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Rush closes out their 4th era of music with another live release, this one enclosing their 90’s output: Presto, Roll the Bones, Counterparts, and Test for Echo. I must admit, I was a little leery of this one at first, the 90’s not exactly being home to a lot of Rush I liked. But for their fourth live outing, Rush turns the tables on their own tradition and delivers some surprises. The first thing is that this bad boy packs 3 CDs with a total of 33 songs! Two discs cover several 90’s concerts while the third is a recording from a concert in 1978. Oh yea, I was starting to warm to this real fast.
As always, there is an emphasis on the newer material, which is good (11 of the 33 songs are from the last four albums). Normally, I’d complain that of the remaining 22 songs, 15 appear on previous live albums; but the trick here is that they all appeared on a release at least 15 years old at this point and further, that one suffered from over-production. Thus I’m getting some of these songs under better circumstances. Also, not one song from the late 80’s is present, so none of the newer material covered on Show of Hands is repeated. For my money, I’m getting a more complete concert that doesn’t repeat anything from the previous 16 years and actually delivers a better sound for some of the classics.
But that isn’t the whole story. At this point in Rush’s career, there was a purposeful shift away from the synthesizers and bigger productions. This not only produces a more organic guitar sound but as a result encouraged the band to revisit some of their early material. The result is some great classic seeing the light of live recording for the first time, and the list reads as a roll call of honor: “Limelight”, “Analog Kid”, “Natural Science”, “Farewell to Kings”, “Cygnus X-1”, and “Cinderella Man”. And that’s still not all - You also get the piece de résistance in the first ever full live performance of “2112”! No cuts or modifications due to space, just a full on performance.
As far as production goes, it is done well; the band learning well from previous live albums how to balance production with the vibe of sounding live. Further, I have to admit to enjoying the newer material on this album. Hearing them live with the classics under one natural guitar driven sound works well, and if anything heightens them.
This also comes with a booklet that folds out into a 7 panel montage of live memorabilia from the previous 24 years, while several panels on the backside house simple but fun live snap shots. Very nice and I’m glad to see some thought put into this.
Great songs, the first live run of 6 great classics, a generous potion of old material reissued under better production, and “2112”… Oh hell yea. If you like Rush, this is the Rush live album to get.