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).