Grace Of The Master Osaka 1984 (Cygnus 026/027)
Osaka Prefectural Gymnasium, Osaka, Japan – November 20, 1984
Disc 1 (51:01) Intro, Spirit Of Radio, Subdivisions, The Body Electric, The Enemy Within, The Weapon, Witch Hunt, New World Man, Between The Wheels, Red Barchetta
Disc 2 (45:26) Distant Early Warning, Red Sector A, Closer To The Heart, YYZ incl. Drum Solo, 2112, Tom Sawyer, Red Lenses, Vital Signs, Finding My Way, In The Mood
The tour to support 1984’s Grace Under Pressure was fairly typical for Rush encompassing North America, both United States and Canada, and for the first time since 1977, no UK or European leg. The band would, however, play Japan for the first and only time in their touring history. The trek would be short, just four dates, November 16 Seto Aich, November 18 Fukuoka, November 20 Osaka, and November 21 Tokyo. With just four dates and the costs associated with transporting their equipment, the band elected to bring only their guitars and other vital equipment, even Neil Peart had Tama make a complete replica of his set in Japan specifically for the tour and the PA system etc would be of Japanese origin. This would make hard going for the band, anyone who is familiar with the band know how they strove for perfection and not having their own gear made a difficult transition. There was also an incident where they witnessed a Japanese hitting his wife and intervened only to be looked down upon for not understanding the cultural differences, these factors combined would be enough for Rush to sadly never again venture to the Far East.
Of the four Japanese dates, only the last two dates were documented, Osaka and Tokyo and while many fan produced titles have circulated amongst collectors, the only silver title was Made In Japan (Gypsy Eye GE-115) which at the time was regarded as the best sounding document of the Osaka show, yet flaws found within Subdivisions garnered some negative comments. Now years later the folks at Cygnus have produced a title that boasts as being from the Master. After multiple listening’s of this title versus the old Gypsy Eye title I am here to confirm that what we are dealing with is a significant upgrade on sound and clarity. Easily enough to label this title a definitive. The old Gypsy Eye title had a deep and sometimes distorted bass that made for difficult listen even after equalization, this new version of the tape is excellent, well defined and while the top end is perfectly represented the deep lower frequencies are perfect in this version so you can crank this up and rock the house. I would rate the old Gypsy Eye sound as very good and this new title falls easily in the excellent range. The tape is virtually complete save for a cut during Red Barchetta, which will be addressed in my review, the introduction is also longer.
As usual the band would do a consistent set list throughout the tour, early on the band would play Afterimage after Closer to The Heart, later in the tour that song was dropped with Kid Gloves taking its place and for the remaining dates in Japan and Hawaii it would be dropped and the show shortened by a song. The remainder of the set would fully embrace Grace Under Pressure and the past two records, Signals and Moving Pictures getting a couple nods each, the 70’s material would also get only a slight bit of love. The intro is the Three Stooges and an early example of the group’s sense of humor, Spirit Of Radio is the perfect opener and one is hit with a wonderful punch of the recording that does have a small hall feel making for an intimate listening experience, the sound is almost of soundboard quality. The audience is very reserved and quiet in stark contrast to the loud unruly American audiences the band has so become used too. The minor cuts found throughout the three minute mark of Subdivisions are not found on this title so one can assume that Gypsy Eye had a defective version of the tape or was damaged in their mastering.
The clarity of the recording is evident on The Body Electric, you can hear small nuances from Geddy’s keyboards, one can assume that the taper was close to the stage and thankfully there is zero audience interference near him. GUP is a dark record, it has only been in the past decade that I have begun to embrace it and for me seems to be a transition record much like an early predecessor Caress Of Steel, a record who has a unique connection to this concert. The next three songs make up the Fear Trilogy, most fans were hearing them unknowingly of their connection, The Enemy Within is superb in its intricate rhythms, Countdown features the SCTV’s Count Floyd doing the intro yet I wonder if they have the video for it? There is an audience video of the Tokyo gig that was shot from far right side but you cannot see the screen, nevertheless it is nice to hear it and from the reaction the audience is enjoying it also. Witch Hunt is eerie in its themes and music, Alex plays a soaring guitar that sounds like a beast descending its fear upon a village before playing the power chord beginning of the song. The crowd reaction does sound as if the band is playing in isolation giving a somewhat cold and technical vibe to this concert.
Between The Wheels is superb, the recording captures Geddy’s synth label intro and Alex’s raw guitar to perfection, when most band’s are tired at the end of a tour one could say that Rush seems at ease with the new material and their live arrangements of the material, this song is the perfect example. The taper must have been using 90 minute tapes as there is a tape pause for a second at the beginning of Red Barchetta at the 2 second mark and a cut in the tape at the 3:19 to 3:46 mark with the gap filled with an excellent audience recording from the following nights performance in Tokyo, the splices are very smooth and while you do notice I am glad the label used the alternate tape source versus the Hawaiian SB or other tour recordings. It is after Barchetta as a sound scape starts that if you listen closely you can hear an American voice shout out “Caress Of Steel…Caress Of Steel” and there is our connection. I am sure that like many German concerts that there were American service people attending these concerts. After Distant Early Warning, after little fanfare Gedd asks “How you doing out there…” and someone yells Hemispheres and he responds “Knock yourself out…this is Red Sector A” making for a very odd interaction with the subdued audience.
Closer To The Heart seems to start to wake the audience and Neil’s Morse code intro to YYZ gets the loudest reaction so far and as the band proceed to pummel the audience, they rise to the occasion and clap in time with the group, finally signs of life. They also seem to enjoy Neil’s solo, it is reminiscent of his Exit Sage Left one and is a certain (as usual) crowd pleaser. The song segues into 2112: Temples Of Syrinx non stop and before the crowd can catch their breath they go right into Tom Sawyer to end the main portion of the set. “Domo arigato” is Gedd’s greeting as the band return to the stage, the two songs from Moving Pictures has heated things up a bit, as the crowd claps along with Red Lenses, the song has a certain swing to it that is pleasing and the jam middle section features an all too brief bass/drum jam that is killer. A brilliant version of Vital Signs follows and Geddy delivers an emotional vocal delivery on the Moving Pictures deep cut. Finding My Way and In The Mood are played in medley style and keep the party atmosphere gong ‘til the end. Interesting to listen to the cold and clinical feeling concert warm up and the barriers slowly drop.
The packaging is wonderful and typical for Cygnus, and much like the packaging of the Boston and Frankfurt shows from the Hemispheres tour, this title is like a companion to the labels Hawaiian Under Pressure (Cygnus 016/017) title, we get beautiful full color GUP graphics with live shots of the group. The cd’s have pictures on them as well as our favorite numbered sticker all housed in a slim lined jewel case. A true upgrade of a rare concert in Rush’s illustrious touring history, in definitive form.