Concert Review: Mike Portnoy with PHOTOS

Photos by Mark Derricutt

Photos by Mark Derricutt

By Mark Derricutt

Artist: Mike Portnoy

Date . Venue: Thursday November 16th, 2017 - The Studio, Auckland

I'm sitting here at 2AM having just got home from seeing drummer Mike Portnoy's "Shattered Fortress" epic progressive metal show - celebrating not only his 50th in style, but gaining much-needed closure from his departure from Dream Theater - and finally performing his "twelve step program" live, something he never managed to do during his tenure behind the skins.

Portnoy is, for want of a better phrase - like many in the progressive music scene, a musicians musician. Anyone with even a passing interest in drumming can't go far without hearing the name mentioned, not only for his work with Dream Theater, but Avenged Sevenfold, Adrenaline Mod, Transatlantic and Neal Morse, to the new Sons of Apollo project - Portnoy is everywhere.

And last night Portnoy returned to Auckland. I remember 2009 clearly - the year Dream Theater first played New Zealand, it wasn't long after that show that Portnoy's departure was announced and I was so happy to have been able to see that lineup.

But tonight! This wasn't Dream Theater here, this was Portnoy, backed by a more recent favourite progressive band Haken. It was like a double whammy of love and I couldn't have asked for a better band to complement Portnoy for this special experience. There were the occasional moments where I was mentally expecting to hear James Labrie, then jolted back to reality with Ross Jennings giving an impressive interpretation of each song. Both voices have unique elements to their timbre and it often took me a moment to shake that familiarity with the original to truly enjoy that element of the performance. In the scale of things this was so close to irrelevant it may not be worth mentioning, it did, however, make me feel somewhat sad that Haken wern't performing their own sideshow whilst in this part of the world.

To be honest - I'm sitting here thinking there's not entirely much more I can say about the show that hasn't already been written about Portnoy's performance, technical ability etc, over the many many many years of performing. But I will say - unlike 2009's Dream Theater show where I was seated fairly distant from the band to being in the pit and side of stage - being able to see clearly the ease with which Portnoy's drum microphone swings into and out of position for those times Mike tackles vocal duties. It was one thing to see that on video, but entirely another seeing it up close - there's a fluid motion the show, it's a well oiled, perfected machine that, within the chaos of shifting time signatures and thundering power grooves, feels like an organic entity with a life of its own.

I don't think I really need to dive into waxing lyrical and just how wonderful each different member was playing their chosen instrument, we know these guys can play - they wouldn't be here otherwise, that well oiled organic machine is... well, a well oiled organic machine of metal.

For me - tonight was THE gig of the year. I've been a melodic/progressive metal nut at heart for as long as I can remember, with Dream Theater/Portnoy being there for my entire musical journey - to say I was impressed, and far far far from being disappointed is an understatement.

Set List:

  • Regression
  • Overture 1928
  • Strange Déjà Vu
  • The Mirror

The Twelve Step Suite:

  • The Glass Prison
  • This Dying Soul
  • The Root Of All Evil ( Eric singing )
  • Repentance ( Mike singing/vocals )
  • The Shattered Fortress

Encore:

  • Home
  • The Dance Of Eternity
  • Finally free