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DVD review – Mike Portnoy’s Liquid Drum Theater

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Mike Portnoy is the host of this DVD but his music is the star. Liquid Drum Theater is all about Mike giving you some insight into what he was thinking and doing when he was playing with Liquid Tension Experiment and Dream Theater. Not unlike what Billy Ward did in “Voices In My Head” with his album “Out the Door” except in this case it is the full focus of the dvd.

The first disk focuses on the music of Liquid Tension Experiment, Mike’s Instrumental prog-fusion group. Mike goes through some of the songs on Liquid Tension Experiment 1 & 2 and breaks down some of the more interesting stuff he did on the two albums. Some of the tracks he covers include: Paradigm Shift, Biaxident, Acid Rain, When the Water Breaks, and others.

I found that the majority of the learning you will do from this dvd isn’t from the actual lessons Mike gives. Rather, you will gain the most knowledge by watching him perform the tracks. He really is quite the creative drummer and I suspect that comes from working with many different people. One thing that Mike really excels at is being able to slooooowww down whatever he’s playing. Which is a really good thing because you don’t lose audio or get a distortion in the visuals like when you use most dvd player’s slow-mo feature. He’s very intuitive about what would need to be slowed down for the average viewer (probably got that way from doing so many clinics) so he always gives it to you where you want it.

There are allot of cuts away from Mike in the studio to footage taken from LTE (Liquid Tension Experiment) live shows and of them in the studio writing the music. They keep the flow of the movie up beat and interesting, as well as satisfying Mike’s admitted obsession with documenting everything he does. When you consider that Liquid Tension Experiment only existed for a very short amount of time, the amount of footage found in this disk is really amazing. Props to Mike for being such a good chronicler of his musical history.

The second disk is the Dream Theater disk and more than likely what you came for if you knew who Mike Portnoy was before purchasing the dvd. This dvd is basically identical to the first in terms of format. The big, and I mean big, difference on this disk is the kit Mike is using. On the LTE disk he is using a relatively small (for him) kit. On this disk he is using the purple monster (most of his Dream Theater kits have monster in the name) that he used for the American DT (Dream Theater) shows in that period. This kit has all the knick-knacks you could possibly want, including a set of crotales, some timbolitos, a variety of different blocks, several cowbells, alternate hi-hat, a set of chimes, octobans, and a gong. Sad thing is he doesn’t even touch most of them, oh well.

The good thing is that he is able to play more of the DT tracks in their entirety then he did in the LTE disk. This apparently has to do with some sort of record contract dispute of some sort. The end result is that there is only one LTE song that is performed in its entirety on the first disk; where as on the second disk there is a full length performance of the DT song “Home”, which is a ten Minuet monster song.

On this disk there is less archival footage and much more instructional content. Probably has a lot to do with DT being a much bigger and well documented band than LTE. The other thing is that this disk also contains most of the lessons that aren’t directly related to any particular song. Like the segment on double bass drumming, the odd time lesson, and the chart discussion. Stuff like that. There aren’t many sections like this because, as I said earlier, the music is the star of this show.

Bonus features are kinda scarce on this dvd. Both dvds’ have a full length cometary track by Mike but Mike won’t talk over himself in the video. He only speaks during the musical features and bonus features. This makes no sense to me seeing as if we didn’t want to Mike comment on what was going on we would just turn off that feature… Moving on!There is bit of bonus footage not in the main feature and there are some PDFs but other than that there really isn’t much in the way of bonus features. There is an alternate angle feature and a photo gallery but I’ve never cared for either of these types of features. However, if they float your boat they are there for your pleasure.

Over all if you are looking for a general instructional video this vid gets 1.5 stars. However if you come looking for what the video offers, an in-depth look at Mike Portoy’s work as a drummer this work gets 4 stars. I am almost positive that if you are buying this dvd you already know what you are getting into so go ahead and think of the 4 star rating as my final say on this dvd.It gets four stars because the second disk is hard to swallow because the balance of instructional vs filler footage is off. The other reason is the lack of bonus material.

As it sits, this 2 disk set gets 4 stars, which is nothing to sneeze at.

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