Rush In Rio
Universal // Unrated // $29.98 // October 21, 2003
Review by Matthew Millheiser | posted January 15, 2004
M O V I E
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A U D I O
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R E V I E W S
Graphical Version

The Program

I once described Rush as the type of music that guys in Honors Algebra smoked dope to, which got me quickly booted out of our 9th Grade Math Fair. That suspiciously fictitious anecdote aside, my original statement is not entirely true. Rush didn't just appeal to alienated guys who could work their way around both a graphing calculator and a gravity bong - pretty much all rock fans of all social strata listened to Rush. On any pre-grunge rock channel - "classic" rock, "new" rock, "modern" rock, what have you - Rush was always as prevalent as carbon molecules. Today, while the sad state of popular music is awash with ultra-disposable and ponderously anemic pop, hip-hop and rock acts, Side 2 of A Farewell To Kings is sounding fresher than ever. Even as a staple of classic rock playlists, Rush continues to impress new generations of fans.

What is Rush's appeal? Certainly a three-piece band that debuted thirty years ago with a self-titled album of weak-sounding Zeppelin knock-offs didn't inspire confidence that the trio would emerge into one of the most successful and beloved progressive rock acts of our time. When drummer Neil Peart joined bassist/vocalist Geddy Lee and guitarist Alex Lifeson to replace previous drummer John Rutsy, the band's line-up cemented into one of the most celebrated collaborations in rock history. Peart is a percussion legend, a rock behemoth whose impeccable skill influenced generations of drummers that studied every last bar of YYZ like Talmudic scholars. But aside from his prowess on the drums, Peart was also the band's songwriter, responsible for the evocative, powerful, often quizzical but always fiercely humanistic lyrics, such as the poetry of Red Barchetta, the alienation of Subdivisions, the survivalist musings of Red Sector A, the rebellious independence of Tom Sawyer, the exotic spice of A Train to Bangkok, and the epic concept-album bombast and spectacle of 2112.

Neil Peart's phenomenal drumming and lyrical poeticism certainly would have elevated any band, but he was only one pillar of Rush's temple. His words were matched by the music provided by Geddy Lee and Alex Lifeson, who composed some of rock's most memorable riffs and melodies. Lee was as influential a bassist as Peart was for drummers, while Lifeson's fluid, virtuoso guitarwork elevated him into the short list of Guitar Gods. Fantastic musicians, the both of them, and they instilled Peart's lyrics with both power and playfulness, melody and thunder.

The band earned their share of knocks from music critics, who scoffed at the their esoteric lyricism and labyrinthine, progressive-rock meanderings. But to their multitude of fans, Rush was... and is... three phenomenally talented musicians whose talents converged into a powerful expression of music that is both totally unique and universally accessible.

Rush took a six-year break after 1996's Test For Echo and returned with a vengeance with 2002's fantastic Vapor Trails, an album which eschewed lush keyboard arrangements and returned the band to its three piece rock roots while retaining their signature sound. Rush In Rio is a three-hour (!) performance of the band's final night of their 2002 tour, performing to 40,000 ecstatic Brazilian fans. For Rush fans, this is the freakin' Golden Grail. While the set list features several of the tracks from Vapor Trails, it is also peppered with many of their most famous hits (Tom Sawyer, The Spirit of Radio, Limelight) as well as a few odd but welcome surprises (By-Tor and the Snow Dog, 2112). Alas, there was no Cinderella Manfor this fan, but Rush In Rio will satisfy the ravenous appetite of any Rush aficionado.

The set list for Rush In Rio is as follows:

  • Tom Sawyer
  • Distant Early Warning
  • New World Man
  • Roll The Bones
  • Earthshine
  • YYZ
  • The Pass
  • Bravado
  • The Big Money
  • Trees
  • Freewill
  • Closer to the Heart
  • Natural Science
  • One Little Victory
  • Driven
  • Ghost Rider
  • Secret Touch
  • Dreamline
  • Red Sector A
  • Leave That Thing Alone
  • O Baterista
  • Resist
  • 2112 Overture/Temple of Syrinx
  • Limelight
  • La Villa Strangiato
  • Spirit of Radio
  • Encore (By-Tor and the Snow Dog/Cygnus X-1/Working Man)

The DVD

Rush In Rio is a lovely two-disc set, with the concert on Disc One and the extras on Disc Two.

Video:

Taped in front of 40,000 boisterously ballistic Brazilians, Rush In Rio is presented in a 1.85:1 widescreen aspect ratio, and has not been anamorphically enhanced for your widescreen-viewing enhancement. This is the type of egregious oversight that I could imagine occurring in 1999, but definitely not in a 2003 release! For shame. Regardless, the overall transfer appears to be reasonably pleasant. The concert was shot at night, as well as utilizing various smoke and lighting designs that can betray any potential compression and pixellation noise. Thankfully, this transfer is very clean. Contrasts, color levels, deep blacks and shadow detail are all well-rendered. Image detail is sharp, perhaps a tad too sharp. There is noticeable shimmering around fine edges, but that's a minor complaint in a mostly appealing video presentation.

Audio:

When presenting Rush live in concert to a home video audience, the music has simply got to deliver. Rush In Rio does not disappoint. The audio is presented in both Dolby Digital 5.1 and 2.0. The six-channel delivery is clearly the more dynamic of the two, with a louder, brasher, more aggressive, and more immersive experience. If you want 40,000 screaming fans dropped into the middle of your living room, this is your mix! I would have knocked the crowd noise down a tad and pumped up the vocals, but I cannot complain too much. LFE activity is thunderous, aggressive, and imminently appropriate throughout the mix. The soundstage is broad and spacious, presenting a fine rendition of this amazing experience.

The 2.0 channel obviously doesn't have the enveloping quality of the 5.1 mix, but it presents a welcome and balanced rendering of the audio that befits the actual sound of the band much more effectively than the six-channel presentation. There's less crowd noise, and Geddy's vocals and Alex's fretwork come across in a much livelier manner. Use the 5.1 channel to show off to your friends and neighbors, but go stereo to enjoy the music.

Extras:

The extras can be found on Disc Two of this set. The main extra is a one-hour documentary entitled "The Boys In Brazil", which chronicles their trip toBrazil on the final days of their Vapor Trails tour. The band discusses the preparation work that went into the tour, their feelings on playing some of the songs that they've played for decades as well as the emotional conveyances inherent to their music, and their overall experiences while performing in Brazil. The documentary takes a "warts and all" approach, showing some of the various headaches and nightmares that occurred prior to showtime. It was also nice to see the band in some of their more candid, playful, and personal moments. I never knew that Geddy Lee was enduring the pain of stretched ligaments in his right hand at the time, or that Alex Lifeson was an Atkins Diet devotee! On a more somber side, the group also discusses dealing with the press, especially in light of the personal tragedies endured by Neil Peart prior to the tour. And exactly what is up with soup, guys? In the end, what I mostly discerned from this documentary is that Rush is composed of three extraordinarily talented musicians and friends who enjoy challenging each other musically as much as they enjoy goofing around with each other and having a good time.

The MX Multiangle section allows you to view performances of YYZ, O Baterista, and La Villa Strangiato from various angles.

Final Thoughts

Perhaps Geddy Lee can't quite hit the high notes like he used to and perhaps Alex Lifeson isn't quite as svelte as he was in his Moving Pictures days, but Rush is still as magical a band as ever. Even during the slower moments of this show, the band still commands and mesmerizes their audience. This group of Brazilians never stopped bouncing, singing, chanting, and genuinely enjoying this show their energy was positively infectious. I've been a Rush fan since I was 11, and twenty-two years later I'm still loving their music. As a fan, Rush In Rio is a most welcome treat.

As a DVD, Rush In Rio mostly delivers the goods. I was disappointed with the lack of anamorphic enhancement on the transfer, which knocks the video grade down a tad. With that in mind, the quality of the transfer is quite remarkable, and the audio presentation is will knock your socks off. Throw in a fine documentary and supplements, and you have a great package for Rush fans anywhere. This set comes well recommended.



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