Rush’s Clockwork Angels Tour (Roadrunner) is the iconic rock band’s fifth live album in ten years. Which, even to longtime fans, might seem like overkill. But with the group trying something different this time around — something they’ve never done before, and may never do again — this concert collection is the most unique live album the band have released in ten years, perhaps ever.
In numerous interviews over the years, the guys in Rush have said that they’ve often debated the idea of bringing other musicians on tour with them — to play rhythm guitar or keyboards or whatever — but just decided against the idea.
That is, until the recent tour in support of their 2012 album, Clockwork Angels. With that album featuring a string section on a handful of tracks, the band decided to bring a nine piece string section on the road.
Even cooler, rather than just have them play the songs that originally had strings on them, the string section performs on all ten songs from the album that the band did during their show’s second set, as well as well as the older songs “Dreamline,” “Red Sector A,” and “YYZ,” the latter of which is easily the highlight of the tour.
The only problem is that hearing real strings on those songs, especially the older ones, just makes the non-stringy tracks seem less special, especially “Tom Sawyer,” “The Spirit Of Radio,” and “2112,” which they played after the string set. And I would’ve paid good money to hear they do “Witch Hunt” with some strings.
Even so, Rush’s Clockwork Angels tour also distinguishes itself for having a rather eclectic first set. During the first set, the band played a number songs they haven’t done in a while, or even all that often. And while such tunes as “Grand Designs,” “Territories,” and “The Analog Kid” don’t get the string treatment, their inclusion does make the first set the most esoteric that these guys have played in years.
Of course, it also helps that the guys in Rush have been firing on all cylinders lately. Whether you listen to them here or the other recent live albums, the guys are clearly having a lot of fun playing live these days, and its imbued their live shows with an energy normally found in bands half their age.
Needless to say, the CD version of Rush’s Clockwork Angels Tour perfectly captures this interesting tour in all its glory. It even goes a little further, adding a couple extra tracks at the end, including a version of “Manhattan Project” with the string section.
That said, for some fans — myself included — Rush’s Clockwork Angels Tour has a serious flaw. Unlike their other recent live albums, which presented single shows, uncut, the album is a combination of three different shows, all cut together to sound like one. This may sound like a silly thing to bitch about to some people, but for fans of uncut concert recordings (like me), it makes this album a lot less interesting. As does tacking on extra tracks at the end.
If this doesn’t bother you, though, by all means, get Rush’s Clockwork Angels Tour. Between the eclectic first set and the addition of a string section in the second, it is, as I said, the most unique live album these guys have recorded in years, if ever. I just wish it was the purist as well.