|Rush - Rush in Rio|
|Written by Bryan Dailey|
|Tuesday, 21 October 2003|
Other than The Police, Rush is probably the most famous and respected power trio in all of rock and roll, but on the night of November 23, 2002, during the final show of the Vapor Trails tour at Maracana Stadium in Rio de Janeiro, Rush had about 40,000 extra members in the band. This was the fist time Rush had ever toured Brazil and, over the course of three shows, they played in the biggest venues of their 25-plus-year career, to the largest group of rabid Rush fans ever seen. The final show was recorded for posterity (and for this DVD) and is now available as the incredible-sounding and -looking two-DVD set “Rush In Rio.”
Rush has released several live videos, but this is the first official live set that features essentially an entire Rush show from beginning to end. What sets this concert video apart from so many others like it is the level of audience enthusiasm and participation. To say Brazil was hungry to see Rush perform would be an understatement. The most noticeable thing about Rush in Rio is the amount of crowd noise that was included on the mix. I’m not referring to just the crowd clapping and screaming, but rather the audience, some of whom probably don’t have a good grasp on what the English lyrics actually are, singing along with all of the songs as Rush blazes through an astonishing 29 numbers on this DVD. Even during their instrumentals, such as the virtuoso showcase “YYZ,” you can literally hear the crowd singing along with each chord change and rhythmic pattern. Music and rhythm are a huge part of South American culture and while you might not guess that the “thinking man’s heavy metal” sound of Rush would appeal to this crowd, “Rush in Rio” proves this theory wrong.
All Rush fans are aware of the tragedies drummer Neil Peart suffered five years ago, with the loss of both his 19-year-old daughter (in a car accident) and wife (from cancer) in a span of one year. Many consider it a miracle that he was able to find the will to live, let alone record a new album and then take to the road with his fellow bandmates and put in 66 shows on a tour that was originally supposed to be about 35 to 40 concerts long. On “Rush in Rio,” we see the newly married and energized Peart getting back in the ring with his musical gloves on to punch out the rhythms that have inspired so many drummers, myself included, to pick up a pair of sticks. Other than a few static cameras that are slightly grainy, almost all of the footage on “Rush in Rio” is beautiful, clean and crisp, and we get a chance to really see into the eyes of this stoic drummer who, albeit rarely, cracks a smile or two at his fellow Rush members Alex Lifeson and Geddy Lee as he plays what could very well be the final show ever, should the band decide not to record a new album or tour again.
With hundreds of songs to choose from, Rush came up with a very even mix of old and new songs for this tour from their catalog of 17 studio albums. Having seen the show on this tour when it came through Los Angeles at the Staples Center, the set list felt very familiar (I didn’t look up an exact set list from the L.A. show). However, one song that was added to the Brazil show was the classic “Closer to the Heart” from the Farewell to Kings album. When Rush played in Mexico City prior to the Brazil shows, they learned that this is the favorite song of many South American Rush fans, so it went without saying that it would be added to the Brazilian shows. The crowd chanted along to every word and soaked in all the energy on this very wet and tropical evening.
As the band marched though their set, the songs all felt a tad slower and more methodical than some of their more up-tempo live performances in years gone by, but as the evening wore on, the energy stayed with them and even grew in intensity. By the time they got to the real meat and potatoes of the show where all of the new songs were out of the way and it was time for the classics such as “2112,” “Limelight” and “Cygnus X-1,” Rush was no longer a band nearing the twilight of their incredible careers. They were thirtysomething prog-rockers jamming for the Brazilian crowd like it was 1981 and they were on the Moving Pictures tour again. Pick up a copy of “Exit Stage Left” on VHS from eBay and compare for yourself.
Along with the complete concert from the Rio show, Rush’s resident photographer Andrew MacNaughtan, along with a small crew, created a documentary titled “Boys in Brazil.” Despite the silly title that sounds more like a gay porno than a Rush tour documentary, it is in fact a very entertaining and rarely seen behind the scenes look into the world of Rush on tour, along with the events before the big shows in Brazil.
As the concert footage proves, the level of enthusiasm from the Brazilian fans was completely astonishing to the band. The documentary takes quite a few opportunities to show cheering fans and we hear, in their broken English, how important Rush is to them. We even learn that Brazil’s most successful rock band Sepeltura was at one of the Brazil shows and we learn what big Rush fans they are and how influential Rush has been to them.
Rush, in their nearly 30-year history, had never toured Brazil before, so the anticipation for these shows was huge. Lifeson and Lee arrived with great fanfare at the airport, greeted by screaming fans, but drummer Peart arrived separately, and for good reason. Due to the devastating losses Peart has been dealing with, it was agreed on by the band and management that Lifeson and Lee would handle all of the interviews and press appearances so that Peart would not have to deal with the stress and pain of being asked the same questions over and over about the terrible events that he had recently endured. Because MacNaughtan is such a close and personal friend of the band, especially of Peart, the documentary handles the issue of Peart not participating in many of the extracurricular events of the tour with great compassion.
The famous saying “the show must go on” would have been a better title for the documentary. Torrential rainstorms greeted the band as they landed in Brazil and it just so happened that the shows were scheduled for outdoor soccer arenas. This meant that Rush’s elaborate stage show had to be constructed as a tropical storm was pouring down on the crew. Although we never get to see anything explode, the road crew manager tells Geddy that they had a big electrical problem with some of the monitor’s and a big arcing spark fried a bunch of gear. After mopping up the stage, re-wiring the monitors and some pre-show sound checks, we get to have an inside look at the band’s pre-show rituals. Guitarist Lifeson usually takes 10 to 20 minutes of alone time to play some blues jams on his guitar to get the fingers loose. Peart uses a practice drum set and has a very regimented practice session that is essentially a 15-minute drum solo. However, bassist/vocalist Lee relaxes and watches sports on TV, more especially baseball when it’s the right time of the year.
A great many Rush fans are also musicians who not only enjoy their music but also want to learn how to play their songs note for note. Besides the 45-minute documentary, a special feature on the second DVD allows viewers to pick their own camera angles to watch on three songs: the instrumental jams “YYZ” and “La Villa Strangiato” and the drum solo “O Baterista.” This gives aspiring drummers a chance to see every move that Peart makes, bassists get to hone in on Lee’s complex bass parts and guitarists can see practically every note strummed and picked by Lifeson. These angles are chosen using the DVD remote and can be switched as the song is playing using the small thumbnail images at the bottom of the screen.
It’s a no-brainer to say that if you are a Rush fan, you absolutely, positively have to have this two-DVD set. Rush has a few video collections from previous tours and a video collection of some of their music videos, but this is by far the best representation of the complete live Rush experience from start to end and everything in between.