DVD Review – Rush: Snakes and Arrows Live

by Omar on December 3, 2008

in DVD Review

Rush's new live DVD "Snakes and Arrows Live" was released last Monday, November 24th, a very much anticipated DVD (also available in the Blu-Ray format).  The Snakes and Arrows tour was a huge success and many, including myself, were very anxious for this release.  And let me tell you, it did not disappoint.

Rush is my favorite rock band (actually, they're my favorite band, period).  I was introduced to them by a friend of my brother's way back before I was even a teenager.  My musical taste was never the same.  They became something like my ‘reference band' (much in the vein of a ‘reference drummer', which if you haven't read just click on the link and you'll know what I mean).  Every fourth album or so they'd release a live record, which was good for Rush fans:  we love their musicianship, above all.  We love to hear them, but we really love to watch them.  So when they released live videos (VHS then), it was a huge treat.

Things changed for the better in 2003, when the Rush in Rio DVD was released.  This was their first live concert released on the format.  Not only that, much to the delight of Rush fans, Rush decided seemingly to release a live DVD after every tour!  Now all fans, whether they could get to the show or no, could have a memento, a memory, of great performances.

As good as all the other live releases were, methinks, however, that this may be the best one of all.  I continue to be amazed at how polished their performances are, all three of them, and how easy they make it all look.  Not only are they playing their main instruments, but Alex Lifeson is making all sorts of sound changes and playing foot pedals, Geddy Lee also plays the pedals while playing bass, and the keyboards, and singing(!), and now Neil Peart has a multitude of triggers all over the place that can go off with either the sticks or his feet.  They've always been known to sound like many more than just three members, and this show is no different.

The band plays nine songs from their Snakes and Arrows CD, more new songs than most bands play from their latest release.  But that's what makes Rush special:  they'll play what they think they'll enjoy playing, and hope the audience likes it too.  And as always, they do.  With 18 studio albums with original material, they have a hard enough time picking a set list, and there are always a few little surprises.

"Entre Nous" from Permanent Waves (1980) was never played live before.  "Circumstances" has always been a favorite of mine, and had to be played down a key to accommodate Geddy's more mature voice (but he still nailed it!)

I could go on and on about the set list, but this release is all about the visual aspect.  Here are some highlights that you could not glean from the CD release of the same show:

  • Neil seemed to be playing "younger"; he seemed to have more fun this time around, even though he still played with seriousness and focus (one thing he's famous [or infamous] for); his playing was noticeably tighter than Rush in Rio and R30
  • You could see Neil (at times - look fast!) switching the snares off and on during the "The Main Monkey Business" instrumental (arguably Rush's best instrumental of all)
  • Many detailed views of each player
    • Geddy's intricate bass fingering
    • Alex's precise chording to lead changes
    • All sorts of angles of Neil's playing (even foot close-ups)
  • Neil really grooving on "The Larger Bowl"
  • The puffs of fire during the bells at the beginning of "Witch Hunt"
  • Possibly Neil's best drum solo ever - it has it all
  • Neil only using his V-Drums for triggering and during the solo

There is much, much more, but I could go on forever.  There was a lot of comedy as well - which is good that they don't always take themselves seriously.  "What's That Smell?" and the South Park intro to "Tom Sawyer" is just hilarious.  The guys themselves were in on the comedy as well.  Neil and Geddy were going at it at the end of "Secret Touch".  There was a chicken guy that was "basting" the chickens during "The Spirit of Radio", and Neil couldn't help laughing.  Geddy took a quick glance back and continued singing, trying not to laugh.  Alex is really funny during "Tom Sawyer" - you'll just have to see for yourself.

All in all, an incredible DVD full of fantastic musicianship, killer lights show, comic relief, from three of the most down-to-earth guys in the music business.  But for me, there was something more...

Oh, Atlanta!  The Authorized Bootlegs

I was absolutely beside myself when I found out that some of the Atlanta show was going to be included in the release of this DVD.  Now we're talking about the Atlanta show that was scheduled to be the last show of the second leg of the tour (July 22nd, 2008), but due to a scheduling conflict Indianapolis got the last show a couple of days later.  No matter, because Rush performed like if it was their last show ever.  How do I know this?  I was there!

That was a very special day for The Paradiddler because he got to take his son to his first concert.  What better than to have Rush be a kid's first concert?  Now the bar is really set high.  It was going to be an incredible show, right?  Well, it didn't start off that way.

While we were waiting for the show, a major thunderstorm rumbled through, and we had lawn seats!  The show had to be delayed a little to let the rain subside, which thankfully for the most part it did (but it was still wet and uncomfortably cool after that, on what was supposed to be a hot and sticky July night).  My son was furious with the weather!  He was saying things like "this better be worth it!"  "I hate getting wet!"  "Do we have to stay?"

Of course, when Rush came out and started the show with "Limelight", my son's favorite Rush song, he said (or yelled, actually) about 30 seconds into the song "this was so worth it!"  It was the time of his life.

The songs in this selection replace some of the songs from the first leg of the tour (for "The Trees", Neil uses his V-Drums for the whole song), and they, as the rest of the show, were performed wondrously.  I've been to (only!) four Rush concerts, and each time they get better and better.  I really thought they had peaked out for the R30 tour - they're getting "up in age", how could they play better?  But on that night, they did.  In their mid-50's, and still going strong.  It's a tribute to the dedication to their craft, their passion to play their best every night as if it was their last, and I have a great deal of respect for that.

Well that's my take.  There's so much more to say about this DVD, so many other aspects, but this should be enough to wet your appetite if you haven't seen it yet.  On a scale of one to ten paradiddles, ten being the best, I give this DVD, well, a 50! Sorry, it's that good.  Go get it and enjoy!

To purchase this DVD, click here.

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