As Rush is now on tour in support of their Clockwork Angels album, I thought it would be fitting to have another look at their latest DVD and Blu-ray concert release, Rush: Time Machine Tour 2011 – Live in Cleveland, in addition to some truly nifty releases of their back catalog.
Rush has always been a band that never took themselves seriously, despite what their most ardent detractors have vehemently suggested. In retrospect, I still cannot understand what the music critics have been griping about all these years when it comes to Rush’s unique sound, which itself has gone through so many changes from one album to the next. As far as playing live is concerned, Rush is truly mystifying to watch as I can never quite figure out how just three people are making this music which sounds so epic and grand in scope. Yes, they have an entire group of behind-the-scenes experts making sure that the show goes smoothly, but the band sounds as though there are six people playing instead of just three.
I recall seeing Rush’s first concert video released to the masses, Exit…Stage Left, on video in 1983 and being completely wowed by the boys. Subsequent concert videos followed, but they never included the full concerts that they showcased, which was always frustrating as the tracks I really wanted to hear were invariably dropped. Thankfully, that practice has gone by the wayside, and now Rush’s concert videos are always presented in their complete form (except for the initial release of R30, which was re-issued in toto on Blu-ray).
I always wanted Geddy Lee, Alex Lifeson, and Neil Peart, the triumvirate that comprises Rush, to come out on stage prior to a concert’s start and have them all go to the wrong instruments by “accident” and attempt to play them, only to correct themselves and start off in their respective positions. The closest that we have gotten to seeing this happen is in the videos that appear on their most recent tour in which they do just that. Whether you watch Rush’s Time Machine Tour 2011 – Live in Cleveland on DVD or Blu-ray, you can appreciate the hard work that goes into making a show. What is really nice about this release is that this is the first time that a concert video is featuring Rush playing on U.S. soil, and they chose Cleveland as this was the city that really put them on the map in terms of radio airplay thanks to then-disc jockey Donna Halper, author of 2001’s Invisible Stars: A Social History of Women in American Broadcasting.
The concert film as presented in both formats is identical in terms of the setlist as well as the extras made available. The film runs exactly as the concert does, with all songs intact:
Intro Video (The 'Real' History of Rush Episode No. 2 "Don't Be Rash")
"The Spirit of Radio"
"Time Stand Still"
"Stick It Out"
"Workin' Them Angels"
"Leave That Thing Alone"
"BU2B (Brought Up To Believe)" (from “Clockwork Angels”)
Second Set Intro Video (The 'Real' History of Rush Episode No. 17 "...and Rock and Roll is my name.")
"The Camera Eye"
"Caravan" (from Clockwork Angels)
"Moto Perpetuo/Love For Sale" (Drum Solo)
"O'Malley's Break"/"Closer To The Heart" (with alternate outro)
II: The Temples of Syrinx
"La Villa Strangiato" (with polka intro)
"Working Man" (with reggae intro)
"Cygnus X-1: Book I" teaser
Directors Sam Dunn and Scot McFadyen, who previously brought us the phenomenal Rush: Beyond the Lighted Stage documentary and whom I interviewed here, have done a wonderful job of bringing the Time Machine tour to home video. What I really appreciated was seeing Geddy and Alex up close, and what their fingers need to do to make these incredible sounds. Particularly during the solo sections of “Freewill” and “Working Man,” it makes you wonder how they play the way they play. Obviously this feat of playing is the result of years of practice, but even more so a genuine talent that they’ve honed over the years. There are some great overhead shots of Neil at the drum kit, and shots of him hitting the double-bass while drumming with both arms which, I swear, I don’t know how he does. I get winded half-way through air-drumming to Marathon, and he plays for just over two and-a-half hours!
What is most refreshing to see is that they seem to really enjoy playing as much as we love going to see and listen to them play. I would like to have seen more shots of the audience since they are a part of the show, too! What we do see is an enthusiastic crowd of air drummers and air guitar players, which run the gamut of little tykes to seasoned fans from the 1970s. There are far more women in the audience than have been in years past, and they are every bit as enthusiastic as the men (if not more so), which make up the 14,000-plus fans at this sold-out show.
As a complement to their phenomenal music, their stage show is truly something to be seen. The beauty of Howard Ungerleider’s gorgeous lighting and set design really shines through, particularly on this tour. The custom articulating spider is intricate and beautiful, particularly during the encore of La Villa Strangiato. The lighting effects just look incredible.
As a concert film, the experience is a joy for Rush fans who get to see their favorite band performing at the top of their game. The DVD and Blu-ray extras are:
Outtakes from “History of Rush, Episodes 2 and 17”)
Tom Sawyer featuring the cast of “History of Rush, Episode 17”)
Live from Laura Secord Secondary School – “Need Some Love”
Live from Passaic, NJ – “Anthem”
The hilarious ending featuring Paul Rudd and Jason Segal that closed out the concerts on the road is missing. When Alex Lifeson was asked about this on a recent radio program, he revealed that it was left off due to rights issues with the Screen Actors Guild, which is unfortunate as the segment was a great way to end the show.
As is the case with past live concert releases on DVD, the concert is also available on audio compact disc. The entire show is replicated on two CD’s, although the “Cygnus X-1” teaser during the show’s final moments has been dropped.
I would love to see future Blu-ray releases of Exit…Stage Left, Grace Under Pressure, and A Show of Hands in their complete form (if they exist). Keep our fingers crossed, and while we wait patiently, enjoy the magic of Rush’s Time Machine Tour 2011 – Live in Cleveland:
In addition to this superlative video concert, Rush has remastered their entire back catalog of music that appeared on Mercury Records in the 1970’s and 1980’s in the form of Sectors, a three-box set of 15 albums, three of which are available in 5.1 on DVD-Audio:
Rush’s best-selling, landmark album Moving Pictures is also available from Amazon.com in the form of a deluxe CD and DVD-Audio in 5.1 sound. Given how stunning and remarkable the audio quality is I hope that it leads to their entire back catalog to undergo similar treatment in 5.1, especially their 2112 album which would benefit greatly:
Rush’s aforementioned steampunk-themed album, Clockwork Angels, released on June 12, 2012, is a concept album in the tradition of Pink Floyd’s The Dark Side of the Moon and The Wall. It details the journey of a young man through life, his experiences along the way and what he learns and is a fascinating listen:
Mr. Peart, the band’s drummer and lyricist, has collaborated with his friend and renowned science fiction author Kevin J. Anderson on the novelization of the album.