Rush – Different Stages
Anthem Records (Canada)
Recorded on tour in 1997, this is an astonishingly crisp live album. When rock bands perform, they bring something extra to their sound and Rush are bursting with raw passion that rockets through each riff and fill while the dual vocals of bassist/synth player Geddy Lee reverberate around the backing tones of Alex Lifeson who sings accompanied by his trusted guitar. Having established a treasured back catalogue of fan favourites and with plenty more excellent material in tow, at this stage of their professional career, a live show really is an extravaganza of nostalgic choruses and powerfully exciting, fresh riffs.
Kicking off the 3 disc album with Dreamline, a ‘91 classic, the melodic hard rock element that lifts everyone’s spirits opens the show. Lyrics mixing up science fiction themes with the dramas of humanity make this a great song to connect with and then open up the imagination. Taken from the Chicago leg of their Test for Echo tour, apart from a few venue changes mid album, this is a fantastic rendition of that historical concert.
The fire behind the expertly manicured guitar riffs cannot be denied as the spark that fuelled so many ignitions and explosive talents over the past thirty years. The sunshine feel to the warmly distorted and bright strings gives the grit and gravel a twinkle that sparkles with each chorus and interlude. Musical perfection comes from when an artist knows their instrument well and with each piece it becomes clear that Rush have a strong grip on what they do. They’ve been doing it for a long time and still continue to pull the numbers in, this is why. They are good at what they do, and what they do is good.
Their song writing skills take them from sensual acoustic ballads with powerful tones of heartfelt emotion to thrashy and psychedelic bass guitar driven heavy metal which notably influenced many famous bassists including Steve Harris from the iconic Iron Maiden. Consistent drumming that delicately phrases the highlights and romps through the grooves with determination is arguably what creates the feel in what else would be a frantic and explosive sonic experience. By being the paced yet artistic talent that he is, Neil Peart comes alive as a drummer of calibre. As this album was produced and released after the death of his wife and daughter one year apart, I truly honour his ability to literally hold it all together.
The huge vocal range of Geddy Lee gives Rush that undeniable sound that slides it nicely in between giants such as Led Zep and Yes. Spanning from baritone to mezzo-soprano, the melodies are diverse, punching and cutting. The audience make a live album what it is and when the crowd are mixed well into the songs, the show is brought home and although a little quieter than some heavy metal albums, it is clear that no note has been compromised for applause and the brilliance of the trio’s tightness and skill is the priority.
Disc three being the final chapter to the album takes us to England 1978, where Rush perform in front of the Hammersmith Odeon crowd, famous for its instrumental nature in the formation of music legends. Being one of their first major dates this side of the Atlantic Ocean, this marks the fundamental period in the legacy which Rush now rightfully enjoy. A shorter CD, placed gently on the end of an amazing concert, perhaps to remind us that before they made their name, before Rush was a household name, they were still amazing.
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