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5 stars This is a phenomenal live recording, enhanced by the addition of a nine member string ensemble. As far as I am concerned, whenever anything can be done to bring about the enhancement of Rush's songs; it is always better. The Clockwork Angels String ensemble is composed of great musicians who have redefined Rush as a symphonic progressive rock band; their interpretation of songs from Clockwork Angels is precise, uplighting and beautiful, providing each of these songs with a dramatic flair which would further improve their already superlative compositions. The bulk of the material that the ensemble enhances comes from the Clockwork Angels' album. The remainder comes from two of their more popular recordings, Power Windows (Manhattan Project) and Roll The Bones (Dreamline). There is also a song from Grace Under Pressure (Red Sector A) and Moving Pictures (YYZ) which also receive this symphonic enhancement.

The first set is a hodgepodge of earlier Rush classics, beginning with 'Subdivisions' from "Signals" and concluding with 'Far Cry' from "Snakes & Arrows." Much of this set is dominated by songs from "Power Windows," including 'The Big Money,' 'Grand Designs' and 'Territories', "Roll The Bones" is represented by 'Bravado' and 'Where's My Thing' and the remaining songs are either from "Signals" (The Analog Kid), or "Grace Under Pressure" (The Body Electric), or "Hold Your Fire," (Force Ten). These are all great songs, although I think that 'Bravado' would have been another great song to re-interpret with the addition of the string ensemble.

The second set and a portion of the third set however is what makes this recording spectacular. First of all, let me say that I am not and have never been, a Rush purist. In my honest opinion, whatever can be done to enhance their work is perfectly acceptable. Therefore, the songs on this disc are enhanced by the support of the Clockwork Angels String Ensemble. Beginning with 'Caravan,' we are led on a personal journey through some individual's life. 'Caravan' is extraordinary and sets the stage for the sublime 'Clockwork Angels,' the gripping 'Anarchist,' the dark and moody 'Carnies,' the intensely sad, but beautiful 'The Wreckers,' the energetic 'Headlong Flight,' the serene 'Halo Effect,' the intense 'Seven Cities Of Gold,' the reflective 'Wish You Well' and the superlative 'The Garden.' 'The Garden' has the elements which have made it an instant classic, it is sublime, understated and ethereal. Geddy Lee's singing reaches a new level of calmness, heretofore unknown.

The third set begins with the extraordinary 'Dreamline,' from the magnificent album "Roll The Bones." To those detractors who do not like "Roll The Bones," for some unknown reason, one cannot deny that Geddy Lee's voice had never been better before, nor since the release of that recording. On this particular song, the Clockwork Angels String Ensemble adds greatly to the overall atmosphere of 'Dreamline.' In my honest opinion, this version is even better than that on "Roll The Bones." The remainder of the songs, 'Red Sector A' and 'YYZ' benefit greatly from the String ensemble which adds more depth and texture to each of these songs. Of course, I was not surprised by yet another version of those Rush staples, 'The Spirit Of Radio,' 'Tom Sawyer,' and '2112,' but 'Middletown Dreams,' 'The Pass' and 'Manhattan Project' were spectacular. Conclusion: I highly recommend this recording; it is one of Rush's best live albums!

Report this review (#1110023)
Posted Tuesday, January 7, 2014 | Review Permalink
Honorary Collaborator
4 stars This Rush live CD is identical in musical content to the DVD released under the same title "Clockwork Angels Tour". The set lists are in 3 parts generally opening with an 80s set nicely pitched within Geddy Lee's vocal range. It feels a bit like a reimagining of the live "A Show of Hands" set and is almost identical in the first half. There is very little from any of the 70s back catalogue that many would argue is the best Rush era so it is a risk to ignore the classic 70s. Personally I think it is nice to hear some different songs for a change though I missed Bytor and the Snow Dog, La Villa Strangiata, Xanadu and especially Working Man. The reworking of all the 80s songs are better than the studio versions, much heavier and better production, not as tinny as the retro 80s versions, so the CD grabbed my interest from the first strains of Subdivisions. Alex Lifeson's lead breaks are fantastic, and at times very different to the studio versions. Neil Peart has no less than 3 extended drum solos on this concert. Geddy is wonderful on bass and especially the synths on this concert.

Set One consists of Subdivisions from "Signals", and from "Power Windows" The Big Money, Territories, and Grand Designs, one of the only tracks not on "A Show of Hands". Rush revisit "Hold Your Fire" with Force Ten, and "Grace Under Pressure" with The Body Electric, featuring those memorable lyrics "One humanoid escapee, One android on the run, Seeking freedom beneath a lonely desert sun". Then the band rock out with The Analog Kid from "Signals" that I always love to hear. Another one from "Roll The Bones" is next, the bittersweet beauty of Bravado with potent lyrics sung so meaningfully here "If we burn our wings, Flying too close to the sun, If the moment of glory Is over before its begun". The best track on this Set is perhaps Far Cry from "Snakes And Arrows" sounding vibrant and electrifying on the live stage, though it must be seen to really appreciate it as the flames and spectrum lights are mesmirising.

Disk Two is Set Two which is the Clockwork Angels Set with 9 tracks featured; Caravan, Clockwork Angels, The Anarchist, Carnies, The Wreckers, Headlong Flight, Halo Effect, Seven Cities of Gold, Wish Them Well, The Garden, and a drum solo thrown in for good measure. It is a powerhouse performance and definitely worth hearing or even viewing on the DVD, the best way to experience it, especially to watch the amazing light show and Steampunk décor of the stage. The Clockwork Angels String Ensemble add much to the songs and enhance each track with Cello and Violins eloquently adding ambience and dramatic nuances. Peart's drum solo Drumbastica is spine tingling with all the trimmings of his usual awesome speed drumming.

CD 3 is a collection of crowd pleasers and oddities including Dreamline from "Roll the Bones", and The Percussor (I) Binary Love Theme (II) Steambanger s Ball (drum solo), another Peart moment, with weird effects and sound clashes. The band reappear to crank out Red Sector A from "Grace Under Pressure", a brilliant version of YYZ from "Moving Pictures", and fret melting fingering on Spirit of Radio from "Permanent Waves". The encore consists of a grand version of classic rush with Tom Sawyer, and then we are treated to the brilliant crunching irregular chords of 2112. This is the end of the concert but the CD features the same bonus tracks as on the DVD, namely a fascinating soundcheck recording of Limelight, virtually a karaoke version with Lee missing most lyrics out in the rehearsal. Middletown Dreams, from "Power Windows", is next, then The Pass from "Presto", and finally Manhattan Project, a better version than the one from "Power Windows".

Admittedly this CD cannot beat the DVD experience as it adds so much when you can actually relive the band onstage goofing around and enjoying themselves with an appreciative crowd and some mind bending lighting effects. However this CD package is great on its own steam(punk), clock(work)ing over 3 hours of live music, so it comes highly recommended for Rushaholics and Heavy Prog lovers worldwide.

Report this review (#1124610)
Posted Friday, January 31, 2014 | Review Permalink
4 stars I can very easily envision a scenario in which a casual fan would have attended one of the shows on this tour and come away feeling angry. Perhaps the band felt that its live shows had gotten a bit too predictable, especially in regards to leaning excessively on material from Permanent Waves and Moving Pictures, because this album shows the band mixing things up a lot. Until the 4-track run of "YYZ"/"The Spirit of Radio"/"Tom Sawyer"/"2112" at the very end ("Limelight" is also in the bonus tracks), the earliest the band goes with its material is Signals, and this means a lot of focus on the stretch from Signals to Roll the Bones (Presto is ignored in the main show but has "The Pass" in the bonus tracks). Furthermore, the band plays a whopping ten of the twelve tracks from Clockwork Angels (sadly leaving out "B.U.2.B" but including "Caravan"), with a full string section to accompany them (they also stick around after the Clockwork Angels set finishes up). It's not hard at all for me to see somebody coming out feeling a little pissed off that they dropped $150 on Rush but didn't hear "Free Will," "Natural Science," "La Villa Strangiato," "Red Barchetta" or a bunch of others.

While this clear emphasis on providing a different kind of show than usual might not have been ideal for many fans attending the shows, it did make for a live album that has a bit more of a reason to exist than its two immediate predecessors. Ok, yes, there are downsides to having such a strong on emphasis on material from Signals onward; I end up having to sit through "Grand Designs" and "The Body Electric" again, and the bonus tracks end up including "Middletown Dreams" and "Manhattan Project," so that's not ideal for me. Then again, it's great to have "Subdivisions" and "The Analog Kid" on a live album together, and it's great to have a live version of "Territories" to go with another good version of "Big Money," and I still find "Red Sector A" moving, and I still enjoy every version of "Force Ten" that I can get my hands on. Plus, while "Dreamline" and "Bravado" make it on, "Roll the Bones" thankfully does not, and in its place we get "Where's My Thing," albeit coupled with a drum solo. But wait, even the requisite drum soloing is better this time around! Somebody must have pointed out to Neil that he'd basically been playing variations of the same drum solo since the beginning of time, because he found a way to add more variety to it; instead of taking one long solo, he takes three relatively short ones, spread throughout the show. The total amount of time spent soloing is probably about the same as usual, but I end up treating it as less of a chore this time around, and I have to give credit where credit is due.

As for playing Clockwork Angels in almost its entirety, I can't begrudge them this when the album is one of my favorite Rush albums and only had minimal live album coverage to this point. "Caravan" continues to have a lot of the attributes that tend to bug me about Rush, but everything else from that album is rousing and energetic and a surprising amount of fun here. The live string section ends up as a very nice touch as well; it's not like it's an integral part of the sound like the orchestra on YesSymphonic, for instance, but it adds some depth to the sound in useful points.

While I don't exactly think that the original versions of the material on here were better than the original versions of the material that had become the central feature of Rush live concerts and live albums, I do think the material played on this tour was a better fit for the band at this point in time. I don't hear the same sluggishness playing the Signals-onward material that I had started to hear with the Permanent Waves/Moving Pictures material in previous live albums (and oddly, there seems to be a little less sluggishness in that material as played here than there had been on previous albums), and there's certainly no sluggishness in all of the material the band had just finished up in the last few years (I should mention that there's also a performance of "Far Cry" on here, and it's good enough). Where the last couple of live albums each merited a couple of listens and a shrug, this one earns its keep. If you force-fed yourself the last two live albums, or even if you didn't, be sure to give this one a shot.

Report this review (#1298549)
Posted Wednesday, October 29, 2014 | Review Permalink
Honorary Collaborator
3 stars I am a big (not to say huge) Rush fan, I own almost all of their releases, saw them live and keep following what they do. But, I must say that it's very, very sad to hear all this great music that Rush has in its back catalogue for the thousandth time live since 1997 (this is the sixth live release since then against 3 studio albums in the same time) and even more so it's really sad when you hear how bad Geddy Lee is singing.

I am one of those guys that always fought back when people accused him of having a horrible voice, because I always thought he has an amazing powerfull voice. So it's really sad when you hear him suffering so much and even going out of tune to reach notes that he would hit so easily in the past.

It's particular bad in tracks like 'Far Cry' (one of my favorite from the band), where his voice is REALLY bad.

To be very honest the material played in this 3 hours set is, as always with Rush, superb! They play if flawlessly as always. But I'm really surprised that they keep releasing live stuff as it is now. Sure, play concerts, people still want to see you live but do not release every single tour as it has been since 2002. To be honest, I'm not even sure if they hear the tapes before releasing them... because I have the impression that if they did, they would not put this album out...

Report this review (#1391163)
Posted Tuesday, March 31, 2015 | Review Permalink

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