Peart, Neil- Taking Center Stage (DVD Review)

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Reviewed: February, 2022
Published:  Hudson Music, 2011
Rating:  3.5/5
Reviewer: JP

On the second anniversary of the passing of Neil Peart I decided to pull out this DVD that I have owned for a couple of years and not watched.  I picked it up cheap, used, and never got around to watching it because the thing is seven freaking hours long.  7.5 actually.  You really have to like Peart and drumming to watch over seven hours worth but I got through it.

This is Peart’s fourth DVD out of five.  Note I said Peart’s DVD, not a Rush DVD.  There are course many more of those.    Peart would do little side-project DVD’s based on his love of drumming.  Three of them formed a part of an informal trilogy with this one, TAKING CENTER STAGE being the final one in the trilogy.  The other two (non-trilogy) DVD’s were documenting his ‘Burning for Buddy tribute’ and the other talking about the Hockey Night In Canada project he was involved with.

Part I was A WORK IN PROGRESS (1996) and Part II was ANATOMY OF A DRUM SOLO (2005) and the third in his instructional series is TAKING CENTER STAGE where he puts it all together with an emphasis on playing live.

The DVD itself is decent; it is an embossed slipcase that houses three discs. The sound and video quality is fine but it is not a high-production, big-budget project by any means. The simple menus, even if they are a bit blurry, are easy to navigate.

Disc One starts with an extended montage of Peart riding his motorcycle in Death Valley, California, the setting of the narrative portion of the DVD.  We settle into an introduction of the concept which is, via a set of interviews inter-spliced with rehearsal/studio footage.  Peart takes us through each song of the set-list of the Time Machine Tour of 2011.  The pattern remains the same, he talks about the song, what he wanted to accomplish and how he did it.  Then it moves to rehearsal room footage of him performing what he talked about in the interview, often with certain segments slowed down so the viewer/player can follow along.  Then finally it all comes together in live concert, drum-cam footage from the tour. The set-list, and a Rush show in general, is long so it takes two full DVD’s to complete the cycle.

Disc Three is bonus stuff. He dissects and analyzes in the same fashion the two new (at the time) songs ‘Caravan’ and ‘BU2B’.  There is an extended interview with his drum tech and an interview with the drum manufacturer who made the custom kit for the tour. There are also some extras like a photo gallery, endorsements and so on.

In terms of enjoyment, it is a mixed bag.  I’m not a drummer so this was pretty in-depth at times.  However Peart is an interesting and engaging speaker so it was enjoyable to hear his process. He said his goal was to be more spontaneous as a player yet while admitting to the folly of practicing hard to be more spontaneous!   I personally enjoyed all the interview sections more than slo-motion footage of examples of 3/16th  paradiddles (or whatever) he was demonstrating at the time.

I’m not going to belabour this DVD review.  If you are a drummer this is a straight up perfect DVD from one of (if not the) world’s greatest drummer.  Five out of five.  For causal Rush fans, it might be a slog to get through over seven hours of footage. Let’s split the difference and call it a solid 3.5 where we can get a personal, in-depth and intimate look at a master of his craft at the height of his power.