Mike Portnoy is Back in Dream Theater… And What Reunions in Music Mean

Winter is here everyone! I am back to writing, so the blog is back. Everyone’s reuniting. Families, friends, mobsters, incompatible lovers and woah, what is that under the carpet? I cannot let that slip inside m…oh my gosh – MIKE PORTNOY IS BACK IN DREAM THEATER! You know what that means? The original Dream Theater line up is having a reunion! Okay fine, I won’t insult our audience’s intelligence anymore than this. I know it is not their original line up, but it is definitely their best known line up. And I also should not have thought you all could not make out that a former member re-joining a band can be called a reunion. My insincere apologies. But then again, some ape somewhere may not know. So to them – Ahuuhuu. Dream Theater has been a big influence in my life, as an individual, a musician and not very obviously, a writer. And I am guilty of loving the most well known line-up, consisting of John Petrucci, John Myung, James LaBrie, Jordan Rudess and of course, Mr. Homecoming, Mike Portnoy. The ensemble was put together in 1999 after the departure of keyboardist Derek Sherinian from the band, leading to Rudess joining in. They remained fairly consistent until Portnoy decided to leave in 2010, citing burn out both in creativity and in touring as the reason. He went on to pursue other musical endeavours and left his gaping shoes to be filled by Mike Mangini. During this time, the band released 6 studio albums, amongst which are the fan favourite Metropolis Pt. 2: Scenes from a Memory (1999), Octavarium (2005) and Black Clouds & Silver Linings (2009). Although there was no bad blood as was not quoted by any of the members, fans did speculate some rift, making any hopes of any reunion impossible. I have some information to validate such views but due to a lack of credible information and in part respecting the privacy of the band, chose not to include any. 

However, since 2019 Portnoy and Petrucci had gotten together on several occasions, leading up to the eventual reunion of Liquid Tension Experiment in 2020, which consists of 3 Dream Theater members John Petrucci, Jordan Rudess, Mike Portnoy and Tony Kevin, who has played extensively with King Crimson. This reunion gave prog fans all around the world the hopes for a possible Dream Theater reunion, which we saw manifest on 25th October, 2023. But, what is the deal with Portnoy? Why did every music snob on the internet become so excited with his return? As it turns out, Dream Theater is undoubtedly the single most influential and defining ensemble in the Prog Metal front. Founded in 1985 under the name Majesty by John Petrucci, John Myung and Mike Portnoy, then still in Berklee College of Music in Boston, Massachusetts, the band has come to become synonymous with Prog Metal and has gone on to innovate, experiment and push the boundaries of the genres to unforeseeable heights. It would not be an overstatement to say every modern Prog Metal musician has in some way or another been influenced by Dream Theater. And whilst every era, every line up, has given something invaluable to the fans and Prog Metal as a whole, the departure of Portnoy saw not only emotional cries of an original staple leaving; the general consensus was : a huge creative force has left the building. Dream Theater would never be the same. Whilst this sentiment can be seen to be echoed across internet forums, chat rooms and comment sections, most fans did not think all subsequent releases to be utter garbage. In fact, most subsequent releases were well received. However, a sense of loss lingered on. Maybe everything could have been better, maybe it would have sounded better, maybe they could havetaken this direction. Maybe. Just maybe…

But hopes have been rekindled! Dreams restored and time for anxious speculation is higher than the views of High Times have been for decades! And whilst it is ridiculously funny to watch a huge portion of the world who will never get to meet or know these enormously talented people lose their collective crap over them, it is fair to say this reunion has been big news. Now, one direction I could take is to sit in my armchair and speculate about Dream Theater’s future, I think there is little value in doing so. Whatever they do will be well received. They are the biggest deal in Prog Metal after all. A nobody on some blog’s opinion will not change anything. Instead let us look at band reunions as a whole for what it means to the masses, and to a lesser extent, to the people involved in these ensembles. We can go on an endless tirade of speculation, pulling back and forth and falling back into whether or not reunions are a good thing and if they should happen at all. But the truth is, if there is an estrangement, there is always the possibility of a reunion and whether any of us likes it, someone, somewhere will reunite daringly without our permission. How dare they? Who are they to get together without our seals of approval? Narcissistic celebrities. Huh, basking in self importance. You would not be here without us fellas! I think I am getting ahead of myself here. Reunions can serve as very powerful memory tools, evoking nostalgia in fans who have had cathartic and emotionally powerful responses to the band or group’s music. To them, a reunion might seem as a more than welcome gesture, a nod back to the good old times, even possibly a signalling that their fond lived memories might be raised back and maybe, just maybe, they may not only relive memories but make new ones. Oh, the joy of discovering a band, going to their shows, listening to entire albums, having breakdowns. Wow, all so beautiful. And the old fans may inspire a newer swathe of listeners by inciting their great past experiences experiencing the band all over again. The hype leaves a trail behind, a sort of renaissance. Internet or without, reunions help introduce bands to new generations of listeners who might have been kept in the dark regarding their existence. It is all too clear why bands might entertain a get together even after years of bad blood well past their primes – a very significant motive being the sea of relevancy it brings. Not everyone cares about fame but I doubt performers hate knowing their music makes a wider audience connect and feel something. You don’t have to go mainstream but even Norwegian Black Metal musicians loved knowing their fellow evil teenagers found solace to their macabre and grotesque art.

Other reasons for which fans might get all heads over heels for reunions is…well I don’t see any reason. It’s the joy of music, that’s all the reason. That is all there is to it. And apart from reasons of finance, relevancy and nostalgia, one more reason bands might reunite is that they genuinely miss playing and making music with each other. People miss people. Sometimes they think there are some things left to prove, sometimes they think they worked better with specific people and sometimes, they just want to get back. No specific reason So the point of this article was basically nothing. If there is any point to be made, it is that reunions are a fun thing, they will happen regardless of whether we want them to or not and we can be bitter about them and call names to those sheepish fans, people are feeling good from these and if even one person feels good, who on planet earth are you to say it is a bad thing? Should some people turn a notch down? Certainly. But can bitter numb brains for once stop being condescending? Definitely.

We stop where we started. Mike Portnoy is rejoining Dream Theater. What does it mean for the future of the band? The band knows. As a fan, all I know is that I am excited. If you are a fan, let’s share the joy of the moment. If you are not, I respectfully ask you to be a nice human being. Or else, expect nerds to send you an endless stream of messages to ruin your social media lives.

Until then,

Keep Rocking!

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