Review Summary: Time marches on.
A Rush concert is very much like witnessing a phenomenon that rarely ever happens. Here are 3 battle-hardened progressive rock vets who go out on stage and play for 3 hours every night to arenas whose attendances on average range from nearly sold-out to completely sold-out, with an intermission between halves to let the audience take in what they just saw in the first half and prepare for the second part of it. Usually the second part of the show is far more immense and has some of their more intellectually challenging material, which almost always makes for a more spectacular stage show- lasers, pyros, strobe lighting and what have you. But the show as a whole is just a mesmerizing spectacle from start to finish. Just as much of a spectacular experience as the special effects is the musicians themselves. You have Geddy who is a pure musical acrobat- singing, playing bass and playing two types of synthesizers (one which he controls with his feet), Alex who just casually rips thousands of notes off his fretboard with such precision, and Neil, who always looks like he's doing intense paperwork with how complex his drum work is. Given that this is only three people we are talking about, it's a wonder that any of this sounds as good as it does live. And this spectacle thankfully has carried over to what sadly looks to their final tour: the R40 tour, celebrating 40 years of touring with mean machine Neil Peart. But at the same time, if this indeed their last tour, they've chosen one hell of a note to go out on. I went to see two shows on this tour in the summer- one in Calgary and one in Vancouver, and both left me in pure amazement at how a band as old as them could still have so much energy and perform with so much gusto. And thankfully, this energy is captured in their latest concert video and live album, named after the tour.
As enjoyable as The Clockwork Angels Tour
was, it suffered from a number of technical flaws- namely an audio mix where Neil was almost inaudible at times, machine gun editing (seriously... this trend needs to end) and way too many crowd shots. The CD release was more enjoyable, but you'd think the visual counterpart would be properly mixed too. I'm happy to report that no such technical issues take place on this release- the camera shots last long enough with little to no constant switching, and in addition, there's some really stunning camera shots to be seen here too. In fact, a number of shots move across the stage from way up in the upper bowl down to the lower- something that is practically rare in concert movies nowadays. There are crowd shots, but they're thankfully kept to a minimum too. The colours are also well done, whereas The Clockwork Angels Tour
suffered from an overheated contrast, making reds seem almost artificial at times. Thankfully no such problems are to be detected here. Additionally, the audio mixes are all stunning and really must be played at maximum volume. There are a few volume dips here and there in the DTS HD track which do sort of detract from the experience at times, but they're thankfully far and in between. As far as performance goes, this is also one of their most stunning performances yet.
So Geddy Lee indeed has suffered from his voice showing some wear, but to be fair, it happens to every singer, and it's un-ignorable here. But the sheer energy he has on stage more than makes up for it. He looks well, and looks as if he's really enjoying what he's doing. He's his usual hyper self on stage, running and bouncing around and just generally having a grand old time. Additionally, he can still hit some really great high notes here and there, and his most impressive performance is during "Xanadu" with his double neck bass and guitar combo- though I am a tad biased, because said song was the absolute standout of both times I saw them live on this tour. It's also worth noting that Alex Lifeson was diagnosed with arthritis and Neil suffers from chronic tendinitis, and if their performances on this tour are any indication, you wouldn't be able to tell. Neil performs multiple monstrous drum solos, the most amazing of which happens during "Cygnus X-1". The guy is just an absolute beast, and just hammers the fuck out of those drums with tons of feel and power. Alex's guitar playing is, as always, more proof that he doesn't deserve to just be reduced to by most people as "the other guy in Rush". His solo during "YYZ" here is among one of his best performances yet! Setlist-wise, R40 is definitely one of their best concerts yet. The show starts at the Clockwork Angels
era and goes back to their self titled debut album, which also makes for an amazing encore with classics that haven't been performed in many years like "Lakeside Park" and "What You're doing". We even get the rarely-performed "Jacob's Ladder" and "Cygnus X-1", and almost all of "2112". The show even mirrors this with the set-up guys dressed in construction garb and replacing Geddy and Alex's stage equipment- in example, it begins with the most recent popcorn maker and brain in a jar, then goes back to stacks of amps, and even just amps on a chair. It was magical to see live, and thankfully the magic is recaptured on the blu-ray.
There's nothing Rush can't do, and as always, their live albums are sheer and utter proof of this. R40 Live
is proof that there's still plenty left in the tank for these legendary Canadians, yet if they're going out from touring in the future, then they've chosen a fucking awesome note to go out on. R40 Live
is a stunning look at the band's 41 year career with a setlist that spans all eras of Rush's amazing catalogue, a defiantly youthful performance, and a sense of urgency and energy that cannot be found in a lot of newer bands of today.