Saturday, November 26, 2016

Rush- Spirit of the Airwaves

Rush- Spirit of The Airwaves: Released in 2014 (But recorded in 1980) for Smokin' Records
Best Song- 2112
A major step down from previous live albums, this live album was recorded on February 14, 1980 in St Louis, on the Permanent Waves Tour. This show was broadcast live on the radio. It was heavily bootlegged for many years before being released officially in 2014. 

There are singificant problems with the album. The first problem is that like many Rush live albums, the show is incomplete, and several of the songs ommited would've been highlights. Cut from the release are "Freewill", "A Passage to Bangkok", "The Trees", an abridged "Cygnus X-1" (Cutting out all of Part II as well as a verse of Part III) an abridged "Hemispheres" (Cutting out "Apollo" and "Dionysus"), "Closer To The Heart",   and "Jacob's Ladder". The second problem is that Geddy's voice sounds AWFUL. While his voice was fine on the album, live, even on the new stuff, he sounds terrible. Throughout the whole concert, he sounds weak, airy, and powerless. A couple good performances, but that's it. 

Otherwise, however, it's a good one. The set is a varied one, with a great mix of old and new, as well as some surprises. Rush is represented by excerpts of "Working Man", "Finding My Way" and "In The Mood", Fly By Night by excerpts of "Anthem", "By-Tor And The Snow Dog", and "Beneath, Between, and Behind", Caress of Steel by a bit of "Bastille Day", 2112 by some of the title track, A Farewell to Kings by "Xanadu", Hemispheres by "La Villa Strangiato", and Permanent Waves by "The Spirit of Radio" and "Natural Science". And the band plays the songs with power and fire, making up for Geddy's vocal deficiencies. Finally, there's no overdubs!

The concert starts with an abridged version of "2112", cutting out "Discovery", "Oracle: The Dream" and a verse of "Presentation". And it's a great, great performance. "Overture" gets an AMAZING intro, where the whooshing synth noises are joined by Neil bashing the drums and eerie, tense synth lines, building the tension to incredible levels, and working fabulously as an opener. And the rest of the intro is great too, with the band playing with fire, force, and speed, and Alex's guitar tone is much better than the studio. The added synths are good too. "Temples of Syrinx" features terrible, strained singing, but the band plays powerfully, especially Neil. The excerpt of "Presentation", with one verse leading into the solo, has more awful vocals, with Geddy struggling to hit notes that he could hit with ease and power, but the performance is strong, and Alex blazes through the solo. "Soliloquy" isn't really too special, no stronger than the studio, and with weaker vocals, and finally, "Grand Finale", is a great end, with WILD guitar soloing and powerful bass. Overall, a strong performance.

Next up is, as usual, the abridged "By-Tor And The Snow Dog" with the instrumental jam segueing into "Xanadu". "By-Tor" has further weak vocals, but the instrumentals are strong, and heavy on the bass playing. And as always, the instrumental jam section is awesome, with funky bass grooves from Geddy, wild guitar soloing, and Neil playing a strong beat under it all. As for "Xanadu", the intro is marvelous, atmospheric guitar and synths aplenty (I cannot stress how much I love this intro to the song). Close to 3 minutes this time, but it doesn't feel overlong at all. As for the main song, it's a pretty standard performance, all things considered, but it does have a surprisingly strong performance from Geddy, belting out the vocals with power. 

"The Spirit of Radio" is up next. Honestly, it's a VERY bland, routine peformance, sounding exactly like the album version with pretty much no boosts in anything, except a strong solo, and good added synth lines at the end. "Natural Science" is much better, though. Remember in my Permanent Waves review how I said "Natural Science" was better live? Well, this proves it! The acoustic intro is good as ever, but the "Hyperspace" section really shines, with Alex playing with much more fire and power than the studio, and Neil's drumming is stellar throughout, though Geddy's singing is still very weak. Once again, the synths add extra texture. And "Permanent Waves" is much better too, the synths are much less intrusive on the guitar parts, and it's played faster. 

After this comes the BIG surprise of the show, a live performance of "Beneath, Between, and Behind" (!) which hadn't been played live since 1975! It's lacking the second verse, but it otherwise sounds strong, boasting a stronger groove than the studio performance, though Geddy's voice is AWFUL, weak, airy, and straining to hit the notes. We close out the main set with a "Working Man"/"Finding My Way"/"Anthem"/"Bastille Day"/"In The Mood" oldies medley. Overall, it's nice to see how their early albums still get a fixture, and the performances themselves are strong. "Working Man" starts with a goofy reggae intro, before going into the regular song, and while Geddy's singing is still horribly weak, the band plays great, with Alex doing more wild shredding over Geddy's bass and Neil's drums in the jam. This jam segues into the opening riff of "Finding My Way", but after only 20 seconds, that leads into "Anthem". I would really like to hear more, though. Anywho, "Anthem" is cut to the first verse and chorus, leading into the solo and ending, and it's not really anything special. The end leads into "Bastille Day", also cut to a verse, chorus, and solo. The more promient drums add a strong punch, and Geddy surprisingly sings it well, singing the high vocal lines with power. "In The Mood" closes out the medley, as per usual. Alex shreds through the solo, and the rest is fine. Overall, a strong medley. Of course, we end with an obligatory 5 minute drum solo, and it sucks, but whatever.

The show closes out with an encore of "La Villa Strangiato". The song starts with a AWESOME shredding intro on electric guitar, with Alex doing some stunning riffs, before going into the usual "To Sleep, Perchance To Dream" section. Added synth lines add extra tension to this portion of the song. And the rest is performed top-notch, with the whole band playing on all cylinders, and all sorts of killer jamming. A top-notch finale to a great show.

Overall, weaker than other albums, but still essential. 4/5.