Bubokan is one of those venues that has become a goal for any major band. Dream Theater had toured Japan numerous times over the course of 12 years but never yet rocked this venue. Japan is, and has been, one of those markets that tends to embrace things differently than North America or Europe; and Progressive Metal is not exactly rocking the Top 40 stations (at least, not since RUSH were in their prime…and even then…). It was only a matter of time that the most relevant “Prog” band playing today would make it to Budokan, and they celebrated by making it into a concert film.
Each member of this group is a virtuoso at their instrument. Taking time for instrumentals or solos are rather commonplace for arena concerts. Instead of the standard guitar or drum solo, all but the lead singer of the group would flex their progressive metal playing muscles while putting on a clinic of just how flashy a musical education can be when the most technically impressive of scales and rhythms are played at breakneck paces and mixed with very strange time signature changes.
That being said, lead vocalist James LaBrie is no slouch, but his operatic pipes do not maintain that recording studio quality live the way someone like Bruce Dickinson is able to achieve. There were more than a couple moments of notes falling short, but perhaps that is only noticeable to those viewers who have tuned their ears to an audiophile degree.
Longtime fans of Dream Theater will appreciate seeing their most famous member, Drummer Mike Portnoy, in full swing because, as the fans will know, Portnoy left and failed to rejoin the band in a series of events this last year or so. This may well be one of the last few releases featuring Portnoy in action with this band.
Widescreen 1.78:1. There are dozens of cameras capturing the action and each are delivering a very clean HD picture. Other than when the camera flips to the tiny, in-house monitors used to protect images to the live audience, the quality does not dampen or adjust when switching between wide shots and close ups.
DTS HD Master Audio, Dolby Digital 5.1 and LPCM Stereo are available. I can never stress enough the necessity of a great soundtrack for any concert or music film, and yet it seems all the more important with a band like Dream Theater. This edition delivers very well. Each soundtrack options delivers big sound with each instrument very well mixed together.
Subtitles available in English, Spanish and French.
John Petrucci Guitar World: Strictly for guitar fanboys. John lays out his gear for the concert.
Jordan Rudess Keyboard World: Similar to Petrucci`s segment except you don’t have to be a keyboard aficionado to appreciation the complicated rig Rudess has arranged for himself.
Riding the Train of Thought Japanese Tour Documentary: A half-hour segment the profiles the band members as they experience jet lag, awe of their Budoken venue, and explain the way they have been embraced in Japan. A nice little bit of viewing for fans.
Mike Portnoy Drum Solo: The Budokan show was under a strict curfew so Portnoy saved his lengthy drum solo for the next show in the tour. Portnoy demonstrates why he was inducted into the Modern Drummer hall of fame with his amazing technical playing. The highlight is when he brings audience members onstage to drum with him (though personally I got a major kick from seeing him play the stage surrounding his kit).
The Dream Theater Chronicles 2004 Tour Opening Video: A highlight reel of music video clips, sound bytes and live footage, detailing checkpoints in their career.
Instrumedley Multiangle Bonus: An alternate version of the feature film’s medley of songs, all performed without vocals. Both cuts are a treat simply because the music is so fantastically played that one can’t help but be enthralled throughout its duration.
Overall, this is a long set of songs that is guaranteed to satisfy fans and makes for a very acceptable intro for anyone who has heard of this band, but never took the time to delve in (I know you’re out there). Those debating between previous DVD release and this blu ray conversion can be assured that the Blu Ray does offer more than the DVD, as it naturally should.