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Dream Theater‘s live setlists used to get a little wild when Mike Portnoy was in the band. Maybe there’d be a cover song thrown in, maybe a B-side would come out on a random stop through a tour. Dream Theater moved to a more static setlist with drummer Mike Mangini, but now that Portnoy is back things might get a little nuts again.

According to Portnoy in an interview with Pure Saturation, the move to more chaotic setlists could very well happen once everyone’s comfortable with their new/old live situation.

“You pretty much nailed it right there [about having free reign with the setlists]. Back in the day, that was all my department and the guys were always so cool to give me free rein to — whatever my imagination could think up for the setlist, they went with it. If I said, ‘Hey, I wanna cover a Queen song tonight,’ we would do it. There was never any argument or resistance.

“So for all those years, the setlists and doing these crazy, unique ideas and shows, that was always my baby and something that I just really, really loved for the band, and I think the fans really liked it and appreciated it too. After I left Dream Theater, for the last 13 years or so, from my understanding — I haven’t followed it too closely — but from my understanding, they’ve been more doing static setlists and things like that

“So in answer to your question, is it gonna be like the way it used to be? Like you just said at the end of your question, I think I need to just get in and get comfortable first and see where we are at this point in 2024. We’re older. It’s been a lot of time apart. So I think there’ll probably be a process of just getting comfortable and everybody finding their place in the new chemistry.

“And that being said, I would have no problem with the static setlist for a little while, because it’s been so long for me, I’ve been gone for so long, and there’s gonna be a whole new generation of fans coming to these shows that never saw the band with me in it. So even if we went out for this first world tour with a static setlist of doing all the classics, it’s been so long for me that each and every night is going to be special and exciting within itself.”

Portnoy continued, elaborating that his Dream Theater bandmates are definitely down for the setlist to get a little weird night to night.

“For me, changing the setlist for all those years with Dream Theater, a lot of it was a reaction to me kind of — I don’t wanna say ‘get bored’, but you get a little complacent playing the same songs over and over and over and over. So I would switch it up a lot, not only for the fans, but for ourselves to keep it fresh. But now, coming back after 13 years, it’s gonna be fresh every night for me. So that in itself will be exciting.

“But all that being said, I think the band really does want to interject those kinds of things back into the live show. They have expressed to me that they kind of have been missing it and that they kind of want me to take the reins with the setlist and with the ideas of crazy sets and crazy shows and unique things.

“It seems to me — I mean, John Petrucci and I talked about it briefly. I think he really wants me to take those reins again. So fingers crossed that it will evolve naturally and organically to get to that point soon enough, because it really is such a unique thing, and I know a lot of the Dream Theater fans have missed it in the last decade or so, so it would be nice to interject it back in.”

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