Dear John, John M, James, Jordan and Mike M,
September 8 2010 started with a shock. The future of the band I had come to love intensely over a few years was uncertain. The chief architect and informal leader said goodbye. Full speed into a brick wall, yeah, I felt that too, as much as a fan could anyhow.
When details surfaced, I blamed Frank Solomon. I did not believe that you would be so inconsequential on your own. Little did I know that I had probably misplaced my blame entirely.
When the documentary came out and Mike Mangini was introduced, I felt some excitement. How could you not, the Mangini vibe is infectous (“not just the pattern, but the tooone…”). I was mad at what I saw as your great disrespect for the warning bell Mike Portnoy had rung. He knew his baby was sick and he could no longer stand idly by. But I try not to judge, especially when I don’t have all the facts. I was willing to give you a fair shake for the new era. Twice the magic, I thought.
“On the Backs of Angels” was a disappointment, but then “A Rite of Passage” was a poppy single too, so that seemed alright. When the not-so dramatic turn of events was released, I found songs and passages I liked, but already I was missing the emotional radiance of the likes of “Count of Tuscany”. I came to both Swiss shows and even traveled to London to see you as that was the first concert announced for that cycle. I welcomed Mike Mangini with everyone else, and seeing members of your families at the Zurich concert was a special bonus.
At the end of the first Mangini album cycle, I was disappointed but hopeful. I was willing to chalk up the weaknesses of the album on the time during which it was written and I eventually forgave you for only having two minimally differing setlists on the second EU leg.
“The Enemy Inside” proved to be an ominous sign of things to come. An even weaker pre-album single. But still I did not give up. I wanted to like you so bad I bought the deluxe boxset and a VIP ticket for the concert. Gullible me. Your self-titled album should really be nicknamed “MK II”, for that’s what it signifies. A band that has lost its way, a group coasting along on laurels forged from past successes. I thought it would grow on me, and I have grown to like weirder stuff, like Billy Corgan’s voice. But I could never listen to that album all the way through. That wasn’t just you and your signature sound, that was you repeating yourselves and selling vinegar as new age vodka.
By that time I had already bought a VIP ticket for the current EU tour and the deluxe edition of “Dream Theater” was mildly rewarding until some idiot put the video from the USB stick on Youtube. Thank goodness for online resale sites.
I liked “Live at Luna Park”, but only because it contained so much old material, and even then the regret was not complete until the 360 app came out, with a photo gallery very telling of who the boss is in DT land these days.
In the intervening weeks, I struggled to admit the obvious: I’d had it with you. And then a a few days ago when I learned that you’d completely violated the original purpose of the “An Evening with” format by simply playing more of the same unimaginative running order, and playing the very same setlist every night, I knew the camel could walk no more.
Tonight I decided that I could not face you in good conscience and pretend everything was fine and that I liked you. It isn’t and I don’t, not anymore. I now know that I was a fool to think a bad tree could produce good fruit. Shame on me, because that was very cunning of you and / or Frank to use Crowdsurge as a last nail in the coffin (no refunds).
Dream Theater MK II is like a sick dog and I want no part of it anymore. Call me when you decide to see a doctor, I’ll be waiting, the fool I’ve been.