Rush In Rio


Atlantic Records, 2003

REVIEW BY: Christopher Thelen


I made the ultimate mistake when it came to Rush In Rio, the fifth live release from Canadian hard rockers Rush.

No, it wasn't that I invested my own hard-earned money in this set - the first, by the way, to break the band's streak of "four studio, one live" release pattern in their nearly 30-year history. The mistake was that I also bought the DVD of this concert… and watched most of it first.

Why would this be a mistake? Simple: anyone who has seen Rush perform knows that visuals are an important part of their show. Add into this the sheer magic of watching Neil Peart display absolute mastery of the drum kit, or the tight-yet-frantic bass work of Geddy Lee, and you have a concert experience you're not soon going to forget.

The live CDs from this concert - if I read right, the first that Rush ever played in Rio - do capture the power of this show well enough, yet without simple things like the occasional between-song banter or even seeing the three clothes dryers constantly tumbling throughout the show, this set feels a tad - well, rushed. (By the way, what was with the clothes dryers on this tour? Any significance to them, or was it simply Rush being charmingly goofy? Any insight - especially from any member of the band, on the off-chance they're reading this - would be appreciated. And, while we're at it, how's about a DVD at some point of all the animations the band has featured over various tours?)my_heart_sings_the_harmony_web_ad_alt_250

The show itself - the final one of the tour, as explained by Peart in the liner notes - is a very nice balance of old and new, touching on most of Rush's vast discography. While I have yet to warm up to any of the tracks culled from Vapor Trails (indeed, I still have to listen to that whole album), I will admit that "Earthshine" is charming in its own way, while "Ghost Rider" proves to be a hidden gem. That said, I still have not warmed up to "One Little Victory" - and I guess we'll leave it at that. The fact that this disc sounds so good even though there was no soundcheck for the band and their crew was setting up gear up to the moment of performance is a statement in and of itself.

But where Rush In Rio shines in terms of musicianship, it slips in terms of sheer power potential. By cutting out some of Lee's interaction with the crowd, some things are lost in the translation from actual concert to plastic disc - unless, of course, you've read Peart's liner notes. Without either of these, you may not understand the importance of the inclusion of "Closer To The Heart" in this particular show, or just what guitarist Alex Lifeson is rambling on about during "La Villa Strangiato". And, as mentioned before, it's one thing to hear Peart's mastery of the drum kit on "O Baterista"; it's another thing to actually see him in action. (After watching the DVD, I again have confirmation that Peart is an absolute genius, and quite possibly the greatest living drummer in all of music.)

If you invested in Different Stages, the last live album from Rush, a few years ago, you may wonder why you should even bother with Rush In Rio, with the exception of getting live versions of a few tracks from Vapor Trails. Comparatively, this package has a better vibe to it - possibly due to the re-energizing of the band since 1996. (It's a shame it took the double-barrel shot of tragedies that Peart faced to bring the band to this point.) If you have the option of buying the DVD or the CD set, I'd honestly go with the DVD, even though you'll lose out on the two "bootleg" tracks added on to the third CD as a bonus. (The live version of "Vital Signs," by the way, is outstanding.) If you don't have a DVD player, the CD will do you just fine.

Then again, this is Rush we're talking about. Splurge. Buy both. Have a mini Carnival in your living room… 'cause who knows if this is the last party that Rush is going to give.

Rating: B

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© 2003 Christopher Thelen and The Daily Vault. All rights reserved. Review or any portion may not be reproduced without written permission. Cover art is the intellectual property of Atlantic Records, and is used for informational purposes only.