Rush, R40 Live (Anthem, 2015). 3CD/1BluRay. Too many tracks to list.
Nothing Rush does is unimportant. Whether it’s winning an award, appearing on the cover of a mainstream magazine, releasing an album, or playing a concert, Rush matters. They’ve never not mattered, but they probably matter now more than ever. They’ve weathered every wave of music, always done exactly what they’ve wanted, and they’ve survived as a band for forty-one years.
What’s not to celebrate?
They are the grand men of rock, the grey eminence overlooking, overshadowing, and influencing every rock band since—whether directly or indirectly. Perhaps most importantly, however, they have influenced countless men (and, now, it seems, lots of women, too) in North and South America for at least two generations. Most importantly, they taught us not to be them, but to be ourselves, each and every one of us. If another voice in western culture has promoted individuality and excellence more than the three members of Rush, I’m not aware of that voice.
When Rush announced they’d be touring again for the fortieth-anniversary of the band (dating from when Peart joined), speculation flooded the media that this would be Rush’s last big tour. Of course, they were a year off—the tour came after forty-one years, but who really worries about such things. Forty years. Forty-one years. Either way, amen.
As I have had the privilege of writing many times, Rush has been my band—my obsession—since junior high detention, March 1981. Thank the good Lord for Troy and Brad, my fellow detainees, encouraging me to pick up this great new album, “Moving Pictures.” While other bands have certainly attracted me, none have done so in the way Rush has. Not only did I listen to every note—how many times?—but I absorbed every lyric, chased every reference, and fell head over heals for three Canucks whom I’ve never met.
When Rush played in Lincoln, Nebraska, this past summer, my two oldest kids—Nathaniel (16) and Gretchen (14) drove with me across the Great Plains from Boulder. It was their first Rush concert, and we loved every minute of it. Indeed, this is an understatement. We hung on every word and loved every aspect of the films. With thousands of others, we sang, jammed, and pumped our fists in the air.
The 3CD/1BluRay set arrived at my house in Michigan on Friday. I’ve had a bit of time to immerse myself in it. In terms of sound and visuals, this is an extraordinary release that absolutely captures the spirit of the tour. There are a number of things I’d not noticed when sitting high in the bleachers in Lincoln. Peart has a World War I RAF roundel in his drum set; Geddy has rearview mirrors on his keyboards; and there are lots of plastic dinosaurs near Alex. Additionally, things on stage really never stop moving. Lights change, props arrive and disappear, and there’s constant motion
I do have one complaint. Possibly a first when it comes to my view of Rush. The packaging for R40 Live is simply of poor quality. Not the disks. They’re fine. But, the cardboard holding the disks together is flimsy, and, even with the best care, I doubt it will last long or wear well. This is unfortunate, and I’m sorry the record label chose to put such a masterful moment in Rush’s history in such an ephemeral box. Talk about incongruous.
Still, R40 Live is well worth owning, as it captures such a crucial celebration. The blu-ray, especially, sounds extraordinary. As well it should.
–Brad Birzer is a founding editor of Progarchy and author of Neil Peart: Cultural (RE)Percussions (WordFire, 2015).