Sunday, November 20, 2011

Rush: Time Machine 2011 Concert Blu-Ray Review

Rush: Time Machine 2011 Concert Blu-Ray Review 
The Best Buy Exclusive Case - Last One in the Store Secured!

I love Rush.

I don't care what anyone else thinks of them.  They are simply the most technically proficient, hardest working, most likeable group of musicians I've ever heard.  Whether it's their intriguing lyrics or incredible musicianship, the boys from Canada have set a standard that may never be matched by a trio. I've seen them perform since 1987, and have witnessed their hits (Counterparts and Snakes & Arrows) and their misses (Test for Echo & Vapor Trails). So, when it was announced that we would get another live performance on blu-ray, I was determined to review it.

In many ways, the release is what we expect.  In some ways, namely the packaging, we are left wanting more.  I will be reviewing the Best Buy exclusive release, which contains the concert, a t-shirt, and features special packaging.

The Packaging
In a phrase, it's nice but quality is flimsy; I suppose if you decided to wear the Rash shirt offered inside, the box can be collapsed.  The box might sit ok on your shelf, but it's a far cry from the case for R30 or even Rush in Rio.  As mentioned, there is a Rash one-size shirt enclosed with the concert disc.  It's nice, so I won't be donning that one for...well...ever.  This set was part of the Best Buy exclusive, which means those who secure the concert after December 2011 will only get the video.

Decent box and packaging left me wanting more; nice shirt though!

The Disc
The disc case itself is very thin but is enclosed in a durable cardboard. The inside of the disc features some artwork from the Time Machine tour.  You get a small pamphlet of concert credits, but none of the expected information from Neil and the others.  More effort could have been made here.  It will be interesting to see what sort of cover will be released in December.  I will adjust this review once that version is released.  For now, let's hope we see an upgraded cover, perhaps a steelbook. 

What audiences want to see is the concert, and it doesn't disappoint. Video is impressive, with individual strands of hair and ripples in clothes easily apparent.  Multiple camera angles interspersed with concert backdrop footage and some vignettes (which are really funny) give the audience an immersive experience.  Blacks on my 58" plasma are deep; brights don't bleed and are as perfect as can be, given the shifting lattice that is always apparent in a live music performance.  Audio is also terrific - at the time of this, we don't have specs on the audio, so I'll update once they become available.  Regardless, the audio is superb: wash this through a nice receiver with 5.1 or better and every drumbeat, bass pop, and guitar rift by the band is easily and clearly heard. The lineup of songs, taken from the Cleveland show, are impressive, and feature the entire Moving Pictures album, which is played without a break in the second act.  You are basically talking about 48 minutes of non-stop music, a feat which seems all the more exceptional given their age.  I've always wanted to see isolated cameras on the band, which sometimes is not possible given that these concerts are shot over several days at a single stop.  But, to see entire songs like this should not be a problem.  Given the extraordinary space available on these discs, I hope we might start to see this trend appear in all concert releases.  If you're a fan of any band, you know how much you want this!

Special Features
The special features are interesting but left me unfulfilled.  I would have wished for a documentary of the tour, or a behind the scenes featurette of the Cleveland show. There are old performances from their appearance on Canadian Bandstand, as well as a 1976 black & white bootleg performance, which really isn't a 'bootleg' unless the band didn't authorize it.  Bootleg sounds sexy, but it's just an authorized performance from the band.  Yeah....what you realize in watching these old performances is just how much Rush has grown since their initial Led Zeppelin-like sound into a group which redefined the genre.  The videos appear in low-res, but again I'll update the numbers once they're released.

A Mixed Bag But Still Worth the Price
All in all, Time Machine is a nice addition to my rush concert collection, but it could have been better.  I have high expectations for releases in general, but these days it's more likely that a foreign country will have a memorable release.  The only solace I can take from this is that Time Machine will apparently be released worldwide in this format.  I can't say with total certainty how this will be accepted by the hardcore perfectionists of which I profess to be; while the packaging might have missed the mark, the concert itself proves without a doubt that Rush stands far above the competition.  Their time of acceptance into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame is only a matter of time.  Until then, I will continue to enjoy this release and others, all of which fill me with memories of air drumming and 'slappin da bass!'