John Petrucci: ‘All Dream Theater Songs Are Deep Cuts’

John Petrucci jokingly said that all of Dream Theater’s songs are deep cuts, adding how not having any hits also results in greater freedom when choosing a setlist.

Choosing a setlist is a tricky thing for most artists out there. On one hand, non-legacy bands (in theory) begin a touring cycle when they’ve got a brand-new album out, and they naturally want the fans to enjoy the fresh tunes in a live setting, but on the other, bands who’ve achieved a certain level of mainstream recognition will inevitably have songs they can’t *not* play on live shows.

Looking from the outside, Dream Theater seems to be blessedly exempt from having to deal with such a conundrum, as John Petrucci & Co. always keep their setlists fresh, diverse, and very up-to-date. Speaking to Highway 81 Revisited in a new interview, Petrucci was asked to reveal the secret behind this approach, and the guitarist gave a simple answer – don’t have any hits.

After admitting that having a devout and engaged fanbase also plays a role in it, Petrucci said (transcribed by Ultimate Guitar):

“When you really don’t have hits, [laughs] people aren’t waiting for the hits. Like, all of our songs are deep cuts, kinda. So, that’s sort of part of it, I guess. You know, if you if you go to see a band where, they’re fortunate enough to, like, every song is a hit, you’re disappointed if they don’t play it, you know.

“With Dream Theater [fans] it’s like, ‘Well, what have they not played? I’d love to hear this song live?’ And I remember being that way with Rush, like, ‘Oh, I’d love to hear them play this song from ‘A Farewell to Kings’ or something they’ve never played live. So, it’s the same mentality.”
According to Petrucci, another key component to Dream Theater’s refreshing setlists is the band’s music-writing work ethic:

“And the other thing is that when we make new records, we don’t rest on our laurels. We always put our best foot forward, and we try to top the last thing that we did, in every way we can. I mean, whether we do or not, that’s anybody’s guess, but we try to make it sound better, try to play better, try to produce it better.

“We try to keep the songs just as fresh and energetic. I think people appreciate that. And so, they look forward to, like, ‘I wonder what that song sounds like live.’ You know, ‘I’d love to hear this new 22-minute crazy song live.’ And so… we’re very fortunate to be in that position.”
John Petrucci is currently touring in support of his 2020 sophomore solo album “Terminal Velocity” with Mike Portnoy on drums and Dave LaRue on bass. You can check out upcoming tour dates here.

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