29 and counting… Rush (no introduction necessary) has circumvented trend and tragedy alike to maintain an unequalled spin on the power trio format—one of longevity, primarily. In turn, the band has also conceived one of the greatest love/hate paradigms among listeners ever witnessed. With the recording history of the band arriving at thirty years (Rush appeared in 1974), fans can revel in the new DVD release of Rush In Rio, which captures the sixty-sixth show of the Vapor Trails Tour—a twenty-two camera shoot—in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. A whopping 40,000 rabid fans filled Maracana Stadium, while the date just prior, in Sao Paulo, attracted 60,000, the largest crowd Rush has ever drawn as a headlining act. While numbing, it wasn’t exactly unexpected, since a grand total of 125,000 fans (counting the first show in Porto Alegre) weren’t about to forfeit what might be their only chance to ever see Geddy Lee, Alex Lifeson & Neil Peart work their magic without a net.
Rush In Rio is packaged beautifully in a very colorful slipcase & foldout digi-pak. A separate booklet includes all technical data and nearly five pages’ worth of juicy liner notes by The Professor (Peart). Spread across two discs, this collection is perfect for those (such as myself) who failed to make any of the Vapor Trails dates, as all twenty-six songs, plus requisite three-song medley, are here. While the release looks and sounds great, the frequency with which cam angles switch is often frustrating. On the plus side, whenever The Professor lays into one of his patented fills, the chance is good that the camera won’t cut away. Ged’s Fender Jazz bass is back on active duty, resurrected on Vapor Trails after playing Wal basses for roughly a decade—and while, vocally speaking, he can’t quite hit those shrieking highs on “Freewill” and “The Big Money,” his position as one of rock’s perennially best bass players is stone secure. The Fender really cuts through the mix, and we can thank James "Jimbo" Barton for that. Alex switches between Gibson and Paul Reed Smith guitars, his overall tone gorgeously meaty and well-done—long-gone is that heavily-chorused tone he endorsed pre-Counterparts. Neil has played Slingerland, Tama, and Ludwig drums in the past, and he currently punishes a Drum Workshop kit with Zildian cymbals. Indeed, the boys rock with a certain fervor that exceeds Different Stages in places, and that was slightly diminished on A Show Of Hands. Neil’s performance is uncanny; many drummers half his age don’t have his feel, finesse, or resilience.
Disc One: The band and film & sound crews were deprived of a preshow sound & equipment check due to an extremely late start, resulting in a setup that continued all the way up until showtime. The boys from Toronto tapped all of their nervous energy and overcame this hurdle, diving headfirst into a setlist that spanned every chapter of their career, including several numbers resurrected for the tour—and in the case of “Closer To The Heart,” the occasion (the song is very popular in that neck of the woods, as with Mexico City). Every soul in the crowd sings along with every lyric, every note, each body sways with the next, everyone creating one massive undulation that never decays. The crowd’s volume is just as incessant—even the band was surprised! In an unusual move, Rush chose to start all Vapor shows with Hit Number One, “Tom Sawyer.” After the comparably powerful “Distant Early Warning,” and “New World Man”—from the band’s most synth-dominated, most speculative era in the mid-80s—things get heavier with “Earthshine” and “YYZ.” The former is a fantastic new song, with an incredible vocal performance by Geddy, and dense, murky chords; the latter is one of several polished instrumentals, and a Rush standard. Alex plays a Gibson SG on “YYZ,” and the camera captures a tender moment when he reaches for a phantom vibratto bar toward tune’s end! Two hours and forty-five minutes (and an intermission you don’t have to sit through) of music in all is covered, from “The Trees” and its extended resolution, the pummelling power of “One Little Victory,” the fragile beauty of an all-acoustic duet version of “Resist,” and the schizoid panorama of “La Villa Strangiato.”
Disc Two: The Boys In Brazil, a fine documentary by Andrew MacNaughtan, is the main feature. Insights into Lee, Lifeson & Peart—the individuals, as opposed to the band—are few and far between; “the camera eye” stays with them during their Brazilian sojourn through the reminiscences, the gags, the anticipation, and the frustration. To hear Neil speak candidly is an even rarer occurrence, making the docu all the more valuable. D2 also offers three tracks from the show in a multi-select angle context, those being “O Baterista” (three angles), “YYZ,” and “La Villa Strangiato” (four angles apiece). A couple of Easter eggs can be cracked open: the “By-Tor” movie in an exclusive format, and a clip of “Anthem”…from 1975!
Make no bones about it: the DVD has several technical glitches—it’s supposed to be anamorphic, but isn’t, and some of the nearly two-dozen cameras varied in quality, with too few technicians—but only the most anal of technophiles are likely to have breakdowns over this. This DVD is it, what Rushfans have yearned for: a complete show from one venue and one night, in its entirety, not a cross-selection compiled from several dates—and this time, Neil’s drum solo is presented unabridged, thank heavens! Apparently, Rush In Rio is selling very well. Don’t miss out.