Twenty years ago, a large, three-day music festival was held in the San Bernardino County hills of southern California, where Glen Helen Blockbuster Pavilion now resides, and where the Renaissance Faire sets up shop on an annual basis. That festival was the US Festival, realized by Apple Computers co-conspirator Steve Wozniak. A host of A-list rock & metal bands, including Ozzy Osbourne, Journey, Van Halen, and Santana, performed at the event, as did Canada's other power trio, Triumph. Triumph's too-short set has been gloriously remastered for mass consumption, so that those of us who missed their set on the 29th of May, 1983, can enjoy it, now. The sound is bright, stark and meaty, as a live concert should sound. Rik Emmett pulls off every squeaky high note he's sung on album without a hitch, and burns all of his signature leads on his Gibson axe quite flawlessly. Bassist & synthesist Mike Levine holds down the bottom end and attends to his Moogs. And Gil Moore…well, he's just Gil! Triumph roars through selections from older albums like Rock 'N' Roll Machine and Just A Game, along with newer material from their early 80s prime during Allied Forces and Never Surrender.
The Moore-sung "Allied Forces" had rightfully attained its place as a set-opener with its rousingly anthemic charm and jagged chord progression. Nonchalantly, the band launches into a group of Emmett-sung tracks. The crowd wanted Rik, and they got Rik—his cool, crystalline vocal cords were obviously most welcome in the afternoon warmth. Once reserved as a pre-encore or encore track, "Lay It On The Line" is one of their defining moments, and the video the band shot for it was clearly done years later than the album it appeared on (Just A Game—1978). "Never Surrender" is a title track as strong as any of their others, something of a ballad in disguise that boasts a great '70s neo-funk groove for a song recorded in '82; its positive message is one as ageless as Emmett's blistering solo. Gil powers through some industrial-strength fills on that cut and "Magic Power," his timing never less than rock-steady while harmonizing with Rik. Levine opens "A World Of Fantasy" with his spacey Memorymoog tones which lend themselves perfectly to the title. Roughly ninety-seconds count off before the next track in the form of a short drum solo and guitar jam that serves as a bridge to a pair of tunes that bring Gil back on lead vocals: the testosterone-laced, hi-octane foot-stompers, "Rock & Roll Machine," and "When The Lights Go Down," the latter of which features one of Mike's best basslines. Rik takes his solo spot in-between, progressing from hard blues to a beautiful, quasi-metal, Spanish guitar-flavored section. Exuding no signs of wear & tear, the band brings its set to a showstopping boil with a seven minute-plus rendition of "Fight The Good Fight."
Live At The US Festival contains a bonus DVD sampler of one selection from each of three DVDs: the aforementioned "Fight The Good Fight" from the DVD of the same name; "Spellbound" from A Night Of Triumph Live; and the live promo of "Follow Your Heart" from Greatest Hits (which also appears in audio form as a bonus track on the US disc). "Follow Your Heart" is originally from Thunder Seven, and sounds just like the studio version, with audience noise (perhaps it is). A Night Of Triumph Live was originally issued on VHS, taken from the Halifax stop on Triumph's A Sport Of Kings tour that featured Rick Santers as touring keyboardist and second lead guitarist. That's correct, Rik & Rick! Rik's Aqua-net hair and striped spandex are just hilarious. Despite Emmett's & Santers' combined talent, the live treatment of "Spellbound" is sub-par, and a new section slows the track down, wherein Gil invites the audience to become a "part of the show"—enter: hologram!
It's already been over a decade since Triumph's Rikless album, Edge Of Excess, and Moore & Levine, and Emmett, are still as productive as ever. Emmett has a slew of solo albums to his credit, and Moore & Levine run Triumph's Metalworks studio (where Rush's recent CD, Vapor Trails, was mixed) and their reissue label, TRC Records. Nevertheless, every telltale sign still indicates there is no hope of Rik rejoining his old bandmates. At least one new album project (and tour) failed to materialize in 1998 or 1999 because of this. For now, we can indulge in a bona fide new Triumph release, even if it's a live CD—one that reaffirms what a great live act they once were.