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Rush

Rush In Rio

Review by Greg Olma

It was only a matter of time before Rush would make their way to South America, specifically Rio. For many years, Rio has been a location that has been starved for rock/metal music and has also been the location of some of the biggest shows and festivals. This might be the biggest crowd that the boys from Canada have ever played for so it makes sense to commemorate it with a CD release. Unlike the first 3 live releases, this one is a complete show as it happened (with a couple of bonus tracks thrown in for good measure). There is a high quality to all Rush product and Rush In Rio is no different. The overall mix is good and the packaging is just what you would expect. With all of the live CDs Rush have put out over the years, this one should definitely be high up on the list. Aside from being the full show as it was played, it gives you a good cross section of their later day music along with a couple of older hits. For those of you who shelled out for the Japanese version (as I did), it also contains a mini replica of the Vapor Trails tourbook.

This review is available in book format (hardcover and paperback) in Music Street Journal: 2009  Volume 1 at lulu.com/strangesound.

Track by Track Review
Disc 1
Tom Sawyer
I wish they would have left the intro on this one but the CD kicks in right into the song. Those crazy Brazilians must be starved for rock music because they sing along to the beginning; almost drowning out poor old Geddy Lee. The song had morphed into a heavier version of itself even though it was pretty heavy on Moving Pictures.
Distant Early Warning
The main difference from the studio version is that the guitar is more up front on this live CD. They play this one pretty close to the studio version but the guitar up front gives it a “dirtier” sound. It makes the version on Grace Under Pressure sound weak in comparison.
New World Man
The years have been kind to this Signals tune. Even though it came out in the early ‘80s, it still comes off well now and this live version is great. It is played like the original with maybe a bit more guitar in the mix but overall, they keep it like it was.
Roll The Bones
It has to be difficult to take some of their songs and bring them to the stage. One of the great things about the studio version is that it really has a nice light and dark feel. There are definite parts that although they fit together, there is a mood created by this light and dark interplay. Unfortunately, that is lost live, and they seem to play this one in between giving it a very “grey” sound. I guess those are the pitfalls of bringing music from the studio to the stage.
Earthshine
Since they were promoting Vapor Trails on this tour (and the record has a live sound), there is not much difference between studio version and this one.
YYZ
The crowd noise/chanting is a little distracting. The band are in glorious form playing this one note perfect. I just wish the crowd was little lower in the mix. There is no doubt this is a live version.
The Pass
I have always had a soft spot for Presto.  It was always overlooked (except on that tour) and there are some great tracks on it.  This is definitely a highlight off that record and of this CD.  It is a little less bright than the studio version but having a live version of any of those songs is great.  Why this one is not a set list staple is beyond me.  I would rather hear this than “The Spirit Of Radio” any day of the year.
Bravado
Here we get another Roll The Bones cut that somehow fares better than the title cut in a live setting. This is a song that seems to get the crowd going in Brazil which is odd because it was never a really big hit; at least not like some of the other cuts. The ending is extended a bit which makes it a little different from the studio version.
The Big Money
This song has never done anything for me. In my humble opinion, it is the weakest track off of Power Windows. Here it has a little bit more “oomph” and redeems itself a little. The song is basically played like the album version with the guitar more up front.
The Trees
There is not much you can say about this classic. Although Lee doesn’t hit all the high notes, he does a very respectable job. He still sings head and shoulders above the rest of the screamers from that era (just listen to Robert Plant try those high notes).
Free Will
I’m surprised that this little tune has made it into the “classics” column of Rush songs. It is great live and the crowd seems to really dig it also. It just strikes me as odd because this is not one of the cuts that comes to people’s mind when talking about the band. Oh, and by the way, if you are wondering why I spelled the title of the song in two words, it’s because that is the way it is spelled on my copy of the CD. I guess a non-fan proofed it before it went out.
Closer To The Heart
Thank God this song is short. I liked it the first 100 times I heard it. It is obviously a hit with the crowd so much so that even the Brazilian fans know the words. If it wasn’t for the fact that this one has been played to death (by me – I am as guilty as FM radio), then I would actually enjoy this live version.
Natural Science
At first I thought I was losing my mind but I pulled out my copy of Permanent Waves just to make sure. They play this one almost like that version but for some reason, the verse right after the intro is repeated twice. Don’t know if that was the original intention or what but there you go; it’s a slightly different version. Other than that, it is a spot on performance. This was also the closer for the first set.
Disc 2
One Little Victory
The intro to this song is cut short (I guess it’s more of a visual thing anyway). Like “Earthshine," this is played pretty much close to the original. Vapor Trails has a rawer live sound to begin with so all the tunes from that album carry over really well live.
Driven
I like the fact that they decided to not completely ignore the Test For Echo record. Although I like the title track better, this is a great concert tune. It is performed a bit heavier than the original with a bit of urgency through in for good measure. This version is better than the studio performance and that says a lot.
Ghost Rider
Here we get another great tune from Vapor Trails. As with all of the tracks from that CD, they are played flawlessly and sound very close to the album versions.
Secret Touch
I can’t decide if I like “Secret Touch” or “Ghost Rider” better but both of them are the highlights off of Vapor Trails. The live performance here is played well but it is obvious that the crowd is not as familiar with these tracks. There is less crowd noise than on the other tunes but I guess that is to be expected. Either way, this is a highlight of both the Vapor Trails record and Rush In Rio.
Dreamline
Roll The Bones is one of the best latter day Rush albums and it doesn’t get much better than “Dreamline." The main part of the tune is played just like the studio version but the guitar solo is extended a bit. It is not much of a difference but it goes to show that the guys are not just playing the exact version. They do interject little bits and pieces into the songs that give them an organic feel as opposed to some of the slick performances you get from other artists.
Red Sector A
This version is a little bassier and dare I say, more keyboard heavy. I like this rendition better because it takes the original and makes it a bit heavier and darker. If you have even seen this one live, then you know that the lasers are all over the place and really bring this one to life.
Leave That Thing Alone
We finally get something off of Counterparts. This is a sorely under-rated record and I’m glad they are still playing tracks from it. It is an instrumental that probably gives Lee a little breather from vocal duties and also makes a nice intro for Peart’s drum solo.
O Baterista
If you are as old as I an, then you remember the great drum solo from All The World’s A Stage. Well, Peart has been practicing and never one to stand still musically, he has created a song out of his solo. Now, we get a bit of big band sound thrown in and it really shows where he is coming from at this stage in his career. His solo spot is a highlight of any Rush show and it shouldn’t be passed over here on this CD either.
Resist
Changing things up, Lee and Lifeson, play this Test For Echo track acoustically. I never would have thought that they would be able to pull off one of their "electric" songs in an unplugged setting but they manage to create a great "light" part to the show. Even thoughtI like both versions, I almost like this one better because it sounds more natural. I picture this as being almost the demo version before they bring everyone in to create a finished product.
2112
As the years have gone by, side one of 2112 has morphed into a heavier version of itself. Even though they call this track "2112." all that is played is “Overture” and “The Temple Of Syrinx”. The “Overture” part is played a lot heavier and bassier than the 2112 version and they throw in an annoying crowd participation part. Call me a purist but Rush has never been a sing along type of band. I expect that from other hit churning groups but not them. OK, enough of my rant. “The Temples Of Syrinx” part is played pretty much like the studio version except Lee is struggling to hit some of the notes. He does a great job and I commend him for doing it but let’s face it, he’s not in his 20’s anymore. That being said, I would hate to see either one of these parts dropped from the set list.
Disc 3
Limelight
Moving Pictures will always be the peak of Rush’s career (sale’s wise, not musically). That is why tracks from that record get a big response from the audience. Even though this one has been played to death by classic rock radio, I still find it to be a great tune live. Lifeson pulls off the solo just like the original and to his credit, it is the perfect solo for the song so no embellishment is needed.
La Villa Strangiato
The main part of this cut is played even a little better than the studio version. The big difference is a part added to the end when Lifeson talks about nightmares (or something) and the band goes off into left field. Even Lee throws in the bass line from “The Girl From Ipanema."
The Spirit Of Radio
No Rush show would be complete without this cut. The crowd goes crazy for this one and there is that “concert hall” line that gets them even more frenzied. If I never hear this track again, I will die a happy man. It was OK back in 1980 but every radio station that dared to play Rush played this one way too many times. This version is close to the regular version but the “concert hall” part is reggae-d out a bit more. This is one of those tracks that I will skip when playing.
By-Tor And The Snow Dog
Lee handles the vocal really well on this old chestnut. The fact that they still play something that is more of a deep cut as an encore is great. The song sound wise is really close to the version on All The World’s A Stage except it is about 7 minutes shorter. I’m just happy that they are willing to include something  this old for us long time fans.
Cygnus X-1
Without missing a beat, the guys launch into another deep cut with just the instrumental part of this A Farwell To Kings classic. Again, it is about 7 minutes shorter than the studio version but having anything related to the Cygnus story played live is a treat.
Working Man
This is a third song in the encore medley that started with “By-Tor And The Snow Dog."  It is only slightly shorter than the studio version and Lee sounds remarkably good on this piece from their debut record. Sure, it’s slightly off but 30 years can do a little damage on a guy’s vocal chords.
Between Sun & Moon (The Board Bootlegs)
As a bonus, they added this cut and the next one. This one was recorded in Phoenix and sounds more like a demo or live studio version because the crowd can only be heard at the beginning and end. It is much different from the Rio show where the audience can be heard throughout some of the tracks. Here, the song is much rawer than the finished product found on Counterparts.
Vital Signs (The Board Bootlegs)
20 years have not changed this tune much. It sounds very close to the original and Lee’s vocal performance is spot on. It was recorded in 2002 in Quebec City and if you told me it was from the Moving Pictures tour, I would believe it. As far as bonus tracks go, this one is a gem and it’s great to finally have a live version.
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