Best Song- Cygnus X-1
The absolute greatest Rush live album that money can buy. This is another archive release, recorded on February 20, 1978 at the Hammersmith Odeon in London, on the UK leg of the Drive 'Til You Die Tour, supported by Tyla Gang. This was released in 1997 on the Different Stages live album, but I'm reviewing it separately, due to being a different concert.
Side Note: Some (but not most) people have a problem with Rush's live approach. Unlike bands such as Led Zeppelin or Deep Purple, who tend to stretch out their songs into long, extended jams, Rush would mostly play their songs close to the originals. I can see why some people have a problem, but I disagree. Rush's live approach was to play the songs the same, without any excess jamming, but WITH more intensity, and power. Compare the original version of "2112" to the Passaic version, and you'll see. And it's not like they didn't jam much live- Listen to a live "Working Man", or "By-Tor And The Snow Dog" sometime!
The ONLY complaint I have of this album is that it's incomplete, cutting out "Lakeside Park" (Boo!), "Closer to the Heart" (Boo!) "2112" (BOO!) and the drum solo (Yay!). Other than that, EVERYTHING is great. The set for this concert is flawless, consisting of "Working Man" and In The Mood" from the debut, "Fly By Night", "Anthem", and "By-Tor And The Snow Dog" from Fly By Night, "Bastille Day" from Caress of Steel, "Something For Nothing" from 2112, and "A Farewell to Kings", "Xanadu", "Cygnus X-1", and "Cinderella Man" from A Farewell to Kings. "Xanadu" and "Cygnus X-1" BOTH make my top 5, and "By-Tor" is in the top 10, so that's great!
As for the performances themselves, they're stunning. Geddy Lee has a bit of a cold, so he delays the phrasing on many songs, and lowers some notes, but he still sounds great, and the rest of the band attacks the songs with intensity. Many performances are the definitive versions. And even better, there's NO overdubs! This all adds up to the best Rush live release ever!
As with before, the show starts with the opening riffage of "Bastille Day". The song is played much faster and more intense than the studio, and sounds great. Geddy's singing sounds a bit rough, but other than that, it's a excellent version, and the best officially released version. We then go into "By-Tor And The Snow Dog". This is a shortened version, cutting out "Aftermath", "Hymn of Triumph", and "Epilogue", and therefore, falls behind the All The World's A Stage version, but it's still great, with powerful singing by Geddy despite his illness, and a great jam section, filled with intense soloing.
This then leads into "Xanadu", which is extended into almost 13 minutes in length. And it's AWESOME. The music concrete introduction exceeds the studio easily, filled with tons of cool atmospheric guitar. The arpeggio guitar riffs in the intro are played with much more intensity than the studio, as are the ones at 3 minutes in. The rest isn't any better than before, but it sure ain't worse!
We then play "A Farewell to Kings", which is about the same as the studio, except the playing is as usual, more powerful, and on a down note, Geddy hits a very bad note on "Can we RAISE our eyes" (Sickness rears it's ugly head). "Something For Nothing" is also performed well, with Geddy NAILING the song, though it's not much better than before.
"Cygnus X-1" on the other hand, is, and is easily the highlight of the album. The tension created by the bell chimes is incredible, and really shows why this is one of my favorite Rush songs. The already wicked funk bass riff exceeds the original, courtesy of some added drum pounds. The guitar tone, is as usual, much better than in the studio, which makes the prologue section so much better. Geddy's singing in the main song is also WAY more powerful and aggressive than the studio. The tension in Part III also far exceeds the original, thanks to the much louder, rawer guitar tone and drumming, and considering how much I liked the original, that says a lot, and Geddy's "TORN APPPPAAART!" scream is far more powerful than the original. All considered, a fantastic performance, definitely worth getting this album just for that.
"Anthem" is up next, and it RULES. The opening riffs EXPLODE out of the gate, and the song is played with much greater speed, intensity, and sheer POWER, making it the definitive live version. Geddy's illness rears it's ugly head here (He almost speaks his way through some parts) but oh well. And plus, I like some of the alternate phrasing more than the original. So it's all good.
The main set closes out with a lengthy "Working Man/"Fly By Night"/"In The Mood" medley. "Working Man" is performed at a slower tempo than the studio, which just further increases it's metallic power. We then, as usual, enter the jam session, and as usual, it rules, filled with WICKED Lifeson guitar parts and powerful drumming. It also has a REALLY cool part where all instruments ascend a scale at once. In the middle of this jam, we go into "Fly By Night". While it might seem like a strange choice to be combined with "Working Man", it is nonetheless performed well, even if it doesn't exceed the studio much. After the solo, we close the medley with "In The Mood" which is performed well, which Geddy screaming powerfully (Though you can really hear the raggedness in his voice. Also, WHAT exactly is he saying before the song begins? "I Wanna see you're SHRIVESHENS"? What? And what about in the next verse? Sounds like "Alright London, I wanna see your human hands". Sorry for this tangent). The live medley would usually end with a drum solo (Boo!) but as said above, it was removed (Yay!). We close out with an INCREDIBLE "big rock ending".
We finally close out the show with a performance of "Cinderella Man". This is a real treat, as it was only performed on this tour. It's performed well, as the guitars again have much more power than the studio, making this the definite version, with the acoustic strumming replaced with electric, adding more punch, and the instrumental break also rocks more. A great finale to an incredible live album.
GET THIS ALBUM NOW.(Or, just download MP3s of these songs, as there are 2 other discs, though they're good too). This is the absolute best Rush live album ever. Incredible performances, songs, and singing combine to create a stunning music experience. Incredible. 5/5.