R40 Live (3CD, 3CD+DVD, 3CD+Blu-ray, DVD, Blu-ray)
Release Date: 4th December 2015
Canadian progressive rock legends Rush have been recording and touring for over 40 years now. With more Gold and Platinum discs (and other awards) than most can barely dream of, this trio have produced a fine string of top selling albums and explored more keys than a locksmith.
Originally planned as a 40th anniversary of their 1974 eponymous debut, the 2015 tour became a 40th anniversary of drummer Neil Peart joining the band.
This live tour ran from May to August this year and this extensive live set, recorded over two sold-out shows in their native Toronto, Ontario, Canada, spans their 41 year recording career.
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Rush started as a blues/rock band (think British blues power trio) and moved in a more progressive rock direction, influenced by early Genesis and Jethro Tull, but during the 80s the sound was updated with the introduction of polished hard rock, radio friendly power pop and even a hint of reggae in places.
With albums like '2112' (reviewed on MetalTalk here), 'A Farewell To Kings' and 'Permanent Waves', and live sets including 'Exit Stage Left' and 'A Show Of Hands', there's many a polished progressive set that is essential listening.
With trademark high vocals, time and key changes, layered multi instruments and fantasy concepts, the band have built a virtuoso reputation and fan-base to match. Oh, and there might be the odd hit single along the way too.
The show here opens with 'The World Is…. The World is…', the enthusiastic audience response that of a homecoming. 'The Anarchist' from 2012's Clockwork Angels is seven minutes of modern prog rock joy, some serious riffing and driving rhythms.
'Headlong Flight' from the same album, showing confidence in their newer material, continues the modern heavy sound and is slightly extended too, finishing with the band talking to the crowd.
'Far Cry' ('Snakes and Arrow') is a chunkier number with equal polish and layering.
With tracks from 'Signals' ('Subdivisions', 'Losing It'), 'Grace Under Pressure' ('Between The Wheels') and 'Roll The Bones', disc one is already mixing material from across the catalogue, across the genres.
The band engage the audience between songs, and the songs themselves are of varied length, not all side-spanning workouts which keeps the interest. 'How It Is' gets a rare live outing too.
There's a thoroughly enjoyable heaviness to much here, and the keyboard peddles add an extra dimension too.
Disc 2 kicks off with 'Tom Sawyer', a fan and radio favourite, and from then on the spread of tracks from across the catalogue continues in a fashion that will have fans drooling.
'XYZ' has always been a personal favourite, likewise 'Spirit Of Radio'. 'Cygnus X-1The Story So Far' includes a drum solo, then 'Xanadu', '2112', 'Distant Early Warning' and a return to 'Losing It', all highlighting both a strength of material across the years and the blend of 70s progressive rock with a more modern technical Art Rock.
From riffing/soloing alternating with guitar/bass interplay, and powerful and intricate rhythms throughout, this trio produce an interesting, encapsulating and intriguing rock that is energetic throughout.
There are thirty one tracks across three CDs, a recording quality that lives up to Rush's usual standards, and visually the numerous cameras capture the band and audience in film-like fashion. The stripped down stage set put the emphasis on the music, and rightly so.
While the band are on top form, the music excellent, the performance tight and energetic, and although organic in places the fairly close adherence to the original album arrangements does sound slightly dry compared to other live sets.
The visuals are done really well, but it's the audio option that will probably be of most interest to the more casual fan.