Allentown Fairgrounds, Allentown, PA, USA – September 12, 1979
Disc 1 (59:27) 2112, A Passage To Bangkok, By – Tor And The Snow Dog, Xanadu, The Spirit Of Radio, The Trees, Cygnus X-1
Disc 2 (53:10) Cygnus Book II Hemispheres, Closer To The Heart, Freewill, ’79 Tour Medley, La Villa Strangiato
Rush would do a short tour in the summer of 1979 to not only get out and play but also road test some new material, the tour was dubbed “The Tour Of The Semispheres”. The mini tour came after the end of the European leg for Hemispheres just a few months earlier and the creative juices were flowing with another change upon the group, they were not writing side long epics and in their place were shorter but equally cerebral and challenging pieces. The recording featured on this release features a tape from the last gig of the American Leg, although there would be a curious 2 dates in Stafford, England. It is an audience source in the very good range, slightly distant but has a nice in your face sound to it but all instruments and vocals are well represented and sounds great when played loud. The tape used is probably a 1st or 2nd gen copy as the master tape eventually did surface and is a nice upgrade to this version, that being said there is very little activity in the collectors market for Rush and this is likely to be the only pressing of this show.
One only has to look at the set list to see the material played is epic, the band opens the show with their progressive masterpiece 2112, after three years of playing it the music still sounds fresh and exudes confidence. The audience is elated as the band transitions into the Temples Of Syrinx and are boisterous in the love of the song. The 2112 suite is not complete as Discovery and The Oracle are not played, similar to the version found on All The World’s A Stage. Neil’s use of tubular bells durinSoliloquy adds a hauntingly yet beautiful ambience to the song, the hero of the story is in a reflective place and you feel that you are privy to a life changing decision, one that would be played out during the Grand Finale, speaking of the finale, listen to Geddy’s bass playing on it, it is incredible. The intensity of the groups playing is fantastic as the piece is brought to a stunning conclusion. “Thank you” is followed by Gedd’s inaugural greeting, one in which he lets the audience know what they will be in for. A Passage To Bangkok will serve as a chance to collect one’s breath as it is followed by another monster two part epic that begins with the band’s first real progressive story built song, By-Tor and the Snow Dog. The tempo is a bit faster than the original and Gedd’s vocal effects add a lot to the feel of the song, the audience is very vocal during the Styx > Battle sequence and shout in reference to Neil’s incredible drumming. At a peak of intensity the band moves into the opening of Xanadu, the transition is virtually seamless as if the two songs were written as one. I love the beginning of the song, it has a majestic quality to it then bam, you are hit with a monster riff with the guitars in perfect unison and you will find no better example of precision as the 12 minutes of the song.
The Spirit Of Radio is an iconic song in the band’s catalog, a fast fan favorite and one that I personally do not tire of, we get to hear an early version of the song. Geddy introduces the song as being brand new and appearing on their next studio record, the differences are minor, the segment prior to “words of the profit” shows that Geddy had not yet perfected his keyboards and Alex does a different solo and kind of lackluster compared to what we all know and love. After a nice loud round of applause there is a tape cut due to a flip and we pick up with Geddy introducing The Trees, the whimsical tail of feuding forests gives way to THE epic of the evening, a performance of both books of Cygnus performed back to back. The opening of Cygnus X-1 is haunting and delves into the deepest reaches of space before being punctuated by Geddy’s Rickenbacker bass lines followed by Neil accentuating the lines and finally Alex joins the fray with a riff so deep and fat it is jarring. The music is the ship traveling through space, in control but on a doomed course and is narrated by Mr. Lee, the song heats up as the craft looses its trajectory and is flung into the mysterious black hole. The playing fast and furious but exquisitely precise, a most pure example of progressive hard rock.
The second disc starts where the first left off with Cygnus X-1 Book II Hemispheres, there is a brief cut as the song starts but perhaps just a second or two is lost. So complex is the music of Hemispheres that it was essentially the straw that broke the camels back so to speak, never again would the band write a single side long epic again. Complex in design but not to listen, the music flows and it is interesting to pull out the official Hemispheres release and open up the booklet and follow along with the lyrics. You really get full appreciation at the scope of the material and how intense of a performance it was, primarily for Geddy as the vocals were tremendously difficult to punctuate, he does them to perfection. As with the main Hemisphere tour the ending of the title track flows right into Closer To The Heart as if the song was intended to be there.
The second “new” song of the night is Freewill, some yahoo is yelling for Fly By Night makes me smile, he we are listening to a well loved and familiar song but then it was a new entity to the audience. Like Spirit is very close to what we all know and love, there are some keys during the song that are rather generic sounding but that is to be expected and Alex has not perfected his solo but seems rather content with playing some notes in a rhythmic fashion, not daring to take a stab at it quite yet. The final song of the main set is the old school Rush medley, Gedd begins by thanking the opener, Pat Travers as the band plays a night club theme prior to Working Man, which gets a loud response, yes. Working Man gives way to the mighty Anthem, so metallic in nature it serves as a war cry while at the same time pummels you, Bastille Day follows at break neck speed, I always preferred the live versions to the studio, much more powerful and confident sounding. They go real old school with In The Mood, it gets the audience clapping along to great effect, before “The Professor” takes his solo spot. At a time where drum solos were becoming unfashionable, Neil single handedly redefines what a drum solo is. Rhythmically complex it is not simply a drum solo but a one man percussive orchestra, the crowd eats it up and cheers for more, as do I. The ovation is massive and it takes little time before the demanding crowd starts chanting “WE WANT MORE….WE WANT MORE”. They will not have to wait long as the band returns with their most challenging and intense instrumental, La Villa Strangiato. All three musicians bring so much during this song, it should be played multiple times so one can listen intently to each person and how they play together and separate, from rhythm section to solo this song encompasses what 70’s Rush was all about, Perfection.
The packaging is standard Gypsy Eye fare, simple graphics on start black back grounds, simplistic in nature but fits in with the inner sleeve of the Hemispheres record. The recording is great, packaging is great, and the musical content is superb. This is a show no Rush fan should be without and is worth seeking out, turn it up and listen… you will be amazed.