LIVE From Your Speakers: Rush, RUSH IN RIO
The tragedies that befell Rush drummer Neil Peart in 1997 and 1998 – his daughter was killed in an auto accident, followed less than a year later by his wife’s death from cancer – shut down the band for four years. His recovery (documented beautifully in his book Ghost Rider: Travels on the Healing Road) led him back to his partners in the band and, eventually, to their fine comeback album, 2002’s VAPOR TRAILS.
And although the album was a Top Ten hit, tt was the tour that followed that showed Rush just how much they had been missed – sold-out shows all over North America and, for the first time, a tour leg that brought them down to Brazil, to encounter fans gathered en masse at three of the biggest soccer stadiums in the nation. Rush played to the biggest crowd they’d ever seen for one of their own shows – 60,000 in Sao Paulo – and the next night played to 40,000 in Rio de Janeiro, a wonderful show in front of a raucous crowd that was captured for 2003’s live RUSH IN RIO.
To describe the crowd as “raucous” is probably selling them short. When presented with their favorite songs played by their favorite band, they went absolutely nuts. You can hear them from the first notes of “Tom Sawyer,” singing along with bassist Geddy Lee; you can hear them shouting in response to Alex Lifeson’s riffs in the “2112” medley; you can even hear them singing in unison with the band in “YYZ,” and that’s an instrumental. Rush had taken a lot of flack for mixing the crowd out of their 1981 live album EXIT … STAGE LEFT; there was no way they could do anything of the sort with the Rio crowd – the enthusiasm bled into every microphone.
Rush gave them plenty to cheer about. Familiar hits like “The Spirit of Radio,” “Closer to the Heart” and “Limelight” are rendered faithfully and with authority. For pure propulsive power, though, cue up “One Little Victory,” the VAPOR TRAILS anthem and the band’s de facto statement of purpose in 2002 – from Peart’s double-kick-drum intro to Lee’s strident vocal to Lifeson’s tidal force riffage.
It’s not all band and crowd racket, though. There’s an appealing, almost surprising subtlety in tracks like “Bravado” (from ROLL THE BONES) and “The Pass” (from PRESTO); the chorus in the latter is a truly moving thing in any version, and this one is no different. Most surprising, perhaps, is an acoustic take on “Resist,” from TEST FOR ECHO. For a band usually so concerned with and adept at delivering note-perfect renditions of their material live, an unplugged take on one of their later-period pieces is a welcome marvel.
RUSH IN RIO is a singular live document from one of the great progressive bands of their generation, one that is historically important for both the group and its fans. Put it on and crank it up.
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