command from the Ziltoid The Omniscient album was an intense pleaser during the track’s battle prep scene between the album’s protagonist Ziltoid the alien who is upset at Earth for offering him fetid coffee to drink, and the factions led by Captain Spectacular to protect the Earth.
I also really enjoyed Keneally’s beautifully added keyboard solo that preceded Townsend‘s guitar solo on the song Deep Peace. Finalizing his set was a back-to-back performance of the songs Truth, and Bad Devil. While I had always been used to hearing Truth as a set opener, it made for an adequate introduction to Bad Devil and its fun energized shenanigans that included all band members getting to show off their own unique dance while also wearing a gigantic orange foam cowboy hat.
Dream Theater was the last to perform for the evening. They opened with a performance of The Alien off of their most recent album A View From The Top Of The World. All band member performances were sharp for The Alien with the current lineup of James Labrie on lead vocals, Mike Mangini on drums, John Myung on bass, Jordan Rudess on keyboards, and John Petrucci on guitar. On top of The Alien’s performance, I was also impressed immediately with the current keyboard rig for Rudess and its apparatus that lets it mechanically lean forwards and sideways to allow the audience a better view to see the keys while he is performing solos.
Thhe band followed up The Alien with an epic from A View From The Top Of The World in Sleeping Giant. Petrucci, who was celebrating his birthday that evening opened the song with a flashy stereo effect on the opening guitar riff that alternated left and right before coming together as one center-focused riff. Petrucci also got to treat the audience to a mixture of lyrical wailing and speedy shredding solos as he traded turns back and forth with Rudess throughout Sleeping Giant’s mid-section.
During the performance of Caught In A Web you could hear signs of LaBrie struggling from the constant touring of the past year as higher-pitched vocal passages were taken down the octave and longer-held notes were shortened. Regardless of the struggles, LaBrie kept the mood of the evening light as he fulfilled his duties as frontman well. During a pause following the band’s performance of Answering The Call because of a technical issue with Rudess’ keyboard rig, LaBrie shared a fun anecdote with the mostly Wisconsin-based crowd of how his last name in French translates to “The Cheese”.
It was a pleasant surprise to hear Dream Theater perform the entire second half of the concept portion of their Six Degrees Of Inner Turbulence album. This included the songs Solitary Shell, About To Crash (Reprise), and Losing Time / Grand Finale. While it wasn’t a full performance of the concept as they did of their Metropolis, Pt. 2: Scenes From A Memory concept album during their Distance Over Time Tour of 2019, it was still appreciated since concepts have been a big part of the band’s identity. Dream Theater closed its set with The Count of Tuscany. During the song’s ambient breakdown section, Petrucci mixed in the melody from Disney’s When You Wish Upon A Star with the original melody played from his volume swelling guitar. While that little mashup was a surprise, there was another still to come.
Having looked ahead at setlist spoilers I was aware that Dream Theater‘s one encore was a performance of The Spirit Carries On that included contributions from the other bands of the evening. This is why I wasn’t surprised to see the encore open with Rudess and Keneally both on stage with keyboards playing an ambient rendition of Amazing Grace which I thought would transition well as an intro to The Spirit Carries On. However, it didn’t transition into The Spirit Carries On but instead to a rendition of Happy Birthday for Petrucci sung by LaBrie as a cake was brought out on stage for Petrucci to blow out the candles on.
Following Happy Birthday, the encore of The Spirit Carries On did Commence starting off with just the members of Dream Theater along with Keneally adding extra keyboard parts. Early into the encore’s performance, Abasi joined in alternating the lead guitar parts with Petrucci. Next, Townsend and Todd came out on stage with Todd taking over the drums from Mangini and Townsend singing the soulful lyrics in the role of Victoria from the song while LaBrie continued singing the vocals from the role of Nicholas. Everybody was having a great time on stage during this dramatic finish and the audience was loving it.
The show ended exactly four hours after it had started. After experiencing the first inception of Dreamsonic and deeming it a success, I am now left to wonder if it will become an annual tour in which Dreamsonic will feature Dream Theater along with different supporting bands each year. As we wait for the answer to that question I will cherish in the meantime the memories made from this evening of seeing three great progressive metal bands performing at the Oshkosh Arena.