Historically, Rush delivers 4 albums and closes each cycle with a live offering. The first live album being “All the world’s a stage” in 1976 or so, “Exit.. stage left” was next in 1981 and this one “A show of hands” from 1989. “A show of hands” derives it’s title from the song “Turn the page” off of the “Hold your Fire” album.What is great about their live album cycle is that it effectively captures each Rush era. Unfortunately, Rush music from the 1980’s doesn’t translate well to a live album this over-produced. The songs and consequently, the live experience, come across as sterile. I went their to concerts during this era and “A show of hands” is not indicative of that experience. I gave it 3 stars because I don’t have the heart to give a Rush album less. Frankly, this album was a C-grade effort. From interviews I have read with Geddy Lee in context of their previous live album “Different Stages” (which is infinitely superior), he states that “A show of hands” was inferior to their other albums.I do disagree with the reviewers that criticize the album for sounding too much like a studio album because if a band cannot reproduce an album live, they aren’t as talented as they could be. Rush obviously is amazingly talented but “A show of hands” comes across as fairly lightweight. Buy it if you are completing your catalog.
Melodic, uplifting vocals and harmonies, side-by-side with tortured, assaulting screams. Mathematically precise rhythms and complex fretwork, giving way to loose jam-inspired divergences. Pop-meets-punk-meets-metal-meets-rock in the unlikeliest of places: this is the musical crossroads where you’ll find Washington State-based trio The Fall of Troy, skittering off defiantly in one direction after another, refusing to stick to any one established road. If it sounds like it all adds up to chaos, that’s because it often does – but only in the same beautiful way as our own everyday experience. And with Doppelganger, their Equal Vision debut, that kind of musical experimentation and alternate perspective has enabled Thomas Erak (vocals/guitar), Tim Ward (bass/vocals), and Andrew Forsman (drums) to stand out right from the start. Given the chance to work on the new record with top producer Barrett Jones (Foo Fighters, The Melvins, Jawbox), the band jumped, and entered the studio in exactly the right mindset. ”We didn’t really go in there with a set sound in mind,” says Forsman. ”We just kind of figured it out on the spot. So the new album became more of a snapshot of us at the time than a posed picture.” Which is fitting, considering that no two live experiences with The Fall of Troy are ever the same. Rather than plan out every aspect of their shows, the band leaves things open on stage, allowing for the music and the energy to take over. No one knows exactly when or how a song will change, or when the atmosphere will explode with electricity, until it actually happens. And while a record can’t physically change from listen to listen, that sense of spontaneity remains a big part of what makes Doppelganger so powerful.
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Rush’s tradition of releasing a live album after every fourth studio release continues with “A Show of Hands”. Unlike the wretched “Exit Stage Left” which was plauged by terrible recording problems, this albums avoids the problems which make “Exit” nearly unlistenable. Unlike “Exit” and the masterful “All the World’s A Stage” which present one live show, “A Show of Hands” presents cuts from different concerts and tours.
As an attempt to show case different tours, it lacks the cohesion and sustained energy that make a “Rush in Rio” and “R30″ such triumphs. As an anthology of different shows, the shifts between the different concerts is often jarring.
It’s absurd to label this as the “worst” Rush live album–since its clearly far superior to “Exit, Stage Left.” (And “Exit’s” problems are not performance-related, but as I note above, technical.)
As a matter of personal preference, I like a live album to be of one show, a snapshot, so to speak, of a band’s work and spirit at a single moment in time.
For the new Rush fan I would not recommend it. “Different Stages” would be a much better intro to their live work. It showcases their more recent work as well as the pre-”Hemispheres” albums on that fantastic third concert disc.
All of that having been said, “A Show of Hands” should be in every serious Rush fan’s collection. It is really completely inaccurate to describe Rush’s 80’s oeuvre as “the synth period” since the use of synths began with 1976’s “2112″. The shift is gradual and doesn’t support the label the period is too often given.
As a sampling of their live shows in the 80s, it does a good job. To repeat, I would have preferred one show but the anthology approach does provide a more global perspective on one of the most successful concert acts of the last thirty years.
Rush also has has more consecutive gold and platinum albums than any other band–excepting only the Beatles and Rolling Stones (in the that order).
I personally find this album to be the finest Rush live release in the band’s long and prestigious career. In fact, this album was the album that really made me a listener of the band and brought me to other such jewels as ‘Moving Pictures’ and ‘Signals’. I have listened to both ‘Different Stages’ and ‘Exit Stage Left’ and while they both have their positive points neither, in my opinion, comes close to the musicianship and presentation of ‘A Show of Hands’. While I will admit that many of the studio releases of these tunes sometimes have a stagnant or synthetic type of feeling, they just work on a much higher level in this live recording, especially the what was then newly released ‘Hold Your Fire’ material. I also agree, with many of my fellow reviewers, that much of the “live rock grit” has been pulled out from this album but personally I always found such grit to be more of a flaw than asset. However, I should point out that I am by no means a rock or Rush afficienado as most of my music collection consists of jazz (but it does include a large quantity of fusion,free and funk). Either way ‘A Show of Hands’ provides a unique type of Rush experience and should be interesting and worthwhile to rock and jazz listeners with slightly broader tastes.
1) If, like me, you didn’t really get into the so-called “synth period” of Rush, this albums gives you a good slice of that period of the band to make up for the studio albums you probably neglected to buy.2) All Rush live albums are incredible. They perform their songs with almost mathematical precision, but still add a bit of live grit to them as well.Now for the bad. If you’re not familiar with this material, it’s pretty synth heavy and can come off a bit cerebral and sterile. This is definitely music for the head. I happen to like it. While I never got too into this period for the band, songs like “Mission” are really quite compelling, with incredible lyrics. And Geddy’s use of both synth and bass is really incredible. You almost forget that he is playing both instruments.Another gripe. You get the sense that Peart was a little too excited about his new MIDI triggers. Geddy too. It’s neat to hear the technology, but it does lack some grit of their older playing.Last gripe. “Closer to the Heart” was on “Exit . . . Stage Left,” this album, and later on “Different Stages.” This is overkill. I sincerely hope they leave it off the NEXT live album.Overall, it’s a great listen of some incredible live performances. The synths are very heavy, but I happen to like it overall.
The cycle of four studio recordings, followed by a live issue continues with this third live set by Rush, from 1989. Tracks are taken primarily from the Power Windows tour of ‘86 and Hold Your Fire of ‘88 and also includes cuts from Signals and Grace Under Pressure.I like this live set. I think it’s a good representation of the eighties period Rush disks, and the performances here bring out some of the energy lacking in the over-produced, sterile-sounding studio versions. “Subdivisions” really comes alive with great guitar and drums, as does “Mystic Rhythms.” “Turn the Page” has a positive vibe often missing in rock. I also like the inclusion of “Witch Hunt” here, as well as “Closer to the Heart” with the added instrumental jam by the band. Of the three musicians, I think Alex Lifeson’s guitar work shimmers with more energy than the studio versions.Compared to their other live releases, All The World’s a Stage, Exit…Stage Left, and Different Stages, this set still has an over-produced feel to it. Heavy on special effects and augmented things like a recorded version of Aimee Mann’s voice on “Time Stand Still” rather than the real thing. When I listen to a live set, I want surprises, not exact recreations of the studio cuts. Yes, there are nuances here, but they are subtle textural things.Still, this is a group of three guys who, to the best of my knowledge, do not use outside musicians to augment their sound, something a lot of larger bands do for their shows. And, Geddy Lee often plays bass and keyboards at the same time, while singing too!