DVD Review: Rush Snakes & Arrows Live

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Whether or not you are a Rush fan, there’s no getting away from the fact that those three guys (particularly Geddy Lee and Alex Lifeson) have a sense of humor and are not afraid to stretch themselves a bit and try their hand at some comedy routines. Their idea of comedy doesn’t align too well with my personal taste, but seeing Geddy Lee dressed up like a Scotsman complete with kilt and pretty well-executed accent was entertaining nonetheless.

I’ll confess to be a little slow on the uptake since I did not recognize the genie with the spinning noggin as Alex Lifeson until I heard about it later. I’ll give him high marks for his phony accent as well – not bad at all.

There are also appearances of various other comedic talents such as Jerry Stiller, The South Park kids as well as Bob and Doug McKenzie of “Great White North” fame. I’m not sure who many Dutch fans in attendance recognized some of these characters, but with the global nature of entertainment these days, perhaps they were more recognizable than the average North American might suspect.

The real meat (which of course, would be chicken) of this 3-DVD set (1 DVD for the Blu-ray version) is of course the Snakes & Arrows Live concert footage, which was filmed over the course of two nights in Rotterdam, Holland during October of 2007. Employing 21 high-definition cameras certainly provides a very thorough presentation of the show and spends ample time featuring each of the three legendary performers and how they interact, and seem to genuinely enjoy performing for the assembled audience.

In addition to the Rotterdam performance, there are four songs on the “Oh, Atlanta! The Authorized Bootleg” portion of this release.

Sound quality is quite good, although I found the quality of the recently-reviewed David Gilmour CD set, Live in Gdansk more to my liking. This may be due to the open air venue in Gdansk as opposed to the indoor venue in Rotterdam, where recording may present more challenges. I’m no sound technician, and even though I prefer the quality of Gilmour’s recording, Snakes & Arrows Live is about as good as one might expect from a live recording.

Other minor criticisms include some portions of the mix that seem to bury Lifeson’s guitar a bit too far beneath the other instruments and vocals during certain passages.

I honestly don’t know whether Neil Peart’s snare drum malfunctioned or whether he switched to a different one during the performance of  “The Trees,” but I thought its muddy, shallow sound really detracted from that performance when compared to the punchier snare sound on during the original recording.

With the group’s decision to perform some of their older material such as “Red Barchetta” and “2112” came some significant vocal challenges for Geddy Lee who is not able to hit the high notes like he once could. He can hardly be blamed, however, since these guys are in their mid-fifties and are still out there putting on great shows and thrilling fans around the globe.

I’ll concede that some, if not all of these criticisms are probably a bit on the nit-picky side given the challenges of presenting a quality recording of a live performance, and none of these criticisms would sway my decision away from adding this release to my collection.

The set list is posted in about a billion other places, so I’ll save some space here and not bother with it. I think its enough to say that this release is a must for inclusion in the collection of any Rush fan. Being one whose somewhat reclusive nature makes me less desirous of standing amidst a few thousand screaming fans, I dare say that watching Snakes & Arrows Live is preferable to actually being there. Many will disagree, but you aren’t going to get close enough to each one of these guys to see the kind of detail you will see with this release, especially the Blu-ray version.

The obligatory drum solo was of course included, and as contradictory as it may seem for an old drummer (strictly amateur, trust me!) like myself to say, I’m not a big drum solo guy. Demonstrating ones technical ability and speed is of course impressive, but I’ve always enjoyed hearing a good drummer accompanied by fellow performers rather than solo.

However, Peart brings an interesting and more entertaining element to his solo by the use of some electronic pads to create a unique melodic interlude before launching into his big band style finale which I thought was very cool. As far as drum solos go, I’d say that was about the most unique and entertaining I have encountered.

In case you haven’t picked up on it by now, if you are a Rush fan and do not already have this release, go get it as soon as you can. I’ve been a fan since the late 70’s myself and for me, the Blu-ray version of this release on a big screen HDTV with a good surround sound system would be as good as being there. Actually, probably better.

Snakes & Arrows Live is available at Amazon.com for about $20, which seems like a good bargain for a release packed with this much content. The previous link takes you to the Blu-ray version, so just be sure you select the standard version if you decide to order from Amazon and don’t have Blu-ray player at your disposal.

I consider myself a pretty dedicated Rush fan, although not quite to the level of a “Trekkie” who might show up at a Star Trek convention wearing a pair of Spock ears, so I’m still a bit mystified with regard to the recurring “chicken” theme that’s referenced on this release.

Maybe I’m just a bit dense or have somehow missed something obvious, but if you are as clueless about the whole poultry thing and how it relates to Rush as I am, the internet – I presume – is at your disposal. Myself, I’ll just enjoy the show and allow the mystery to endure.

2 Comments

  1. MAGZ AFemaleRUSHfan January 8, 2009 at 6:05 pm

    I have been a fan of Rush since Signals. I have seen them live more times than I can remember sometimes twice per tour (it’s great to have a job). The comedic banter short story is played throughout every live concert and it is different every tour. I grew up around guys, I have more of a “guy” sense of humor (don’t even ask me how a woman’s mind works). I could not help but think the chicken reference for the comedy story of that tour was a subsitute for a “chick” or a woman. I could be wrong but it works for me! I do not consider this derogatory myself I found it funny as heck. If you replay the DVD from the beginning with that in mind you may find it even more entertaining. Take Care and Happy New Year!

  2. Real Rock News January 8, 2009 at 9:58 pm

    Thanks for that insight, MAGZ.

    It’s always great to hear from a female Rush fan!

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