Rush: This is your life. That's the feel of R30, a celebration of sorts of thirty years in business for one of the most innovative bands to come out of the seventies. In fact, Rush didn't just come out of the seventies, they have continued to make interesting and downright amazing music for their entire career, a rare feat musically speaking. This double DVD/double CD goes a long way towards proving that point and only occasionally slips into the boring realm of nostalgia, territory the band has avoided for the bulk of its existence. Rush's place in history is all but assured. They took prog and heavy metal to new places and mixed science fiction and pop sensibilities into genres which had actively shunned both for time untold. Their larger works and conceptual masterpieces elevated rock to a new level of composition. Rush has always maintained intelligence without sinking to aloofness, kept anthemic qualities without cornball antics, and dazzled listeners with unparalleled technical skill without ever becoming a musicians-only band. Make no mistake, this is a creation for the fans of the band, but even the uninitiated will find a lot to enjoy on R30. Rush is just that kind of band, and that's probably why they've been around for thirty years plus.
The centerpiece of the collection is an entire concert, filmed in Germany on the band's thirtieth anniversary jaunt through the world. After a Terry Gilliam-esque opening sequence featuring an animated conglomeration of the band's album artwork through the years and a brief introduction by Jerry Stiller (!?) the band hits the stage in obviously jubilant form. For a band that's been through its paces over the years, it's nice to see three guys who still seem to really love what they do and what they give to their audience.
The "R30 Overture" gets things going with a medley of some of the bands better known songs, delivered instrumentally. "Finding My Way", "Bastille Day", and "A Passage to Bangkok" are just a couple of the pieces of the larger work the band put together for this tour. Make no mistake, this is no overblown orchestral rendering of Rush, just the pure power and ecstasy of the quintessential power trio. Geddy Lee, Alex Lifeson, and Neal Peart run seamlessly from one song to the next, still not taking a break as they slam into "Spirit of Radio" in a performance that will give you goose bumps. For those who have never seen Rush live, this is mandatory viewing, just to get a glimpse into how the band makes those wonderful noises in all your favorite songs.
Rush delivers a good mix of old favorites and some more obscure tracks, all the while showcasing the musical chops that got them this far. Peart, as always, steals the show. His extended solo, "Der Trommler" is awe-inspiring. There may not be a better or more jaw-dropping drummer out there, as he combines technical precision with the power of Bonham and the ten-armedness of Keith Moon. Lifeson delivers his usual flawless performance. He remains one of the most underrated guitar players of his generation.
The only real weak spots throughout the set are the few old chestnuts the band recorded for its most recent studio effort, Feedback. While it's interesting to hear a band like Rush's take on some old favorites like "The Seeker" and "Crossroads", let's face it-it's been done. Some of the animation during the concert does little but to stall the momentum the band builds up throughout the show. The little cartoon movie about seventies, mustachioed, Rush fighting some sort of Claymation dragon really just drags. They finish nicely, however, with a version of "Limelight" which resonates powerfully. After all, "All the world's a stage and we are merely players, performers and portrayers," aren't we?
The second disc adds nicely to the overall collectibility of the set. "The Anthem Vault" as it's called, cobbles together lots of odds and ends, presenting the band live and otherwise at various stages throughout its career. Perhaps for perspective, perhaps just so the fans can have all of this stuff together, whatever the reason, it's a respectable bunch of Rush. There are also several different interviews, also from various times through the history of Rush. These are perhaps the biggest surprise, as they don't drag on agonizingly like most such bonus material, but rather show the band, and particularly Geddy Lee, to be intelligent, introspective and ever insightful. They are candid in a way that "celebrities" just aren't anymore. Lee's response in a 1979 interview to a question about Fleetwood Mac's last album costing around 1.1 million dollars to record is classic. In his words to need that much to make an album, "You'd have to be pretty bad." The sound is perfect even on the older material, and it takes a couple of hours just to explore everything and hunt around for the fabled "Easter eggs". To top it all off, they throw in the two audio CD set as well. Although it adds nothing new to the whole affair, it's nice to have for listening on the road, and it was just darned nice of them to think of us like that.
There is a segment of the rock population, and you hear it whenever you mention Rush in a crowded room, that simply can't get past Geddy Lee's higher range vocals. For them, I am truly sorry, because they are missing out on one of the truly original, consistently amazing rock bands ever to come out of the genre. From spine-tingling pop anthems to huge conceptual pieces, Rush has done it all, but all of it in the way they wanted to. To get a sampling of if all, R30 is a worthy purchase as the viewer/listener gets a choice mix of Rush from the last three decades. An excellent release.
Rush - R30: 30th Anniversary World Tour DVD