My first impression was four guys, each with an instrument on the stage at The Nippon Budokan.
These four guys is really the clearest memory of the first time I watched music. They were fast, back-and-forth seamlessly from one guy to the next, it was difficult to believe someone could move their fingers that quickly and still stay in rhythm. All of them seemed to be playing a different part, but somehow it sounded good. Then out of nowhere they stopped and the keyboard player went right into this ragtime piano section. By the time the cowbell sounded on the next beat, I was hooked.
I always enjoyed music, but mainly it kept me occupied on my bus ride to school. My sense of music was completely changed by Dream Theater, I got deeper into heavy metal and discovered prog. I have a hundred albums I wouldn’t if not for those guys up on the stage.
After getting over the complete shock that Mike Portnoy has decided to leave the band he helped found and was the face of for 25 years, I have nothing but respect for him. I can’t imagine what the band with be like without him and I think there is still potentially great music to be made by these five individuals. That being said, I could never have anything except admiration for such an incredible musician and hard working guy.
There are a few levels of fandom. Dream Theater is as high as it gets for me because I care as much about and admire each member as much as the whole. This isn’t a goodbye.
And on that note (pun intended) I look forward to all five members making new music, be it a solo project, returning side-project, or something completely new.