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Rush

Snakes and Arrows Live DVD

Review by Julie Knispel

It’s become tradition for every Rush studio album to be followed by an accompanying live album and/or DVD release.  While one can certainly see where complaints of over saturation and release of the same basic material over and over again have some merit, one can also certainly not argue that Rush has lost anything.  In fact, the tours for their most recent studio effort Snakes and Arrows shows a band that has been very much revitalized and re-energized.  Snakes and Arrows was the band’s strongest studio album in many years, with a good selection of tracks getting heavy rock radio airplay.

Snakes and Arrows Live was recorded in Rotterdam at the Ahoy Gebouw, a 10,000 seat arena.  This is the first live release from Rush specifically highlighting a single album release, with 9 of 13 album tracks from Snakes and Arrows appearing on the DVD.  Worked around these strong performances are many of the usual Rush warhorses, along with a selection of more surprising tracks.  One complaint many people have voiced about more recent Rush tours has been the more static set-list, always pulling the same batch of songs out.  While Rush will never have a rotating set like some bands, they seem to have made an effort on this tour to bring back a few tracks that hadn’t been aired in some time.  Thus we get performances of songs like ‘Mission,” “Entre Nous,” “Between The Wheels,” and “A Passage to Bangkok” along side the new tracks and classics.

Rush has never sounded more powerful on a concert release.  The mix is punchy and powerful, with Neil Peart’s drums crisp and snapping, Geddy Lee’s bass full and rich, and Alex Lifeson’s guitar alternately crunching and glistening.  The concert was filmed in 16x9 HD (in fact, a BluRay version of this concert is also available for those readers with HD home theater systems), and picture quality is excellent.  We get a variety of shots, from far back in the crowd allowing the viewer to take in the whole of the experience, including the projections, as well as individual angles on each musician.  No matter the angle, the video is excellent, with great black levels and bright vivid colour.  Were I to complain about anything from an editing standpoint, it would be that shots are not really allowed to develop naturally.  There’s some fairly quick cuts from shot to shot (though not nearly as bad as on many concert videos), and it can be somewhat disconcerting from time to time.

My other complaint, as silly as it is, is with the load menus and opening screens.  I understand fully that Rush is a band with a very…odd…sense of humour.  It’s something that a lot of critics simply don’t get.  But I don’t like having to sit through an animated load screen every time in order to simply select what audio stream I want to listen to while I watch the DVD, followed by almost the same load screen, animated, of course, asking me if I want to play all or select a specific track.  They are slow, they are sluggish, and they end up frustrating after the first time through.  This is followed on each of the two main DVDs by a lengthy "cut scene" that further delays things.  On DVD 1 it is a series of framed artworks covering snakes, arrows, and groups of three, followed by a very surreal dream sequence featuring Lifeson and Peart in bed together, and Lee getting yelled at by a Scotsman bearing remarkable resemblance to himself.  On DVD 2 it is…well, something incredibly surreal and apparently showing the varied planes of existence in an almost Hollywood Squares-esque manner.  Simply put, while they are cute and bearable once or twice, on repeated viewings you’re just going to reach for the chapter skip on your remote.  Perhaps better if these were Easter eggs rather than part of the main feature, I think.

In the end, what matters is the actual content, and Snakes and Arrows Live delivers that in spades.  Whether it’s the incredibly strong full performance from Rotterdam or the extra tracks on DVD 3 ("official bootlegs" from Atlanta Georgia, including “The Trees,” “Ghost of a Chance,” and “2112/The Temple of Syrinx”), this DVD shows that Rush is a band that continues to be as strong as they have ever been.  While the future may be up in the air for them, Snakes and Arrows Live shows that there’s still plenty of fuel in their musical tanks.

This review is available in book format (hardcover and paperback) in Music Street Journal: 2009  Volume 1 at lulu.com/strangesound.
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