The Necromancer (Gypsy Eye 109/110)
City Hall Sheffield, England June 1, 1977
Disc 1 (44:33) Intro, Bastille Day, Anthem, Lakeside Park, 2112, Xanadu
Disc 2 (43:31) Something For Nothing, By-Tor And The Snow Dog, The Necromancer (Return Of The Prince), Working Man (Finding My May / Drum Solo), Fly By Night, In The Mood
While touring in support of their first live album, All The worlds A Stage, Rush made their first visit to the UK for a hand full of dates in early June 1977. The band was in a very transitional period as keyboards where entering into the mix and the band was entering into a period where their music was an amalgamation of their hard rock power trio style mixed with English progressive music. They already had a cult following in the UK and the shows were well received.
The show featured here is the bands first concert in England in the city of Sheffield. The source is an incomplete audience recording that is slightly distant with just a very minor amount of distortion present more in the upper frequencies and a small amount of hiss present in quieter sections. The instruments are cleanly heard as well as the vocals, over all a good solid recording for the age. Rush was very excited to play in England and the performance superb, the set list is one that the band had been playing for months now and consists of music from all of their records plus an early version of a future classic.
The audience is loud in anticipation and sound rabid as the band briefly tunes up and launch into Bastille Day from the Caress Of Steel record. Far heavier and aggressive than the recorded version it acts as the perfect opening song and meets the crowds energy head on. Some more tunning and an introduction has Geddy talking about getting used to the European electricity, all is minor and the continue to bludgeon the audience with Anthem. Neil Peart’s first song with lyrical inspiration from Ayn Rand in fantastic, the musical interaction between the three is intense.
Lakeside Park is the bands Sugar Mountain and the arrangement during this period is different, Geddy uses the keyboards very effectively to fill the song out and makes for interesting listening experience. The keyboards are very prevalent after the chorus and augment the songs melodic nature.
2112 is the centerpiece of the set and one would gather the most anticipated song of the evening and it gets a loud cheer from the crowd during the transition of Park into the Overture. The crowd immediately quiets down for the song as they seem intent on listening. I love listening to old Rush, Neil is just incredible, his sense of time is perfection and his drum fill are beyond belief. The Overture is one of the most metal songs the band would write, Alex is the leader as he puts the rest of the orchestra through their paces and the song explodes into The Temples Of Syrinx.
“And The Meek Shall Inherit The Earth” are the opening lines and a brief reprise from the musical storm. Geddy spews the lyrics, setting the tone for the story that follows, one of dominance and submission (nice BOC reference). The band plays Discovery during this period, when the 2112 record was released they were still an opening band and had shorter sets so the played a short version of song, now firmly a headline act they re instate the song, integral to the story. Soft and beautiful Geddy makes the lyrics his own and shares in the tale of musical expression as does the audience as the clap in time with the song. Filled with joy the hero takes his Discovery to the Elders who make quick work of him and proceed to try and suppress his newfound freedom.
The light and shade nature of the song again blends perfectly as the paint paints the musical landscape to Neil’s words. The song comes to a close amid of an excellent solo by Alex, a flurry of notes mixed with a Wah pedal and one can almost here it as a battle of wills. Contrary to what the CD cover says the band do not play Oracle as they did not play it live and Discovery gives way to Soliloquy, at the 13:38 to 13:45 there is a loud distortion not found on other circulating versions of the tape, thankfully it is all to brief but does catch your attention when played loud. With his freedom nothing more than a dream one makes the choice that without the freedom to express there is no point in living and the epic comes to a close amid the musical storm of The Grand Finale and “We Have Assumed Control…”
Geddy catches his breath before saying “Thank You” and introduces a song that will be one their next record Xanadu. The beginning is a little more spacey sounding and Alex notes are a little different but the song is already formed. The Farewell To Kings record is my favorite by Rush and this song is definitely one of the top picks of the band. Sadley it was dropped from the live set before I could see them perform it although I did get the partial versions during the 1990 Presto tour. To me it is musical perfection, the band hits a synchronicity early one, after the first main riff where Alex plays a fast riff, Neil is playing the hell out of his percussion and chimes while Geddy is playing the keyboards, simply brilliant. The song brings thoughts of snow covered mountains and an epic journey to find the mad immortal man, Alex plays a great solo, just a little different than the regular one but that’s what makes this stuff interesting, hearing early versions of important song before they were recorded.
“Something that goes back to 2112” begins the second disc but not before more tune ups, straight forward hard rock is how one describes Something For Nothing. Not just a great song but advise on how to get farther in life and play a great solo, just like Alex Lifeson. The band tires quickly of playing short songs and heads back to the epics and what can be considered their first major progressive work, By-Tor and The Snow Dog. The play a cowboy style ditty just goofing around before breaking into the song.
The band plays with ease the incredible start stop of Across The Styx and a almost trippy version of Of The Battle was is simply intense and features some nice augmented keyboards from Geddy (There is a brief cut but only seconds are lost)to the familiar drum solo by Neil and Alex solo the band breaks into the beyond heaviness of the Necromancer from Caress Of Steel. Picking up with Under The Shadow it melds perfectly with By- Tor and is mind blowing to hear (there is even a better recording of this from the following night in Manchester). Then Alex rips into another crazy solo and the band, and listener, hang on tight. The feeling would be even better captures in the yet to be written Cygnus X-1 and is a furious flurry of playing. Neil hits some nice chimes to welcome The Return Of The Prince as announced by the pre recorded Terry Brown narration, an excellent version of these two songs
Working Man is a crowd favorite, the infectious riff of the Great White North Ala Led Zeppelin. Neil makes the song come alive with his drumming, not overly done he just adds a lot more dimension. Alex owns the song and gets a nice solo, just before the band breaks into Finding My Way Geddy really starts to push the band with his thundering bass notes. He has some vocals during Finding my Way that almost sound like a kind of distorted scat and the truncated version leads back into Working Man and Geddy again spews out the vocals couple with a lot of echo on his voice making for an interesting effect
This all leads into the drum solo by the professor, much more and education of quantity versus his solos from just a few years later that where much more thought out. He does cover all the bases and the crowd is silent as he blows their minds and the solo is brought to a close with the Asian inspired cymbals as usual and the band finishes the Working Man reprises and exit the stage.
The crowd clap and cheer until the band returns, the encore are the usual fare for the time and is the mix of Fly By Night and the perennial favorite In The Mood. The song ends and the band says good night but based upon the other shows on this tour and the previous dates prior to this tour I am guessing that the band played What Your Doing and possible Best I Can to end the concert. What ever the case what we have is a well played show as the band put a lot of energy into their first tour outside the USA and Canada. So enamored with the UK they would record their next two records there.
The inserts are rather plan and drab and house in a slim lined jewel case. I am a sucker for Rush and the mid to late 70’s period hold a special place in my musical journey, for me this is a no brainier to recommend to any Rush fan, the casual collector may not be interested though. A high five goes to the folks at Gypsy Eye for getting a nice clean copy of this tape for this release.