Was there any doubt Rush’s Clockwork Angels tour would make it on disc?
Rush’s acclaimed tour ended this summer but for the nostalgic and those who couldn’t attend one of the shows, Clockwork Angels Tour (released November 19 on CD and DVD/Blu-Ray) is a nice memento to carry around whenever listening to the latest Rush is a must.
It’s not the greatest live album but it certainly beats by far the Time Machine 2011: Live in Cleveland album which is nearly unbearable. Depending on what rumors to believe (Geddy Lee might have had a cold that night?) Lee’s voice is awful on the CD version but the DVD is great. Not sure how that works but perhaps it’s more a production matter though one wonders if anybody involved with the final mixing listened to the CD.
Clockwork Angels Tour is very raw which is a good thing as Rush used to meddle so much with past live albums the final recording sometimes came across as studio version. However, it also for the first time shows Lee’s vocal range limits. Simply put, at 59 for the recording, Lee’s vocal range is no longer what it used to be. That’s not to say it’s bad, just a matter of getting used to in some respects, a new voice singing Rush songs.
Oh, there’s definitely vintage Lee here, checkout “Headlong Flight” and during the lower range songs like “Dreamline” and “Red Sector A” you’d never be the wiser if it was 1992 or 2012. “The Wreckers,” from the studio version of Clockwork Angels, is just as searing live as the album tract. But songs “Grand Designs,” “The Body Electric,” and even “Middletown Dreams” take a step back and Lee is clearly singing, physically, a bit different than the past. At times, he almost sounds operatic and other times strings along a lyric as if to compensate for the lack of higher register. But seriously, after a few listens, this version of Lee slowly works its way into the songs.
Outside of getting used to Lee’s lower range, Clockwork Angels Live shows a nearly 40 year old band creating live music better than ever. Guitarist Alex Lifeson’s solo on “The Analog Kid” simply rips and he adds another great one on “Force Ten.” Gone is the eight-minute Neil Peart drum solo, enter three separate drum solos throughout the evening.
If anything, Clockwork Angels Live testifies to a band never resting on their laurels and always trying to change and push the limits of the live experience. Moreover, it also shows the depth of the Rush catalog and the confidence the band has not only in their deeper album-cut songs but for their fans to embrace those songs.
Sorry to say for those unable to catch show, the one thing this album lacks probably more so than any other live Rush album is the in-person experience. This tour which incorporated a string ensemble required the live experience. “Headlong Flight” simply does not deliver the intensity and atmosphere on disc that the three members of Rush accomplished live. Watching Lifeson solo on “The Analog Kid” and “Peke’s Repose” (with all that fog!) is not to be missed. Experiencing the production and stage show incorporated into the 10 new tracts brings even more life to the songs. Compact disc be damned – Lee never sounded better during this tour like in Seattle, Vancouver, BC and Portland. He perhaps had one off night in Los Angeles that got fixed for the second half of the show.
The live album gives a taste of what the string section did for the new songs and perhaps for at-home listening the realization that, yes, this orchestra of sorts, really does work not only on Clockwork Angels but for “Manhattan Project,” “YYZ” and “Dreamline.” Surprisingly, “Losing it” didn’t make the setlist though.
The biggest gem on this album is the sound check recording of “Limelight.” Lee sings part of the lyrics to get the band rolling and then saves his voice as they jam through the song. Believe it – “Limelight” could have been an instrumental! In the future, bands like Rush would do their fans well by offering more of these Easter eggs instead of “Tom Sawyer” for the umpteenth time.