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Rush - Clockwork Angels Tour CD (album) cover




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3.99 | 118 ratings

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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.

tarkus1980 | 4/5 |


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