Filmed over the course of two nights in October 2007 (although you wouldn’t know from Mark Morton’s seamless editing) at the Ahoy Arena in Rotterdam, Netherlands on the Snakes & Arrows tour in support of the album of the same name, Rush delivers a fantastic evening of music. There may not be enough recognizable tunes here for the band’s casual, greatest-hits fans since the tour focused on the new material instead of a concert that “echoes with the sound of salesman,” but that’s what R30 is for.
For those that missed or want to relive it, the tour was captured with 21 High Definition cameras under the wise guidance of directors Pierre & Francois Lamoureux. The presentation opens with the video of a dream sequence that opened the show. I could tell from watching the first track, “Limelight,” that these directors knew how to shoot and edit musicians playing. When guitarist Alex Lifeson gets his first solo, they stayed on him for the most part, cutting between a full shot and a close-up on his fingers.
After “Limelight,” serious Rush devotees will be thrilled that the first set is comprised mainly of deep album cuts with selections ranging from every decade of the band’s career: “Circumstances” from Hemispheres (1978), “Digital Man” from Signals (1982), “Dreamline” from Roll the Bones (1991), and “Secret Touch” from Vapor Trails (2002).
The program fades to black at the intermission, and then the video that opened the second set, a very strange one indeed with bassist Geddy Lee as lost, hungry Scotsman Harry Satchel, segues into five Snakes & Arrows tracks, showing a confidence the band has in their new material. “Far Cry” is a definite highlight that will likely make many an appearance at future concerts.
After a wonderfully spooky rendition of a fire-enhanced “Witch Hunt,” the band highlights their technical prowess even further with a three-song instrumental block. “Malignant Narcissism” find Lee and drummer Neil Peart trading leads. Peart’s solo is dubbed “De Slagwerker,” which naturally translates to “The Drummer” in Dutch. There is a reason Peart’s name is always mentioned in any serious conversation about rock drummers and this DVD demonstrates a master percussionist at work, particularly fantastic are the overhead shots, a view most concert goers would rarely witness. Peart has MIDI trigger pads as part of his kit programmed to create sounds from instruments such as a marimba, a harp, and tubular bells, which gives him a wide audio palette from which he can create. Peart concludes with an excerpt from “Cotton Tail,” a number he recorded with the Buddy Rich Band in the 1990s. The only downside is Peart's solo was shorter than it had been on previous tours. Not to be left out, “Hope” is an acoustic guitar solo by the ever-silly Lifeson.
A great trait of the band is their sense of humor, which is evident throughout the performance. Lifeson has Barbie dolls holding up small signs in front of his foot pedals and plastic dinosaurs strewn around his amplifiers. Behind Lee are cabinets that have been turned into giant rotisseries and there’s even a crew guy that comes out and bastes them. During “Spirit of the Radio,” he does it in a chicken suit, which appears to surprise Peart because he looks like he’s trying to keep from laughing. On the video screen, fans get to see SCTV’s McKenzie Brothers introduce “The Larger Bowl,” footage of monkeys during the new soon-to-be classic instrumental “The Main Monkey Business,” and the South Park characters trying to play “Tom Sawyer.”
Speaking of “Tom Sawyer,” the audience absolutely loved hearing that song. Their energy as they screamed and sang along throughout is absolutely palpable to the home viewer.
The DTS HD Master Audio lossless 5.1 surround is amazing, and puts you the viewer at the concert. The musical elements sound clear, distinct, and are well mixed together. You can even hear the clap of the crowd in unison at some points. What’s nice is that even on unfamiliar songs, the lyrics can be understood to follow along. Lee’s bass gives the subwoofer an extensive workout, and I was surprised it wasn’t worn out or smoking at the concert’s end.
The video from the High Definition cameras looks great. The colors of the light and laser show are vibrant, but subtle colors like wisps of gray in Lee’s hair can also be seen. The blacks are well rendered and different shades are discernible and distinct from one another. Very fine detail can be seen in the textures, particularly impressive on the cymbals.
If concert ticket prices continue to increase, the Blu-ray experience is fast becoming a comparable recreation sans the audience, which has both pluses and minuses. And the disc even offers bonus features.
To present every song played on the tour, “Oh, Atlanta! The Authorized Bootlegs” contains “Ghost of a Chance,” “Red Barchetta,” “The Trees,” and “2112/The Temples of Syrinx” which replaces “Entre Nous,” “Circumstances,” “Secret Touch,” and “Distant Early Warning.” They aren’t shot in high definition, but sound just as good.
Other extras include:
- Harry Satchel in What’s That Smell? (Used as video intro for the second set in the 2008 tour leg)
- 2007 Tour Outtakes
- What’s That Smell? Outtakes
- “Far Cry” (Alternate cut featuring rear screen footage)
- “The Way the Wind Blows” (Alternate cut featuring rear screen footage)
- “Red Sector A” (from the R30: 30th Anniversary World Tour DVD)
If you want “magic at your fingers,” you will choose Rush – Snakes & Arrows Live for your video library.