[14 November 2011]
Rush has not suffered the indignities visited upon many of its contemporaries: The Canadian trio has not resorted to performing an evening of greatest hits with a local symphony orchestra, has not partnered with a younger, hipper, but completely inappropriate act with the hope of regaining some of its former glory, and the classic version of the band, the one forged in 1974, remains intact.
Moreover, Rush keeps getting better.
The 2010-11 Time Machine tour, which saw the trio perform the classic 1981 album Moving Pictures in its entirety, remains one of Rush’s best. Drawing heavily from its considerable back catalog the trio covered virtually every desirable stopping point in its history and a few from its future. Opening with “The Spirit of Radio” from 1980’s Permanent Waves and closing with a revamped version of “Working Man” (which appeared on the 1974 self-titled release, the only one in the group’s history not to feature drummer Neil Peart) the intensity of the performance captured on this single disc set never falters.
Cleveland was the first market in the US to embrace Rush, and thus it’s appropriate that the trio would return to record a DVD meant to chronicle its status as one of the most loved progressive rock band of all time. All the hallmarks of a Rush gig are there: Fans with t-shirts that proclaim enthusiasm for a particular member, air drumming, hands hoisted high in the air, throngs who know all the words to every song or who sing the riffs to instrumental passages, a scarcity of women.
The Moving Pictures segment lives up to expectations: Longtime live staples “Red Barchetta”, “Limelight”, and “Tom Sawyer” are paired with “The Camera Eye”, “Vital Signs”, and “Witch Hunt”, three tracks far less familiar to the concert stage. What’s remarkable about the material is how well it has aged and how seamlessly the band blended its progressive rock ambitions with its basic rock roots. Guitarist Alex Lifeson even dons period garb for the segment!
Two tracks from the group’s upcoming album Clockwork Angels appear here, “BU2B” and “Caravan” and both suggest that the group continues to move into heavier musical territory at a time when many of its contemporaries are seeking mellower pastures. Of course those new numbers cannot compare to the time-tested “Closer To The Heart”, “Marathon” and “Subdivisions”. At least not yet. But newer material, including “Workin’ Them Angels” and “Faithless” (both from 2007’s Snakes and Arrows) hold their own against those staples, which is a good sign.
Rush has long been known for its sense of humor and this set doesn’t disappoint those eager for a dose of wry. Three short films made for the Time Machine tour appear here, two as introductions, “The ‘Real’ History of Rush: Episode No.2 ‘Don’t Be Rash’” and “No.17 ‘…and Rock and Roll is my name’, and one as a farewell to fans. Outtakes from these shorts are featured in the bonus materials as are an early version of “Anthem” and a clip of the group performing “Need Some Love” recorded at Laura Second Secondary School with original drummer John Rutsey. There’s also a version of “Tom Sawyer” featuring the cast of “History of Rush, Episode 17.” (One has to wonder if glimpses of roughly 20 women in the audience at a Rush show count as bonus features. Probably.)
Members of the Rush tribe will embrace this wholeheartedly. The rest? Well, Geddy, Alex, and Neil seem to be getting along just fine without you.