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After 2007's masterful studio output 'Snakes & Arrows', Rush hit the road in support of their latest offering. They really were riding a high. S&A was viewed by many as arguably Rush's finest offering since the 80's as well as a sign of rejuvenation and that the band's life blood was flowing ever strongly. So, in hindsight, I guess it was really no surprise that the band wanted to perpetuate the wave of acclaim and momentum by issuing (yet another!) live album. Indeed, this two disc release is the full-monty for any Rush enthusiast. Old, new, and surprisingly obscure songs have found their way into the latest live set list and put together provide the perfect companion piece for the studio recording.
Ever present are the classic live staples ala Tom Sawyer, Spirit of Radio, Freewill and Subdivisions (the latter sounding as inspired and moving as it ever has, I might add) while numbers like Circumstances, Entre Nous and Digital Man will bring a smile to any Rush lover's face for their combined unexpected presence on this release. Actually, when it boils right down to it, that is the main selling point of Snakes & Arrows Live: the oddities. The classics have been heard on Rush tours and live releases ad-nauseum for the past three decades but the aforementioned "treats" are what keeps these Rush live offerings fresh and buy-able. A Passage to Bangkok, Witch Hunt, Mission and Between the Wheels are other prime examples of underrated moments from the group's past that have crept into their live repertoire in order to please the die-hards. Not surprisingly those are the songs that leave the biggest impact and come across as the most exciting, genuine and fruitful.
The band also chose to play a large portion of the songs off Snakes & Arrows on the subsequent live shows. Some work and work well while others meander and can be considered the low-points of this album. Spindrift, for example, does nothing for me outside of an okay main riff and Armor & Sword is just doldrum in my humble opinion. Fortunately though, that's where the cons end as the other Snakes & Arrows tracks are performed with vigor and translate very well on stage. From the heaviest 'Far Cry' to the lightest 'Hope', if you listen to this live CD and have not heard the studio versions then it's really not to hard to grasp why the latter was considered such a juggernaut when it was issued. Oh, and don't worry, Neil Peart has another "Does this man have 5 arms?!" drum solo included here with a notable big band flare to it. It's fun, just like the rest of this stellar release.
This was business as usual for the band. Another tour, another impressive live album. While there are minor faults with this one such as certain songs that just aren't exciting in a live setting and Geddy Lee's voice at times coming across as a little weak, this album packs more than enough punch and will undoubtedly keep Rush fans happy for the time being. Until they start salivating for that next brilliant studio album, that is.