Snakes & Arrows Live is an exciting and important document of Rush on tour in Amsterdam, during the fall of 2007. The three-DVD set is notable not just for the music (27 songs in all) but for the fantastic high-definition footage. We get up-close shots of Geddy Lee, Alex Lifeson and Neil Peart as they play their signature parts on classics such as “The Spirit Of Radio,” “Limelight” and “Tom Sawyer,” and stage shots of the men who seem to be having a marvelous time – the smiles are contagious. And the audio is as impressive as the video.
A few things stand out immediately: Lee’s voice – once the emitter of castrati-like notes – has mellowed and deepened, giving the older tunes a new resonance. Lifeson’s guitar solos – heard here in the context of 30-plus years of music – remain instantly recognizable and completely individual. Lifeson is a very underrated soloist. And what more can be said about Peart? He is one of rock’s greatest drummers – one of the few whose drum parts from song to song actually matter. Whether you are a drummer or not, the rhythms of “Tom Sawyer,” “2112” and countless other songs are lodged in your melon. I promise. It’s wonderful (and humbling) to watch him work the kit – a true master.
Best of all, the discs contain a perfect mix of hits, new songs and some surprises that Rush fans will love. The music samples heavily, and rightly so, from Rush’s stellar 2007 album Snakes & Arrows, a record I assert is the band’s best since 1982’s Signals. Whether it’s the broad, bluesy opening of “The Way The Wind Blows,” the driving instrumental “The Main Monkey Business” or Lifeson’s gorgeous acoustic piece “Hope,” this album has everything that makes Rush such a special outfit. Take the Snakes & Arrows’ tracks and generously pepper the set list with chestnuts including “Entre Nous,” “Circumstances,” “Natural Science,” “A Passage To Bangkok,” “Witch Hunt” and “Subdivisions,” and you’ve got a superb retrospective of Rush’s amazing musical journey.
And be sure to check out the DVD extras, particularly the “comic” bits featuring Geddy and Alex.