'Snakes & Arrows Live' DVD/Blu-Ray Review

By Neil Jeffries, Classic Rock, January 2009, transcribed by pwrwindows

Forget the recycling ploys, for Rush fans this 2007 show and more is the dog's bollocks.

Let's get the negative stuff out of the way first. Which is Rush adding live album/live DVD and now live BluRay to the album/tour/T-shirt cycle. Those of us who once embraced their four studio/one double live album career path are now faced with an avalanche of live product that repeats, recycles and devalues what has come before.

But at least it helps pay for one of the greatest shows on earth and enables us to re-live each brilliantly shot moment. Richard Chycki's film switches gracefully from swooping pans to close-ups of the fingerwork by Alex Lifeson/Geddy Lee, and overheads of Neil Peart battering away at an arsenal of percussion.

Filmed in Rotterdam in 2007 this is the whole show (on two discs) Rush brought to the UK. The same Snakes And Arrows-dominated set-list, from the comedy clip that opens the show to the YYZ encore that closes it. There's no room for spontaneity, of course. From Lifeson stopping playing the opening riff of Limelight, with Lee and Peart apparently not ready, to the bassist filming the audience - urging them to yell "Hello Canada!" to the folks back home - before Natural Science, this is exactly as you'll remember it.

A third disc, 'Oh, Atlanta! The Authorized Bootleg', has four songs added to the set-list as the tour stretched into 2008: Ghost Of A Chance is so-so, but Red Barchetta, The Trees and The Temples Of Syrinx are the three most missed from the original show.

So it's the show you saw, and a whole lot more: the descent of the lighting pods, like War Of The Worlds-style invaders, in Spindrift and Witch Hunt; Peart's multi-part drum solo; and the brilliant, set-closing pairing of The Spirit Of Radio and Tom Sawyer.

In many ways, despite a light show that only Pink Floyd/Roger Waters could better and musicianship that none could rival, it's the humour on show that really lifts this DVD. The opening sequence (on screens at the gigs, shown full-screen here) sets the tone. We see Lifeson in his pyjamas, waking from a nightmare (and Peart waking into one of his own), then Lee being harangued by his Scottish alter ego Harry Satchel. As the gig enfolds, their po-faced progrock image is further debunked by glimpses of the Barbie dolls at Lifeson's feet, the mini-Stonehenge trilithon perched on Geddy's Roland synth etc.

Despite reservations about live product overkill, it all adds up to the best Rush DVD ever.

DVD Extras

* "What's That Smell?" Lee's alter ego Harry Satchel drives through a desert in search of fried chicken, picking up Barbie hitch-hikers while breaking the mould for Canadians and prog rock trios. Even funnier are the out-takes of Alex Lifeson - sporting comedy teeth and a ridiculous collection of accents. Alternative cuts of Far Cry and The Way The Wind Blows (with full-screen projections) plus Red Sector A also feature.