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October 21, 2003
Warner Music
Pop/Rock, Prog-Rock, Album Rock, Arena Rock, Hard Rock

Album Review

Set for production as a live DVD from the Vapour Trails tour, the audio from Rush in Rio clearly stands as a startling historical and musical document. The live mix is simply superb and reveals the show as it happened, without overdubs or DAT splices. The band played in front of their second-largest crowd ever, 40,000 people on the final night of the tour. (The largest was 60,000-plus the night before in São Paulo in the rain.) Covering three CDs, this is one of those documents that can make a punter wonder why he ever doubted the glory, majesty, and heavy, overblown, pretentious rock power of Rush. Opening with thunderous crowd noise, "Tom Sawyer" -- with complete audience participation from the git -- it is somehow awe-inspiring to hear 40,000 people singing the song with Geddy Lee. These people are so crazy; they aren't left out of the mix because they couldn't be! But it works. There was no soundcheck that night due to production delays in the arena. This is the sound of a band going for it in spite of everything and on the wing -- and the sound, very live, very real, extremely dynamic -- and not only do they pull it off; they issue their best live outing ever. Seeing Rush live can be an experience, but only those people in Rio saw them like this: far from complacent veteran rock stars, they musically push their own envelopes to the breaking point and goad each other onto ever greater intensity. Lee's bass playing has never been this ferocious, so aggressive and driving -- on a live album anyway. Neil Peart pushes the entire band with his polyrhythmic assault and overdriven flourishes and fills; knowing this is the last date, he gives it all up in every single track. And Alex Lifeson, ever the band player, is, on this night anyway, simply the greatest arena rock guitarist in the world. The program ranges over the band's entire recorded output. The majority of the material comes from Farewell to Kings and after, though "Working Man," "2112," and a medley of "By-Tor and the Snow Dog" and "Cygnus X-1" are present here. Versions of "Roll the Bones," "The Big Money," "One Little Victory," "Ghost Rider," "Red Sector A," and "La Villa Strangiato" are given something like their definitive reads. Again, on well-known tracks like "Closer to the Heart," "Free Will," and "Spirit of Radio," the crowd participation would normally be off-putting. In this context, however, it is an asset. One can hear how this adulation and frenzy literally feeds the band, forcing the issue and making these breathtaking performances. To round out the encores on disc three Rush has included "board bootlegs" of "Between Sun & Moon" and "Vital Signs" that are more than worthy performances. They were taken from shows in Phoenix and Quebec. For those for whom Rush is a secret and guilty pleasure, it's time to indulge it openly by playing this for friends who erroneously insist that Sonic Youth or Strokes concert bootlegs are the epitome of "big-label live rock." For the faithful, you'll know. This one is bloody great.
Thom Jurek, Rovi

Track Listing

  1. Tom Sawyer
  2. Distant Early Warning
  3. New World Man
  4. Roll the Bones
  5. Earthshine
  6. YYZ
  7. The Pass
  8. Bravado
  9. The Big Money
  10. The Trees
  11. Freewill
  12. Closer to the Heart
  13. Natural Science
  14. One Little Victory
  15. Driven
  16. Ghost Rider
  17. Secret Touch
  18. Dreamline
  19. Red Sector 'A'
  20. Leave That Thing Alone
  21. O Baterista
  22. Resist
  23. 2112
  24. Limelight
  25. La Villa Strangiato
  26. The Spirit of Radio
  27. By-Tor and the Snow Dog
  28. Cygnus X-1
  29. Working Man
  30. Between Sun & Moon
  31. Vital Signs
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