Sprint Center, Kansas City, MO, USA – July 9, 2015
Disc 1 (64:36) The World Is…The World Is (film), The Anarchist, The Wreckers, Headlong Flight, Far Cry, The Main Monkey Business, How It Is, Animate, Roll The Bones, Between The Wheels, Subdivisions
Disc 2 (61:51) No Country For Old Hens (film), Tom Sawyer, The Camera Eye, The Spirit Of Radio, Jacob’s Ladder, Cygnus X-1 Book II: Hemispheres Part I: Prelude, Cygnus X-1 (The Voyage Part 1 & 3 with Drum Solo), Closer To The Heart, Xanadu
Disc 3 (33:57) 2112 Part I: Overture, 2112 Part II: The Temples Of Syrinx, 2112 Part IV: Presentation, 2112 Part VII: Grand Finale. Encore: Mel’s Rock Pile Starring Eugene Levy (film), Lakeside Park, Anthem, What Your Doing, Working Man, Exit Stage Left
Back some twenty years ago while preparing the tour to support Test For Echo, Rush decided not to have an opening act and to bill the trek as “An Evening With Rush”. Back then they took it as an opportunity to play new music, something they demanded of themselves and their fans expect it, as well as to be able to look over their vast catalog and play music that had not been played for some time. The concept was a rousing success and the band has stuck with it since, incredibly as the band continues to age that they are playing such sets and setting the bar so high few bands of their age can reach and one could ask how long can they keep it up. Well now we know. To celebrate their 40th anniversary the band announced they would be a tour in celebration and while not threatening or drawing a line in the sand, stated that it could be their last large tour. This does not mean no more concerts, just long tours. The reasons are obvious, Alex Lifeson has trouble with his fingers being Arthritic, and Neal Peart has had back, knee, and elbow issues over the past decade. But most importantly Neal has a young daughter who he wants to spend his time with, Rush fans know of the tragedy he has suffered and if it means less or even no more concerts, the man who has given so much happiness certainly deserves some of his own.
“My attitude was: This is an anniversary tour, so we should actually really celebrate our most popular songs. And in order to do that, you have to have the discussion: Well popular by whose metric? …If you look at some of the hardcore fans and their requests, they want the more obscure, deeper tracks. Se we tried to strike a balance.” Geddy Lee speaking to the Montreal Gazette June 2015
When the tour was announced I was excited, as I have been over the past decade, a chance to see one of my most beloved musical acts. As the opening night got closer, the set list anticipation was starting to get the better of me, and like all Rush fans, I was more than pleased with what I saw. Over the tour the band would have seven variations on the set list with songs culled from “the annals of Rush” and feature a concept where a musical time machine takes us back through time, devolving so to speak. Not only did the music devolve, the actual set would do the same and the tour was perhaps my most satisfying live Rush experience of them all, both aurally and visually. The tour was covered by tapers and many fine audience recordings circulate and a few have been in the collectors market in a CD-r or DVD-r format. The first release from the tour on a pressed format was Madison Square Garden 2015, a DVD culled from a fan produced project of the New York City June 29, 2015. Shot from the side stage and synced with an excellent audience recording, and is a great companion for the official live release. Now the folks at Xavel have given us another chance at R40 with a concert from Kansas City. This new title boasts a matrix of an IEM (inner ear monitor) and audience recordings, as most know IEM can be bare boned and some very much lack atmosphere so the use of an audience recording can make for a more enjoyable experience. There are at least two known audience recordings from this date. Let’s talk audio quality, the IEM is excellent, the audience falls into a very good to excellent range as well but has a minor drawback, there is some clapping very near the taper so between songs the claps are a bit too loud for my tastes and would have liked to see them lowered a bit prior to the matrix of the two sources, this is just a minor quibble and does not distract from turning this up loud for maximum enjoyment. The balance of instruments is very good, a couple times the bass was in the foreground but this just gives us the chance to enjoy Geddy’s wonderful playing. The sync of the two sources is perfect and we are treated to the complete concert with no real edits.
For “tonights” concert in Kansas City the band would perform Setlist B, the beginning of the concert begins where the previous Clockwork Angels tour left off. I love the CA material and IMO is the strongest record the band has made since the 80’s. The band would alternate three songs from the record, only Headlong Flight would be played the whole tour. For this show we get The Anarchist as opener followed by The Wreckers. Headlong Flight is superb, pure classic Rush with an aggressive Lee bass line that drives the bottom end. There is a brief drum jam that finds the band teasing the surf classic Wipeout as well as a snippet of By Tor and the Snow Dog. Afterward Geddy greets the audience and speaks of celebration, a word that most accurately describes the proceedings. Far Cry was the first single from 2007’s Snakes And Arrows, a straight forward rocker and in direct contrast to The Main Monkey Business, an instrumental that has a most ethereal quality to it. The first of the deep cuts is introduced as something that was previously overlooked, How It Is is culled from Vapor Trails, a simple melodic and melancholy song bristling with self examination yet with a surprisingly positive message. Very surprised when I saw this song showing up as it is vastly different than the rest of the set but a wonderful addition. Animate makes a much welcomed return to the live stage, as fast favorite from Counterparts, a song and a record that found Rush finally back to playing real power trio bombastic rock. Roll The Bones from this tour is a song that is best enjoyed with a visual representation as well. The rear screen projection sequences with the tumbling dice are superb and the guest raps section has the audience cheering loudly, Alex does sound a bit off at times during this song, though Gedd hits some really nice high notes! Between The Wheels is one of two songs from Grace Under Pressure that were alternated, a song from a record that has become one of my favorite of the 80’s output, Alex has a nice fat guitar sound on this song giving it a heavy vibe. The obligatory Subdivisions closes the first set, the song has achieved the Spirit of Radio and Tom Sawyer status. A very smart first set.
For me the second set contains some of the most satisfying music I have ever seen the band play, for one who did not see the band during their 70’s Prog heyday, I was able to see and hear what was then common place. Starting on a high note with Tom Sawyer being just a beginning of our travel back, it has to be played. The Camera Eye is back in the set, one of my favorite songs from Moving Pictures (the song is played in sort of homage to photographer Andrew MacNaughtan who passed away in 2012), it would be in rotation with YYZ and Red Barchetta during this tour. After a crowd rousing version of The Spirit Of Radio the band plays a song that reportabley had been on the bands list of songs to dust off for sometime, for most Rush fans it would be 7 and a half minutes of pure musical bliss. Jacob’s Ladder had only been played during the tour to support Permanent Waves and a fast favorite. With Neil’s wonderful lyric of the passage from Earth to the Heavens, the music by Lee and Lifeson blends to a mystical perfection, being able to hear it in a live setting was a moment I shall savor for some time. From here on there would be no variations to the set, but hang on there is much more to hear. The Hemispheres Prelude is very muscular, for me it ends too soon and would have liked to hear more from the masterwork. As the Cygnus X-1 Book II snippet ends, another begins as we travel back to the closing song from A Farewell To Kings, for the next few songs the word precision comes to mind. For this look back they only hint at the voyage of Cygnus X-1, they play the opening up to where Gedd should start to sing “Invisible to telescopic eyes…” but instead Neil takes center stage for his main solo…and then the band plays the fast Cygnus outro as the traveler heads into the black hole, it’s just so damn heavy it makes you want to scream and shout. Closer To The Heart is played like on the album, none of the extended outro jammy stuff, the song has the inevitable position of being between two of my favorite Rush songs of their entire catalog. The song that follows has been on my list for some time, sure I saw the truncated version on the Presto and Bones tours, but I want the whole thing. Donning their signature double neck instruments the band gently starts Xanadu. Another incredible experience it was to here this song in all its majestic glory and a quite moving experience if I might add.
As we devolve even more, the beginning of the third and final disc starts with a chunk of 2112. The band played a bit shorter section on the past two tours, this time they add part IV: Presentation. Not heard live since 1996 I was surprised when I saw it back in but was extremely glad it was. Interestingly while listening to this music 40 years after its conception, it has lost none of its angst or early aggressive force, and what better way to end the main set than with the sound of Alex’s guitar as “We Have Assumed Control” is most fittingly broadcast to the masses. The encores are something special, the trip back to the very beginning starts with Lakeside Park, having not been played live since 1977. Originally they wanted to play Fly By night but Geddy could not hit the highs, something he does struggle with on Park and Anthem that follows hot on its heels It should be noted that both songs are truncated versions but certainly capture their essence. Geddy introduces the next one as “from their debut album…it’s What Your Doing”, and damn what a hell of a riff that one is. This song gets the award for one I thought I would never hear live and it sounds great! Like all of this older material Lee does struggle a bit vocally but they play with enthusiasm. The song naturally flows into Working Man, while I have heard the song live many a time, it never gets old, yet the band takes you back even farther one last time at the very tail end of the song they play a snippet of Garden Road! Excellent concert and listening experience, although it really is only half the story of the R40 tour, I did not go into the visual presentation. The evening was filled with visuals that added to the music, the group comedy style bits we have come to expect and don’t forget the “workers” who dismantled the bands stages through “history”.
The packaging features art work based upon official R40 graphics, the front and back covers have a holographic effect that is eye catching and the inner tray have graphics from the tour program. The CD’s have simple artwork based upon the front cover and all is packaged in a fat boy style jewel case. There is also an OBI as well. I saw this release and it took some extra effort to secure a copy and it was totally worth it so thanks to those who helped out. A great release and most certainly recommended.If you liked this review, buy me a cup of joe. (Suggested: $3 a shot or $7.5 for a double)