Just got home last night after an amazing weekend
We had our preshow meetup at Uno Pizzeria in International Drive from 5pm-6:30pm. We ended up changing the location of the meetup because parking at the Hard Rock would have cost everyone $20 at 5pm, while it was free after 6pm.
We had such a nice and enthusiastic group of DT fans! Genuinely nice people, and so happy to be there! We had some people that had already seen The Astonishing, but for most, it was their first time seeing the show. Aside from my kids, we also had two people coming for their first DT show ever, and one person that traveled 22 hours from Myanmar! Also, DT Radio came to show their support, if you haven't checked out their podcasts you are missing out.
Uno was very accommodating to our group and set us up in a private area. We enjoyed some great food and conversation and everyone that came to the meetup received a DT promo poster. One of the topics of conversation was the JP Meet and Greet at Bass Central which some had attended earlier in the afternoon. We also discussed the I&W tour and how we were also hoping it would come to the U.S.
We waited till the last half hour to hold the trivia contest. There had been some major traffic and accidents, so we had people that were unable to make it in time, but in total we had 17 DT fans in attendance. The trivia contest consisted of 6 questions from the Astonishing and 6 from Images & Words (in anticipation for the 25th anniversary tour). We had everyone pair up in teams of 2, and that made it more fun since they had to work together to figure out the answers. There were some pretty easy questions, and some very challenging ones that left everyone stumped. In the end, we had our winners, and believe it or not, it was the same DT fans that won the Pre-show trivia contest in Baltimore, a father and son team, and yes, they are that good!! As they were going to be presented with their prize, they surprised us all by giving away their prize, which we automatically gave to the team that came in 2nd place by just one question. They had already experienced the aftershow last time, and having met the band, they wanted someone else to have that experience! It was such a nice and incredibly generous gesture
So the Trivia contest winners were Brian Norwood and Sean White, who were so excited to receive aftershow passes.
Fast forward to the show, this was our second time seeing The Astonishing Live. We first saw it in Baltimore back in April, and for this show we brought our kids. It was their first metal show and they had an amazing time! The show was super tight, JLB was shining despite what seemed like some issues with his monitors, he actually sounded even better than the first show (which is hard to believe!). His soft Fsythe parts were amazing! MM was in a really great mood, really playful and interactive with the crowd. JP was his usual self, nothing but perfection, he came right in front of us to do the solo in a New Beginning, and it was face melting
JR and JMX were also perfect as usual. I think the revised setlist worked out amazing and made the show tighter, but I did miss Road to Revolution and Heaven's Cove. The encore was out of this world! The crowd went wild!! The band was just so alive, and The Spirit Carries On was so incredibly touching! Hard to put into words but it was just played with so much emotion. The first couple of rows were all dancing along hand in hand. Pull Me Under was just fantastic! First time I get to see it live, and well, best way to cap an already amazing show! Sound was simply fantastic at the Hard Rock Live. Gotta say so far best venue for sound in Orlando. Security was strict about cameras but VERY nice and friendly about it. They had no issues with pics during the curtain call.
After the show, the DT USA group gathered to the right of the stage waiting to be picked up for the aftershow meet and greet. As luck would have it, there was an additional and unexpected aftershow pass for DT USA, and we took the son from the original winning team with us. It was a big aftershow group! As usual, JMX was the first one to come in and he was very friendly. He was a little surprised by the size of the group but he went around greeting and striking up conversations with everyone in the room. JR was next and he looked visibly tired today. He talked to us for a little bit about the meetup and was happy to take a pic with the winners. Mike Mangini came in next, and as usual he was a ball of energy- super friendly and happy to take pictures with everyone. Next in was JLB who was energetic and enthusiastic. He posed with our banner, which he said he really liked, and was happy to hear about the meetup. Our trivia winner, Sean, asked him if he remembered serveral shows from more than 15 years ago and he totally did! Down to the setlist. It was actually quite impressive. I told him that we really enjoyed The Theater Equation Blu ray, and he said that he wwould be in the new Ayreon CD but unfortunately wouldn't be able to make the special Ayreon shows in the Netherlands. After quite some time there was still no sign of JP, though his tech Matty made his way around the room during this time, and several people took pictures with him as well. Finally after another 15 minutes, JP entered the room looking very tired! We were right by the door at this point so we were the first talk to him and he was so personable and friendly as usual. He was very interested in hearing how the meetup had gone and he wanted to look at our banner. He took pics and signed for everyone. He then asked us what we thought about the I&W tour coming to the U.S., and we were all "uh YEAH!!". He said they had originally intended to do the one European 25th Anniversary tour but were now looking into bringing it to the U.S. too *crossing fingers*
It was an unforgettable night for all of us. We got to meet some really cool people at the meetup, had an amazing show, and a really awesome aftershow experience. We hope to keep expanding DT USA and bringing more events to more cities on the next tour. Thank you to everyone that came to the Orlando meetup