Released: 2003, Anthem
Reviewer: Lord of the Wasteland
When I first heard about ANOTHER live Rush album, I dismissed it as a record company cash grab. After all, there has only been one studio album between RUSH IN RIO and the band’s 3 CD 1998 live release, DIFFERENT STAGES, so why is the band unleashing another three-disc behemoth upon gullible consumers? Where DIFFERENT STAGES offered a third disc featuring a rare performance form 1978, what could RUSH IN RIO bring to the table to snare in the fans? The answer: a dazzling retrospective of their storied 30-year career with a few rare treats thrown in for good measure.
Rush has never sounded better than on this recording. The mix is excellent as every instrument is perfectly audible. Geddy Lee’s plucking bass has always been a signature of the Rush sound and is on full display here, especially on “The Big Money” and “Driven”. Neil Peart has influenced an entire generation of drummers with his undeniable skill and hybrid of rock and jazz. Peart’s chance to step into the limelight is on the eight-minute solo, “O Baterista”. He plays a variety of percussion instruments on the track, which concludes with him playing along to a big band/swing track. Lest we forget Alex Lifeson, his unique guitar solos remain intact as well as some amazing acoustic work on “Resist”. The band has also chosen to leave what sounds like true crowd noise in the recording. The fans in Rio are going NUTS for Rush!!
The first disc consists mostly of the band’s hits from the 80s, while the second is devoted more towards material from the last 10 years. The third disc houses hits, rarities and a couple of bonus tracks. Personally, the first disc is the highlight for me since I grew up in the 80s and was weaned on the band’s classic PERMANENT WAVES, MOVING PICTURES, SIGNALS, GRACE UNDER PRESSURE and POWER WINDOWS albums. The opening chords of “Tom Sawyer” kick off the show and is followed up with “Distant Early Warning”, two of my personal favorites. Other highlights include “Free Will”, “Closer To The Heart”, “The Big Money” and “YYZ”. The only low-point for me is the MOVING PICTURES album track “Natural Science” which could have been replaced with a better track (eg. “Subdivisions”). As far as the second CD is concerned, unless the listener is familiar with Rush’s latest releases, the songs will be mostly unfamiliar. Not denying the newer tracks due credit, “One Little Victory”, “Dreamline”, “Driven” and “Ghost Rider” are excellent selections that stand up against the band’s classics. Hearkening back to 1976, a shortened version of “2112” featuring “Overture” and “The Temples of Syrinx” completes the CD and captures the magic of the original despite forsaking key elements of the 20+ minute track. The third CD is full of lengthy tracks from the band’s early days. The sprawling instrumental “La Villa Strangiato” (with a strange spoken word “outro” featuring Alex Lifeson introducing the band as Milton Banana on drums and The Guy From Ipanema on bass) and a medley of the rarely played songs “By-Tor And The Snow Dog/Cygnus X-1/Working Man” are a collector’s dream. Not to shut out the casual fan, “Limelight” and “The Spirit of Radio” are tracked between the oldies. As a “bonus”, there are two extra tracks included on the third CD that are called “The Board Bootlegs”. Basically they are just tracks recorded from other dates on the VAPOR TRAILS tour to entice you into buying BOTH the CD and DVD, since the DVD doesn’t feature these tracks.
Even if, like me, you have every Rush studio and live album, don’t hesitate to get RUSH IN RIO. This is perhaps the best compilation of hits, rarities and new tracks that has been released by the band yet. In other words, what every live album should aspire towards.