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Rush

Exit...Stage Left DVD

Review by Bruce Stringer

Writing about this band is a labour of love. I grew up with Rush (not literally!) and learnt to play guitar by emulating Alex Lifeson's playing. One thing I was always puzzled about was the lack of great video productions released by the band - while other artists released numerous live videos and video clip compilations, well… so did Rush. But I think a lot of people, myself included, were disappointed at the distance that Rush gave their fans and their video releases failed to show much of the trios' personal side. With the upcoming release of the Rush In Rio DVD all that looks to change with an in-depth look at the band's last show on the tour to support the triumphant Vapour Trails album, and it looks like we may be seeing some backstage footage. Anyway, enough of that and onto a look back at Rush's Exit…Stage Left video.

Recorded live in Montreal in 1981 the video begins with a look at the stage being set-up with the Camera Eye playing over the top. First track is Limelight and, besides being a well-written song (concerning the privacy of the artist), this is a great version. The band are on fire and Geddy's vocals are in fine form.

Jumping into another classic from Moving Pictures, Tom Sawyer (which was recently revived and remixed for the Small Soldiers soundtrack) is hard and steady and shows that these guys could right great rock tunes as well as prog-rocl anthems. The Trees follows (omitting Broon's Bane which precedes it on the live album) and is a great version, proving Alex can seamlessly change between acoustic and electric guitars. Neil Peart is one of the greatest drummers to walk the earth and his percussion work and understanding of theoretical music composition is highlighted with his very tasteful melodic work which bridges Trees and the brilliant Xanadu.

Xanadu is an epic that defined the Farewell To Kings era for me. This version is great and has the added bonus of Geddy and Alex on twin neck guitars. The sound that this trio produce live is astounding and they deserve well-earned credit for their pioneering ability. Red Barchetta is next with Alex's harmonic intro and a short (sort of) backdrop image that looks to double up as a video clip. "This is a song about a car…" It's a great song, nicely pulled off.

Freewill is one of my favourite songs from Permanent Waves and this version is a killer. I love the solo section which just comes out of nowhere and suddenly the timing falls apart, leaving Geddy and Neil to tear up a triplet feel while Alex solos like a mad man. Fantastic!

The crowd pleaser and single Closer to the Heart follows. A nice version and well placed within the set. YYZ is the musician's piece from the band - instrumental, dynamic and exciting, yet this version suffers from poor editing and a bit of spoken thought by Neil Peart. What were they thinking? Next is a medley of earlier hits By-Tor & the Snow Dog / In The End (both from Fly By Night) / In The Mood (from Rush) / 2112 Finale (from the 2112 album). This quartet of tracks is great and good fun for the band. By-Tor is dynamic and includes some great sound effects for the fight sequences and Geddy and Alex playing 'silly hands' with each other. They are obviously having a lot of fun, and the piece then ends at the staccato middle section and cuts straight into In The End, which fits like a glove. This is a piece which demonstrates their potential as writers of hit songs, but more so in the earlier development stage. In The Mood is a Geddy Lee composition and is a great, fun, rocking number. Next we get the end of the epic 2112. It is also another great theme lasting around two minutes and allows Mr. Lifeson a chance to mess around with his wah-wah pedal before finally ending with the recorded voice "Attention all planets of the solar federation…We have assumed control, we have assumed control…"

This is a great video for the day, but a little short, out-dated and lacking in the personal touch ( - a real interview might have been nice. I hope that we see more of the guys off stage in the Rio release). Apart from this, it is a great document and an important part of any Rush collection as the double live album does not include the same audio recording as the video.

This review is available in book format (hardcover and paperback) in Music Street Journal: 2003 Year Book Volume 1 at lulu.com/strangesound.

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