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Saturday 31 August 2019

Sound & Vision: Rush - Cinema Strangiato (Film Review By Paul H)

Rush - Cinema Strangiato

It’s been four years since the R40 tour snuffed out the candle that was Rush in the live arena. Four long years since the most impressive live band I’ve ever seen ceased to be. And whilst yes, I can fully understand the reasons that Neil Peart gave for putting away his sticks, cymbals, gongs and glockenspiel, the void still hurts. I was lucky enough to catch the band five times over the years, from 1988 to 2012. The R40 tour never made it across the pond, something that caused distress to thousands of Rush fans in Europe. The R40 DVD and CD release didn’t help to ease the pain, as the stunning three-hour show was crammed full of goodies and showed a band on the form of their lives. Watching it on your TV just isn’t the same. But the next best thing was to watch it on the big screen and for one night only Cinema Strangiato arrived at the Vue, Cardiff. Along with the Ed, 40 or so diehard fans dutifully spread ourselves across the spacious seats and enjoyed two hours of the finest band that has ever performed on earth.

First up was a short film about the making of Geddy Lee’s Big Beautiful Book Of Bass. Down the Rabbit Hole provided a rare insight into the collaboration and creation of a beautiful book. This 20-minute piece provided background, interviews and showed how the bassist’s collection expanded from a couple of Fenders through to an assembly of hundreds. Lee is an articulate, gentle soul whose inner determination is often masked by his slightly nerdy exterior. If you get the chance, this is a book which is well worth perusing. The photos are superb, many of them pieces of art and with a range of bassists from the world of rock interviewed as well, it is an enjoyable coffee table slab which you can easily dip into when the mood takes you.

The main event for this show was the best part of two hours from the R40 show recorded in the Air Canada Centre in Toronto on 15th and 19th June 2015. Whilst the live footage was faithfully replicated from the R40 DVD, the bonus material was worth the admission fee on its own. The soundcheck performance of Jacob’s Ladder showed the behind the scenes warm up, cut across several shows and spliced neatly – you couldn’t see the seams at all. The foolish intermissions, the cartoons and all the other paraphernalia which go towards a Rush show were also front and centre, including the classic South Park intro to Tom Sawyer. The show cleverly started with the most recent material from Clockwork Angels (The Anarchist and Headlong Flight) and worked backwards through time, with the removal guys from Moving Pictures systematically stripping the stage set back to the basics by the time the band hit Working Man. Highlight of the evening for me was the spectacular Xanadu, the epic centre piece of the Rush show which allowed the release of the twin neck guitars to great effect. That combined with a stirring 2112 showed that whilst he may have arthritis, Alex Lifeson is still one of the most astoundingly brilliant guitarists in the world of rock. And who said Rush weren’t heavy. This simply crushed.

Elsewhere the introduction of Jonathan Dinklage to play his electric violin on Losing It was a heart stopping moment, the track that Ben Mink added to so beautifully on Signals finally brought to life in the live arena. Wow! Dinklage was a member of the Clockwork Angels String Quartet and returned to add his own take on one of the most perfectly crafted Rush tracks. Roll The Bones, not one of my favourite Rush songs was made much more tolerable by the addition of the accompanying video for the rap section that had lip synching cameos from Jonathan's brother Peter, Chad Smith, Jay Baruchel, Les Claypool, Tom Morello, Paul Rudd, Jason Segel and Trailer Park Boys actors John Paul Tremblay, Robb Wells and Mike Smith. Whilst the vignettes from the likes of Taylor Hawkins and Billy Corgan were largely pointless and Tom Morello’s gushing contribution was just painful, Eugene Levy’s cameo as a rock DJ who thought that this band “might be ones to watch” is always hysterical.

Whilst it’s fair to point out that Lee’s vocals struggle somewhat 40 years after first hitting those high notes on Fly By Night, there is no doubting the musical ability of the trio, with Peart demonstrating once more why he is still ‘The Professor’. Lee changes bass every other song, using upwards of 25 guitars and stretching each to their limit and Lifeson is just amazing. With the massive surround sound enveloping us, this was an evening to appreciate, reminisce and hope. As the credits rolled, a slightly cryptic message appeared amongst the rolling words. “See You Next Year”. Could it be? We can but hope, and even new material with no tour would be most welcome.

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