Saturday, January 21, 2012

Time Machine 2011: Live in Cleveland - Rush - 2011

I am a Rush fan and a Rush completist but not a Rush fanatic. There's some kind of distinction between those somewhere, illustrated in the amount of time it took me to get to their latest release, Time Machine. While I made both the CD and blu-ray release day purchases they stayed wrapped in cellophane for weeks before I found the desire to crack them open and fully digest yet another double-live set from a band who, in recent years, puts out a hell of a lot of double-live sets. I've got to say, though, that despite my ho-hum approach to Time Machine, it is a pretty good - though not great - experience.

First, the CD. The main draw here is the now-fashionable inclusion of an historical album in its original running order; in this case, Moving Pictures, celebrating its 30th anniversary during the course of the 2010-11 tour captured here. Second, we get a full show from a single date (April 15, 2011 in, of course, Cleveland - the first US live date captured on a Rush record), always appealing to those who prefer their live discs of the warts and all unedited variety. And warts and all is what we get. "The Spirit of Radio" opens the show and immediately shows Geddy Lee's waning vocal power in terms of upper register.  The more surprising "Time Stand Still" follows and, despite even more vocal challenges, is still effective in drawing a veteran Rush listener in all its warmth. Some nice familiar album tracks follow in "Presto," "Stick it Out" and more and it becomes apparent that Time Machine and the concert it represents are definitely an experience aimed at the veteran fan, not the big hit seeker. The big hits are there, buried later in the program, leaving the listener to simply revel in the musicianship. If you could hear it. Geddy Lee, both his bass and faltering vocals (already an acquired taste for many), dominate with Alex Lifeson taking a bit of a backseat and Neil Peart's drums absolutely muffled in the mix. Even the requisite drum solo, here "Moto Perpetuo," is absolutely underwhelming.

The Moving Pictures portion is still exciting, especially hearing "The Camera Eye" for the first time on a Rush record. That said, once the novelty has worn off, i.e., after one listen, I'm just as happy to go back to the studio recording. This is where being there and listening to the live record are worlds apart. The record does close strong with a string of greats: "Closer to the Heart," "2112 Overture/Temples of Syrinx (but, wow, is this a toughie, vocally)," Snakes & Arrows' "Far Cry," "La Villa Strangiato" and a reggae-tinged, then raging "Working Man." Additionally, we get two new songs, "BU2B" and "Caravan," from the upcoming Clockwork Angels album (in the works since 2009). In summary: decent, not great. I still much prefer the piecemeal Different Stages or, if we must have a single night (for the most part), Rush in Rio.

The blu-ray, on the other hand, is an entirely different animal. It provides the next best thing to being there and is absolutely stunning to see how the visuals from a live show make a world of difference in enjoyment of the exact same material. For starters, the audio is far superior though, again, the drums are given short shrift. Edits are fairly appropriate and not so rushed as in the Rio concert film, for example, but do not always linger as long as they should in order to capture particular dominant passages. The energy of this band - and their fans - is what I find most infectious and I may start foregoing the CD versions of these live shows and sticking solely with blu-ray if this is what we can expect in both sound and visuals. If you like the CD, even a little, the blu-ray is a no-brainer. If you're on the fence, grab it as soon as you can, enjoy Rush as ageless as opposed to aging, and thank me later.


  1. i'm going to my 1st BTR concert on Feb 22..I'm a huge fan of Rush. I have all of their cds and dvds . I always do! i also got Rush Tickets and I’ve missed the first time they were in Colorado cuz my cousins were in town and my parents wouldn't take me.

    1. Very cool. I also hope to make it to a Rush show this year - Columbus on 9/20. I think tickets go on sale next week... Looking forward to the new LP, too!