In the summer of 2010 Rush embarked on a year-long world tour that would feature a performance of their classic Moving Pictures album in its entirety. This created a huge buzz amongst long time fans, like myself, who consider Moving Pictures to be one of the greatest hard rock albums of all time. Hard to believe it was released 30 years ago. Although most of us have already seen that album’s classic tracks like “Tom Sawyer,” “Limelight,” and “YYZ” all played a million times already – not a problem here – this tour presented one of the few, or only, times you would get to see such deeper cuts as “Vital Signs” and “The Camera Eye” performed.
Of course, I attended one of the shows on this tour, and it was spectacular just like every other Rush concert I have seen. So I had that as my measuring stick when watching this new Blu-ray disk. Time Machine 2011 was filmed on April 15, 2011, at the Quicken Loans Arena in Cleveland, Ohio, as a thank you to the first city to ever play Rush’s music on the radio. The brilliant Rush documentary, Beyond the Lighted Stage, covers this part of their history in wonderful detail, and it is a must see.
Rush tapped their Beyond the Lighted Stage directors, Sam Dunn and Scot McFadyen, to direct this new concert video and they do an admiral job. This video has a very different look and feel to it than their previous couple of concert videos. Everything is much brighter, and the distance and angles of most of the shots do not really capture their brilliance of their stage show as well as the Snakes and Arrows DVD did. Rush’s remarkable light show is always great at creating a unique look and mood to compliment each song, and some of that gets lost here.
The setlist would have been a great one solely for the fact that they played all of Moving Pictures, in order, but they also included many songs that have not appeared on any of their other concert videos. Most of these come at the beginning of the first set and none are particularly one’s that I would have chosen. Although it was refreshing to hear such a different sounding song as “Time Stand Still” from their keyboard-drenched 1987 album Hold You Fire, following the always explosive “The Spirit of Radio” certainly didn’t help its cause.
“Presto” fell kind of flat here, when a song like “Show Don’t Tell,” from the same album, would have absolutely killed. Maybe next time. “Leave That Thing Alone” was Rush trying to capture the instrumental magic of “YYZ” again, but I find the song repetitive and boring. The instrumentals on Snakes and Arrows are all better. “Workin’ Them Angels” is certainly one of the best songs from Snakes and Arrows, but we already have the definitive live performance on that DVD. Alright, enough bitching from me already, because things really take off from here.
If you were worried that Rush was going to mellow out with age and return to their lighter, keyboard-dominated stuff of the late ’80s, “BU2B” from their forthcoming Clockwork Angels album certainly lays that nonsense to rest. It may not be one of the best things they have done recently, but it is certainly one of the heaviest. They close out the first set with a couple of my all-time favorite Rush songs in “Freewill,” and “Subdivisions.” Sure, they play these songs at every single concert, but, dammit, I told them to!
The second set begins with Moving Pictures in its entirety, and it was especially gratifying to hear the much lesser-played side two of that album, “The Camera Eye,” “Witch Hunt,” and “Vital Signs,” in order for the first time. “Caravan” is another hard driving rocker from Clockwork Angels, and their instrumental virtuosity is simply stunning. Age certainly hasn’t slowed these geezers down a bit yet, other than Geddy Lee not being able to hit those super high notes any more. That kinda sucks for the 70’s stuff, but his revamped vocal style, which occurred around the time of the Permanent Waves album, was a welcome change to my ears.
After a typically amazing drum solo from Professor Peart, they whip out a spirited rendition of their first hit ballad, “Closer To the Heart.” It wouldn’t be a Rush concert if they didn’t dust off the usual suspects from 2112, with “Overture” and “The Temples of Syrinx,” and although that song is pretty impossible to follow, they do so admirably with a song 31 years its junior, “Far Cry,” to close out the second set.
The epic instrumental, “La Villa Strangiato,” kicks off the encore set, and Alex Lifeson’s brilliant performance on that song alone, should be enough to cement him to any top-20 guitarists list that ever sees the light of day. I was disappointed that they skipped over the two-minute intro section that slowly builds up to that massive distorted riff that kicks the song into gear, but it was just great to have it in the setlist. The song that first got Rush on the radio in Cleveland, “Working Man,” fittingly closes out the show, and in true Rush fashion, they first give it a playful reggae makeover for the first couple of minutes before launching into the familiar epic riff.
The production quality for this Blu-ray disk is stellar. The DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 track is about as good as it gets, and the Dolby Digital 2.0 Stereo track is not too shabby either for you non-surround sound listeners. The video is sharp and crystal clear, and the colors are vibrant. As I mentioned before, I wasn’t crazy about the camera direction, but it was certainly better than about 90% of the concert DVDs coming out these days.
The extra features include:
- 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”
Time Machine 2011 is yet another outstanding concert video release for Rush fans to sink their teeth into. I practically need an entire shelf in my DVD rack just to hold all of their videos now. I also saw that the illustrious Rock & Roll Hall Of Fame just snubbed Rush again this year – so maybe I’ll send them a copy of this DVD along with a big F.U. Anybody with me?
01. The Spirit of Radio
02. Time Stand Still
04. Stick It Out
05. Workin’ Them Angels
06. Leave That Thing Alone
12. Tom Sawyer
13. Red Barchetta
16. The Camera Eye
17. Witch Hunt
18. Vital Signs
20. Moto Perpetuo/Love For Sale (Drum Solo)
21. O’Malley’s Break/Closer To The Heart
22. 2112 – I: Overture, II: The Temples of Syrinx
23. Far Cry
24. La Villa Strangiato
25. Working Man