Soundchecks Music Reviews

Time Machine 2011 by Rush

164 minutes (E) 2011
Eagle Rock DVD

TIME MACHINE 2011: Live in Cleveland

review by Steve Palmer

Rush: rock titans, Canadian ambassadors, and instrumental maestros. Meanwhile, back in 1974, tuba, accordion and drum trio Rash have a problem. In a funny, affectionate and (thank goodness) not very serious parody, our heroes Geddy, Alex and Neil congregate at what appears to be a particularly greasy diner in order to try to get a band together and play some inspirational songs...

The Time Machine tour of 2011 was a triumph for the band, now in their fourth decade of global rock success, and this DVD features a mesmerising show from Cleveland, Ohio - "best audience ever," as Geddy observes towards the end. The concert is filmed from many angles, is technically excellent, and generates a great atmosphere. And so on to the actual music...

Opening with The Spirit Of Radio, the trio are in fine form, though the ravages of time are showing, particularly on Neil and Alex - Geddy, mysteriously, still appears to be about 40. A terrific version of Time Stand Still follows, showing what a lovely song that is (quite a hit at the time if memory serves), and then a jagged Presto. Stick It Out and Working Them Angels follow, then Leave That Thing Alone and Faithless, and then a brand new track, BU2B, which I think bodes well for the new album.

After these opening tracks the band launch into a white-hot rendition of one of my own favourites from the Rush canon, Freewill from Permanent Waves, where the band pull out all the stops to present a dazzling musical tour de force; certainly one of the highlights of the show. Marathon follows, from Power Windows - another of my favourite albums from what I feel is their most successful period - and then a stonking version of Subdivisions, which the audience clearly love. It shows again, if proof were needed, that between the mid 1970s and the late 1980s, Lee and Lifeson were superb songwriters, real masters of their art.

After some more affectionate spoofing of their own history in another ghastly diner episode, the band launch into the 'hook' of the tour, a complete rendition of one of the finest works in the rock canon, Moving Pictures. With majestic versions of Tom Sawyer, a particularly moving Limelight, and great versions of The Camera Eye and Vital Signs, this centrepiece of the DVD almost by itself shows the brilliance of the band.

A new cut, Caravan, begins the next section of the concert, showing that the forthcoming album is going to return the band to progressive roots - promising music indeed. Then it is time for Neil Peart to shine with another dazzling drum solo, including various subtle synth and sound effects that raise this potentially embarrassing moment into something entrancing. The man is, of course, a miracle. An Alex Lifeson solo spot on 12-string guitar follows, then a lovely rendition of possibly the finest ever Rush song, Closer To The Heart, which clearly delights the audience.

Sections from 2112 follow, then Far Cry from Snakes And Arrows, before a quite extraordinary version of La Villa Strangiato, in which all the band's tricks and chops come out: in places, jaw-dropping. I loved it. An exercise in self indulgence..? I don't think so...

The concert closes with a slightly odd reggae version of Working Man, which to be fair does work better than that descriptions sounds, before it's back to the 1974 greasy diner and a new version of Rash, with the places of the hopeless, nameless trio taken by Geddy, Alex, and Neil.

All in all, this is a DVD essential to any Rush fan, in which the musicianship, song-writing skills and self-depreciating humour of the band are obvious. It's a marvellous memento. And I hope, as Geddy says, that they do come back "further down the line."

Edited by Tony Lee
for PIGASUS Press