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Road Reports

Artist: James LaBrie
Venue: The Downtown – Farmingdale NY
Opener: Rob Balducci
Date: 4-14-2005
Label: InsideOut Music
Pics: Piercing Metal
When it was announced that James LaBrie (lead singer for Dream Theater) would be performing for his throng of fans for only three area shows I felt this was the chance to be part of something very special. The East Coast would be where all of this would take place and the venues selected were The Chance, The Starland Ballroom and The Downtown. I attended the Downtown show and the crowd was maxed out at about 200 people. Not a bad night for the room, yet I expected just a little more in terms of attendance. When I discovered that LaBrie had posted his complete set list before the shows for all the fans to see and not one Dream Theater song would be performed, I instantly discounted the amount of Theater fans who are primarily interested in the technical abilities of the band more than they are in the vocal prowess. On reviewing that list, LaBrie would be performing music from his latest release on InsideOut Music entitled “Elements Of Persuasion” as well as many selections from his Mullmuzzler releases. This new CD would be played in pretty much its entirety with the exception of the track “Smashed”. Onstage LaBrie even joked at how this was the final night on his big 3 night tour. Teasing by saying well there are only three clubs worth playing in the USA anyway. With this recent recording LaBrie has achieved a very close partner to his existing work in Dream Theater. The piece is very adept musically and interesting I think the DT fans would have enjoyed this effort more than his previous endeavors. In a live setting he sings the same as on the CD and that’s always a plus for the attendee. He also made sure to have a top notch touring lineup. I was extremely happy with watching drummer John Macaluso kick some ass on the drums. His solo and level of play throughout the night was beyond extraordinary. The other members of his band are Matt Guillory (keyboards) and Marco Sfogli (guitar) as well as Andy DeLuca (bass). The band was incredibly tight and some of them also appear on the new CD. Marco is an exceptional guitarist and there was a lot of visible camaraderie among the players as the set was done.

While LaBrie would surely give the crowd their moneys worth by performing for at least 2 hours I felt this was a little long to do without adding some more familiar material. You truly had to be an expert in his solo work because “EOP” had only just come out and if you attended and were unfamiliar you might have gotten a little bored. He did attract people from far away Cities and it merits noting that when I stopped to speak with some of his fans that I met people from Chicago and Pennslyvania. This venue is over an hour trek for me, so I was impressed in meeting those that took more than twice that time to see him. I am not sure if LaBrie was impressed with the draw at the three shows, because he did not give sign to that during my show. It is my hope that he was in any case. The group would be heading to Europe for an additional round of shows and then return to the USA where he would work on the next Dream Theater album.

I enjoyed the night quite a bit, but as I mentioned I felt he would have been best served by playing a Dream Theater track or two. Even if he opted to try some of his work with Aryeon, it would have been a nice surprise to everyone.

Set List:
1. Crucify
2. Alone
3. Oblivious
4. Venice Burning
5. Confronting The Devil
6. Slightly Out Of Reach
7. Undecided
8. Pretender
9. Falling
10. Drained
11. Bass Solo
12. Lost
13. Listening
14. Shores Of Avalon
15. Drum Solo – John Macaluso
16. Save Me
17. Freaks
18. A Simple Man
19. Stranger – encore
20. In Too Deep – encore
21. Invisible – encore

--Ken Pierce

James Labrie – 4/16/05 – The Downtown, Farmingdale, NY
Opener: Rob Balducci Band

Not surprisingly, there was a substantial turnout of Long Islanders to see James Labrie perform with his solo band. John Petrucci and John Myung both hail from here, and the band has a large fan base in the area. Although his solo material isn’t comparable by any means to his stuff with DT, James Labrie’s voice is still James Labrie’s voice. And what an amazing voice it is. Before I start gushing his praises, however, I have to talk about the openers.

The Rob Balducci band consisted of Rob (the guitarist), a bassist and a drummer. All three were very talented, and they played a style of progressive rock/metal not far from Dream Theater or maybe Fates Warning. The bass lines were groovy, the riffs were fast, and Balducci had some amazing solos – it’s no wonder his name rhymes with Petrucci. My only complaint was that their songs featured absolutely no vocals whatsoever. Personally, I think vocals are very important and although some bands (like Apocalyptica) are better suited without them, Balducci would do good to recruit one for his band and start writing some lyrics.

After a short break, James Labrie came out. This is a man with probably the best stage presence of anyone I’ve ever seen, and I’ve seen Lemmy, I’ve seen Alexi Laiho. His voice sounded exactly the same live as it did recorded – maybe even a tad better live. He also brought an immense amount of energy and passion. He opened up with the first track off his solo album (Elements of Persuasion), Crucify, and from that point on delivered a knockout with every song. He also played a few Mulmuzzer tunes (this was another solo project of his) which I was unfamiliar with, but they still sounded great. All the members of his band were pretty good, but the bassist stood out, delivering an unbelievable solo during a break between songs at one point. Labrie played most of my favorites off Elements of Persuasion, including Alone, Lost, Oblivious, and Pretender. A show like this is a perfect preview to what you can expect from him this summer on Gigantour… except with Dream Theater.


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