Pros: Makes you feel like you're there - a true audience experience
Cons: Vocals a bit tiny; epics are shortened
The Bottom Line: My five-star music count goes up one more...
I could give you any number of reasons why you should go out and buy In Rio, the latest live CD from Rush. I could tell you about the cute little Simpsons clip at the end of The Big Money. Or maybe the outstanding live versions of songs from Rushs latest studio CD, Vapor Trails. Or that In Rio is a slightly different live CD from Rush, because its a single complete concert in direct form instead of a selection of songs from several concerts, all nice and clean. But there is only one reason why any true Rush fan would ever want to purchase In Rio, and it can be summed up in two simple words: Vital Signs.
Thats right, the much-loved classic underground track known by the most die-hard Rush fans finally reached a live audience on a live CD. The techno-beat and odd sci-fi lyrics are tacked onto the very end of the third CD, mainly because Rush was so nice. The track was never even performed in Rio de Janeiro. It had to be lifted from a show in the great white north, in Quebec City, Quebec, Canada, and is one of only two tracks which werent actually played in Rio de Janeiro. (The other is Between Sun and Moon, which was lifted from a show in Phoenix.) That sums up every reason why a Rush fan should purchase In Rio.
......Oh. Youre still here. Okay, fine, since weve both got time to kill, Ill fill you in on all the other pointless details. Heres the deal with In Rio: According to Neil Pearts essay in the CD sleeve (hot DAMN I wish I could write that good,) the Vapor Trails tour brought Rush to Brazil for the first time in the 30-year history of the band. Apparently, Rush is a pretty big name down there. (Tom Sawyer is used as the opening theme to McGyver in the Amazon.) Drummer Peart and his bandmates, guitarist Alex Lifeson and vocalist/bassist Geddy Lee played three shows in South America, the last taking place in front of 40000 very appreciative fans in Rio de Janeiro with the band flying blind because they had no time for a sound check. It was one of those great magic moments, when everything fell into place and created perfection from circumstances which were less than. The band was so blown away by the whole spectacle, they decided to launch it on CD and share it with everyone who wasnt there.
Since Rush was touring in support of their Vapor Trails CD, Vapor Trails is represented with several songs on In Rio. Earthshine, One Little Victory, Ghost Rider, and Secret Touch are all live from Vapor Trails. All of them sound just like they do on Vapor Trails, except without the echo from the CD versions. Ghost Rider, Neil Pearts bike travel chronicle, remains my personal favorite among the newest songs. The really odd thing about the Vapor Trails tracks is that they sound more, well, complete live then they do on CD. Many songs seem to lose something when theyre performed live, but the tracks from Vapor Trails are the opposite. The majority of Vapor Trails tracks are on disc two, and Rush throws a curveball at the uninitiated fan there: Driven, the grinding song from Test for Echo, is played between two Vapor Trails songs. The dark sound of Driven makes the band able to place it among the Vapor Trails tracks without disrupting the flow of the concert.
In the sleeve, Neil Peart mentions the passion the audience had for Rushs music. Indeed, the audience does sound passionate enough, as they can be heard singing in the background of several songs. But there are two instances in which the audience gives Geddy Lee a run at his vocalist job. The first is the In Rio opener, which is the popular Tom Sawyer. This is not unique: Everybody knows Tom Sawyer, even people who never heard of Rush, because the song is still a staple of classic rock radio. The other notable audience participation song is very unique because of the fact that the song has no lyrics to sing to! Its YYZ, the instrumental song from the Moving Pictures record. Listening to 40000 people hum along to the track, you begin to understand why Rush wanted this particular show to be immortalized on a CD of its own.
Of course, any self-respecting Rush fan knows how big a part instrumentals have played not only in Rushs live shows, but in Rushs career. YYZ is a bit overrated in my opinion because all three band members seem to strike a repetitive chord of a bad video game track. I still believe the only reason it was popular is because its short for a Rush instrumental. In Rio has a large number of instrumental songs, all of them more impressive than YYZ. Leave that Thing Alone, O Baterista, and La Villa Strangiato all make the cut as far as instrumentals are concerned. Leave that Thing Alone has become a tour staple, and it was played on Different Stages, Rushs last live record. Despite the Spanish-sounding titles of the other two instrumentals, any Spanish music influence in them is tiny at best. My favorite instrumental is O Baterista. Everyone has heard of great guitar solos, but when was the last time you heard of a great drum solo? When was the last time you even HEARD a drum solo? O Baterista is that - a drum solo which is longer than most songs the band plays. After several minutes, Neil begins beating his skins in a more steady rhythm, and swing music accompanies him.
Rush has a habit of retiring certain songs of their from live performances. The latest victim of this retirement is also one of the most unlikely: Closer to the Heart. However, it was just the bands luck that the song had to be their most popular one in Brazil. Being as it may, Alex, Geddy, and Neil decided it wouldnt be right to show up in Brazil for possibly the only time in their career and not play their most popular song. So the band brought Closer to the Heart out of retirement for the Brazilian population. Its one of the great highlights of In Rio, along with an acoustic version of Resist, which is absolutely beautiful.
The first disc of the three-disc In Rio contains the most variety both musically and chronologically. It begins with a rousing round of Tom Sawyer and closes with a clear, wonderful version of Natural Science. Between the two of them are eleven outstanding tracks ranging from the Rushs hard rock 70s period all the way up to Vapor Trails. We see the extremes of all three phases of the band: Rock Rush, Synth Rush, and Alt Rush. The journey seems to take us through some unusual song pairings, showing us how much Rush songs from a certain phase resemble a certain other phase. Take tracks three and four, for example: New World Man from 1981s Signals, and the title track of 1991s Roll the Bones, respectively. Here are two songs from phases which sound nothing alike, yet New World Man sounds like something off Roll the Bones. An emotional double whammy is introduced when an amazing version of The Pass is performed and then followed by Bravado. After Bravado, Rush brings our emotional high down with their ode to the greed and rampant materialism of the 80s, The Big Money.
The second disc is dominated by darkness. Aside from the heavy dose of Vapor Trails to kick it off, Rush plays the ridiculously desperate-sounding Red Sector A for some reason. And Dreamline is just disappointing: I first heard Dreamline as the opening track on Different Stages, a song with a powerful instrumental and photographic, imaginative lyrics. Then I heard the version from Roll the Bones, and I was let down by how flat it sounded. Unfortunately, Rush presents the citizens of Rio de Janeiro with the flat version. However, the second disc is excellent, especially the Vapor Trails tracks, the instrumentals, and the acoustic version of Resist.
The third disc closes out the Rio de Janeiro show with Le Villa Strangiato and two ever-popular staples, Limelight and The Spirit of Radio. Tacked onto In Rio at the very end are two Board Bootlegs which were never played in Rio de Janeiro: first, Between Sun and Moon was yanked from a show in Phoenix, and a Quebec City performance of Vital Signs proves to be as effective a closer on a live record as it was on Moving Pictures back in 1980.
Since the produces wanted an exact replica of the Rio show, Ill let the lack of cleaning on In Rio slide. Its tough to hear Geddy singing over 40000 people, but its tough to hear anything over 40000 people. My only big complaint about In Rio is a serious lack of epics. Rushs staple in the 70s makes only a couple of brief cameo appearances on In Rio. The Trees is included on the first disc, but most people wont consider that an epic. Red Sector A has the same problem, but I never liked Red Sector A to begin with. The smoking guns for this complaint are twofold: First is 2112, which was played in its glorious, 20-minute entirety on Different Stages but switched back to the pop version on In Rio. Only the first two episodes of the masterful epic, Overture and The Temples of Syrinx, are played. By-Tor and the Snow Dog from Fly by Night and Cygnus X-1 from A Farewell to Kings both get nods, but thats all they get. Both are included in a medley of shortened versions of three songs which end the show in Rio de Janeiro (the third is Working Man.) Xanadu is never played at all.
Despite the lack of epics, In Rio is an awesome live record. People who own every Rush CD except this one may want to skip it, because so many of the songs are on Rushs other live compilations. Then again, I refer you to those two words: Vital Signs.
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Nicholas Croston (BaronSamedi3)
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Rush: Geddy Lee (vocals, keyboards, bass); Alex Lifeson (guitar, background vocals); Neil Peart (drums, percussion). Principally recorded at the Maracana Stadium, in Rio de Janiero, Brazil, on November 23, 2002. Includes liner notes by Neil Peart. Personnel: George Steinert (organ). Audio Mixers: James Barton ; Alex Lifeson. Liner Note Author: Neil Peart. Recording information: Colisee, Quebec City, PQ (09/27/2002-10/19/2002); Cricket Pavilion, Phoenix, AZ (09/27/2002-10/19/2002). Animations: Jarrett Smith; Greg Hermanovic; Alan Kapler; Ben Voigt; Farah Yusuf; Rob Bairos; Paul Simpson. Illustrator: Hugh Syme. Photographers: M. Rossi; Carrie Nuttall; Andrew MacNaughtan. Unknown Contributor Roles: Vapor Trails Tour Crew; Lashawn Lundstrom; Dave Cook; Michael Gibney; Jon Cordes; James Ellis; Tom Hartman; Steve Kotzer; Lonnie Sweet; Arthur McLear "Mac"; Don Johnson ; Dave Burnette. RUSH IN RIO is a unique 3-CD document that features an entire set recorded at a Rio de Janeiro show in November 2002 that was al... Song List: Disc 1 1. Tom Sawyer 2. Distant Early Warning 3. New World Man 4. Roll the Bones 5. Earthshine 6. YYZ 7. Pass 8. Bravado 9. Big Money 10. Trees 11. Freewill 12. Closer to the Heart 13. Natural Science Song List: Disc 2 1. One Little Victory 2. Driven 3. Ghost Rider 4. Secret Touch 5. Dreamline 6. Red Sector 'A' 7. Leave That Thing Alone 8. O Baterista 9. Resist 10. 2112 Song List: Disc 3 1. Limelight 2. Villa Strangiato, La 3. Spirit of Radio 4. By-Tor and the Snow Dog 5. Cygnus ...