|Rush - R30: 30th Anniversary World Tour (Deluxe Edition)|
|Written by Bryan Dailey|
|Tuesday, 22 November 2005|
Rush is by far my favorite band, so I might seem a little biased about this review. However, I can admit when they put out a product that is a stinker such as their last studio effort, Feedback, a collection of some pretty bad cover songs which were in fact the first-ever recorded non-original Rush songs ever released by the band. As I stated in my review of this album, I was very disappointed in the EP, but if it gives Rush an excuse to go out and play live again to support it, then I’m glad they released it.
I went to two stops on the Rush thirtieth anniversary tour, one at the Hollywood Bowl and one at the MGM Grand Arena in Las Vegas. I have seen Rush probably 20 times in my life and this, being a celebration of all things old and new with Rush, was the most ambitious tour by far as far as the lighting, the movie clips playing in the background and depth of songs in the playlist. As the band opened with a six-song instrumental medley of some of their best riffs ever, transitioning flawlessly from "Finding My Way" to "Anthem" to "Bastille Day" to "A Passage To Bangkok" to” Cygnus X-1" and finally "Hemispheres,” I looked over at my other geeky Rush fan friends and we were all astounded. “I can’t wait for them to release a DVD of this,” I thought, and before I knew it, here it is live and in 5.1 Dolby digital surround sound on the beautiful two-disc set called R30 that documents Rush's Frankfurt, Germany concert in September 2004 near the close of their Thirtieth Anniversary World Tour.
Some argue that Rush performs their songs so well and so close to the studio versions that there is no spontaneity to their live shows. I disagree, as I enjoy seeing how well they are able to pull off the feat of performing these musically complex songs with only three members in the band. An occasional sequencer is throw into the mix, but for the most part, everything you are hearing when the band is onstage is being performed right then and there by bassist/vocalist Geddy Lee, guitarist Alex Lifeson and drummer extraordinaire Neil Peart. What I have noticed about Rush over the years is that, as Geddy has aged, his ability to hit the stratospherically high notes of years gone by has diminished, so on some of the older songs, they actually tune down a little to make it just a bit easier for him to sing them. That is more noticeable on this disc than live, with songs like “2112” being just a little lower and heavier-sounding, so Geddy can hit those elevated notes. He is still a million times better at singing his vintage songs than people like Robert Plant are, so I don’t think of this as a big drawback.
Rush used to bring opening acts out with them as diverse as Primus and Mr. Big. However, not because of ego, but because of the sheer enormity of their catalog of songs, Rush now plays a two-hours-plus set. They actually had to whittle down the concert to fit it onto this DVD, but there is so much material here that you won’t feel too robbed. The set list progresses though their huge collection of studio albums and of course has an extended drum solo with big band finale at the end.
The concert footage was shot with 14 HD cameras and the widescreen picture on my 61-inch TV is nothing short of spectacular. I’ve been trying to learn the drum part to the tune “Subdivisions” and a few parts that I was struggling with were made easier simply by watching the DVD frame by frame and in slow motion during the complex drum fills during the end of the song. The sound quality is also stellar; it seems like very minimal over-tracking was done later. There is a Dolby digital surround mix on the disc, but the rear channels are really there more for crowd sounds and overall ambience. This is no substitute for what I hope to see some day: all of Rush’s albums re-mixed in surround sound.
I love watching this memorable tour both live and on this beautifully filmed and recorded disc. However, what really piqued my interest about R30 was the bonus footage on Disc Two. Rush has never been a very popular band in the eyes of the mainstream music industry. They never really made the rounds of American TV shows, such as Saturday Night Live or David Letterman, and the videos that they did make were astonishingly cheesy. Although the videos surely got some play on Canada’s Much Music, as the band is Canadian, American video-watching audiences were much more into their REM, U2 and Dire Straights in the ‘80s when it came to rock music videos, so great Rush songs like “Subdivisions” with its accompanying video clip didn’t see much MTV play.
On disc two of this set, there is a section called the Anthem Vault. This is where the gold is. I discovered Rush in the late ‘80s when I started playing drums and naturally I was drawn in by the drum acrobatics of Neil Peart. I’d flip through my brother’s Rush cassettes and couldn’t believe the outfits this band used to wear. The long flowing capes and handlebar moustaches from the 2112 album cover art were so over the top that I figured that they were just worn for the photo shoot. I couldn’t have been more wrong. As I learned on R30, the band performs some of their songs from the late ‘70s in a studio on a faux stage and they wear their white priest robes and have long flowing locks of hair. From the epic song “Xanadu” to the rockin' tune with French lyrics “Circumstances,” you get to see vintage Rush playing songs in a studio exactly as they played them live back in the ‘70s with their full on-stage instrument setups.
This also means several new versions of the songs. Most of the clips here, other than a vintage performance of their song “Fly By Night,” are recorded live. You aren’t just watching the band fake it with studio versions of the songs dubbed over the visuals. We get to hear an entirely new version of “La Villa Strangiato,” as well as a few other classic tunes. Some of these performances made their way onto the video compilations “Between the Camera Eye” and “Chronicles,” but the bulk of the material on R30 is all new, never before released and I was like a kid in a candy store soaking in all of this new (old) Rush material. When Rush won the Artist of the Decade award from the music industry, Canadian artists, as well as other Rush fans such as Primus and Living Colour who have long admired Rush, paid a wonderful tribute to the band. This award presentation is shown in its entirety and it was great to see how much respect they have gained from their hard work both in the studio and on the road.
In the bonus material, there is also a host of old interviews. I had rarely ever seen any interviews with the band, so this was yet another opportunity to experience a little-known side of Rush. Two of the interviews occur just before the release of the band’s true breakout album, Moving Pictures. It’s quite interesting in retrospect to hear them talking about their upcoming ‘non-conceptual” album and how they don’t even realize how a little song they are currently working on writing called “Tom Sawyer” is going to go down in classic rock history and become the one signature song that most people think of when they talk about Rush. With the thirtieth anniversary special edition, there is also an accompanying two-CD set and limited edition backstage pass with two guitar picks included. There isn’t any extra video footage on this version that isn’t on the standard edition, but the two-CD set is not available separately and the set is not that much more expensive, so I’d recommend tracking down this version if possible.