In 2003, the legendary Progressive Rock band Rush released a 3 Disc Set on CD and a 2 Disc Set on DVD covering their 2002 concert in Rio de Janeiro. This review will chronicle the CD release. The background for this concert was that this was the concert recorded on the final night of the “Vapor Trails” tour. Rush had been on about a 5 year hiatus following the tragic death’s of drummer Neil Peart’s wife and daughter. The album “Vapor Trails” marked a reunion for the Canadian rock trio following what would be their longest hiatus as a band. This was the first time Rush had ever played Rio.
The serious Rush fan will probably want to get both the 3 Disc CD Set and the 2 Disc DVD set. The Rio Concert that is on the first DVD is contained on the CD set in its entirety, There are two differences between the CD and DVD: 1) On the DVD set, in addition to the actual Rio concert there is a documentary about the Brazilian shows and Rush called “The Boys in Brazil”. There are also multi angle views of three of the concerts instrumentals as well as some hidden “Easter Eggs”; 2) The CD Set contains two “Bootleg” songs that you won’t get on this DVD set – “Betweeen the Sun & Moon” and “Vital Signs”.
When you have 28 years of material to perform as well as promoting a new album, it can be very difficult to pick what songs to select. Rush does a pretty good job at covering their material. I personally view Rush has having three distinct eras. Some Rush fans may disagree, but this is how I categorize the music: 1) The Epic Works Era (1974-1980: “Rush to “Hemispheres”) – this is a focus on longer more epic songs with a SciFi and Fantasy Influence; 2) The Synth Era (1980-1989: “Permanent Waves” to “Presto”) – Rush moves to shorter songs covering a wide range of topics from History, Sociology, Psychology, and even touches of SciFi and of course Rush makes use of technology and synthesizers to get the sound; 3) The ‘Modern’ Era (1990 – Present: “Roll the Bones” through “Vapor Trails”) – Rush moves away from Synthesizers and now incorporates a more hard rock sound. The Rush in Rio collection covers 29 songs (27 from Rio and two bonus tracks from other shows). There are 6 songs from the Epic Works Era, 13 songs from the Synth Era, and 10 songs (including 4 from “Vapor Trails”) from the Modern Era – some might argue what songs were picked from what era ( I would have liked to see some other songs from “Power Windows” , “Grace Under Pressure” and “Hold You Fire”), but they did spread the table pretty well.
The big complaint many make about the CD abd DVD sets is the sound quality. If you read the liner notes, you might think the bad weather caused the bad sound. This may be true to some extent, but I personally think this recording has an element of realism. Without watching the performance, you can almost hear how Rush will connect with crowd and do it well. If there is any argument with the complaint on the sound quality – it could be directed at the first two tracks “Tom Sawyer” and “Distant Early Warning”, but these aren’t that bad. After these songs, the quality picks up and you will truly hear the realistic element I mention.
The nice thing about this concert is that it is presented in its entirety. The CD recording flows just like the DVD recording that flows as close as anything short of being at the concert. The first disc contains the 1st half of the concert before the intermission. The second half following the intermission starts on disc two and finishes on disc three. The extra “bootleg” tracks are on disc 3. While Rush performs many favorite songs (“Tom Sawyer”, “The Big Money”, “Closer to the Heart”, “Red Sector A”, “2112″, “Limelight”, and many more) – it is some of the lesser known or older songs that fans might not have heard (recently) in concert that really stand out. In particular, listen to songs such as “The Pass” ,”YYZ”, “Natural Science”, and “Dreamline” and you will see what I mean.
The band gets to showcase with the individual talents. Neil Peart does an incredible drum solo that pays tribute to the history of percussion called “O Baterista”. Alex Lifeson and Geddy Lee do a “Rush Unplugged” acoustic number of “Resist”. Rush also performs an older song “La Villa Stangiato” that features Alex Lifeson ‘rambling’ and showing his sense of humor.
The big drawback of this set is the packaging. The three disc set was not packaged in a jewel case, but using a cardboard box. The box for such a “special collection” opens up and can start to wear and tear rather quickly. It also is a bit difficult to pull the CDs out of the package, thus the risk for scratching can get higher. They did this to keep the price down, but I think its a real negative. Of the CDs, two are close shades grey and one is red. I think it would have been easier to pick another color besides a shade of gray to make it easier to identify.
The terrific liner notes included in the set called “Flying Down to Rio – Leaving Vapor Trails Behind”. This was written by drummer Neil Peart (a great writer) was originally included in the DVD set, but are also included in the CD set with a preamble on why they also made the CD set. One final note, listening to this CD will give you as good a feel for the concert as the DVD set. All in all, this is a solid release by Rush and it should keep the fans happy.