Rush In Rio (DVD)


Coming Home Studios / Anthem Entertainment, 2003

REVIEW BY: Jason Warburg


What’s the best concert you’ve ever been to? I’m betting it wasn’t the one where the band played the cleanest, or the sound was the clearest, or the one where they played exactly the songs you wanted to hear. I’m betting it was the one where the audience was packed with dedicated, enthusiastic, hungry fans who were so deeply into the music that the arena looked like a bubbling cauldron of ecstatic humanity, singing along not just to every word, but to every note.

Fifteen years later, it’s easy to imagine three times as many people claiming to have been there as the 40,000 who were actually present for the very last show of Rush’s 2002 Vapor Trails tour, the band’s first-ever concert in Rio de Janeiro. Even with the distance created by the intervening years and the fact that you’re watching it in the comfort of your own home, it’s a remarkable spectacle.

The simple fact that the band can play these songs live, and play them exceptionally well, is a feat in itself, given that Geddy Lee plays bass and keyboards and sings on almost every cut, Alex Lifeson’s library of guitar tones appears bottomless, and Neil Peart plays a drum kit roughly the size of the truck they carry the rest of their stage gear in. Most of the time, Lee switches to playing bass pedals with his feet when the song calls for synthesizers; at other points, each of the three takes turns triggering MIDI controllers with their feet while playing their main instruments.

The setlist is a strong one, mixing lesser known, more recent 1984-2002 songs with what many longtime fans think of as the heart of their catalog, from A Farewell To Kingsmy_heart_sings_the_harmony_web_ad_alt_250 (1977) through Signals (1982), though understandably oversampling from the band’s most recent album at the time, the middling Vapor Trails. What’s astonishing to witness is the Brazilian crowd’s reaction to the music.

The 40,000 strong assembled are not scene-seekers but dedicated fans who know every song, even the newest ones, and react equally strongly to the hits and deep cuts like “Bravado” and first set-closer “Natural Science”—a largely neglected mini-opus from 1980’s Permanent Waves that the crowd sings along to every note of, even as time signatures shift like the gears on a street racer. To be fair, the Vapor Trails material is delivered with great enthusiasm: the shimmery “Earthshine,” the anthemic if rather obvious “One Little Victory,” the haunting “Ghost Rider,” and secret weapon “Secret Touch,” whose sustained intensity seems to catch the crowd by surprise. 

Still, it’s the crowd reaction on the more familiar songs that sets this DVD apart. I’ve seen crowds sing along to every word of a song—but every note of an instrumental? That’s what happens when the band launches into “YYZ” from Moving Pictures, and Lee and Lifeson are visibly blown away by the gathered throng’s ecstatic response (hell, even the dour Peart, possibly the most stoic performer in rock history, cracks a smile here and there).

Over the course of this nearly three-hour show, the audience proves itself the star again and again, singing and pogoing along to familiar hits like “New World Man,” “Limelight,” and “The Spirit Of Radio.” The crowd even creates its own vocal parts, chanting along to the snaking, otherworldly solo in “Freewill,” the hammering opening section of “2112” and especially the extended instrumental “La Villa Strangiato,” where the entire crowd yells “Hey” on every downbeat of the heavy sections early and late, to Lee’s delight.

The audience also sings along to every word and note of Brazilian favorite “Closer To The Heart,” pulled from the vaults specifically for this and the previous show, and spends whatever energy it has left fist-pumping and chanting along to the closing encore medley of “By-Tor And The Snow Dog,” “Cygnus X-1,” and the inevitable “Working Man.”

Is every shot and quick-cut here perfect? No. Is the setlist exactly the songs I would choose? No. Is the sound the best I’ve ever heard in a live recording? No. But this DVD as a whole, and songs like “YYZ” and “Freewill” and “2112” and “Limelight” and “The Spirit Of Radio” in particular, constitute the most electrifying mutual exchange of energy between any band and its audience that I've ever seen. Moments like the ones captured here are why people bother to go to concerts at all. And if I was ever forced to pare my concert DVD collection down to five or less, I can say without a doubt that one of them would be Rush In Rio.

Rating: A

User Rating: Not Yet Rated


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