Hawaiian Under Pressure (Cygnus 016/017)
Neil Blaisdell Center, Honolulu, Hawaii, USA – November 25, 1984
Disc 1 (46:18) Subdivisions, The Body Electric, The Enemy Within, The Weapon, Witch Hunt, New World Man, Between The Wheels, Red Barchetta
Disc 2 (39:11) Distant Early Warning, Red Sector A, Closer To The Heart, YYZ, Drum Solo, YYZ (cont), Temples Of Syrinx, Tom Sawyer, Red Lenses
Grace Under Pressure was sort of a dark horse record for Rush, their first without long time producer and “father” Terry Brown. Originally Steve Lillywhite was set to produce but bailed to do a Simple Minds record (great choice there) so they used Peter Henderson, who was by all accounts an excellent engineer, but had difficulty making decisions so much of the producers role went to the band. The resulting record was finally released to the masses in May 1984 and would spawn four single with only Distant Early Warning making any impact. The tour would be a typical North America / Canadian jaunt with four dates near the end of the tour in Japan, the band’s first trip to the Far East and the final dates were “on the way” home in Hawaii.
No recordings surfaced from these last two dates in Hawaii, then out of nowhere comes this recording, sent out to the masses thanks to a torrent site, the comments to that torrent give incite to the origins of the recording:
I received this recording from a friend of mine named Larry, Larry owned a music store on Oahu called “Paradise City Music & Collectables”, I worked there when I lived on Oahu, I think Larry knows the person that recorded this show, I always wanted a copy, but Larry told the person that gave him the CD-Rs that he wouldn’t let anyone copy them, so Larry wouldn’t share them with anyone, I could listen to them, but I couldn’t copy them, then a few years later in 1998, after moving back to California, Larry sold me the CDs, I have never seen this recording on Dime & it is not listed on DRE so this may the first time that it has been circulated, the mix is very good.
The recording is indeed a soundboard of excellent quality, crisp and clear with almost perfect balance save for the guitar being a bit low in the mix. It is a bare bones recording with the audience very low in the mix, although they can be heard between songs. The date is confirmed by Geddy as he mentions Hawaii several times. The recording is incomplete, missing the Three Stooges intro, The Spirit Of Radio and the first 40 seconds of Subdivisions at the beginning and Vital Signs, Finding My Way and In The Mood at the end of the concert, wisely the people at Cygnus did very little to the recording, their mastering only accents the original recording for the better, they slowed it down a touch as the original recording ran just slightly fast and the recording has better highs and lows giving it a real punch.
For the end of a tour, one could not tell, the band sound in great form during Subdivisions, the drums are perfect in the mix and we can fully enjoy Neil’s playing. Geddy says hello as they begin The Body Electric, one of six new songs from GUP, one thing that can be said about Rush, they stick with new material and do not fall back into “familiar” territory. In fact the new material has more of an air of confidence to them, the interplay between Geddy and Neil as Alex solos is phenomenal. The Enemy Within is next and is the first part of a group of songs referred to as the “fear” trilogy. Musically complex, the keys have a multi layered texture to them, the lyrics are about how fear works its way into ourselves. The next song is from Signals and deals with the threat of fear from an outside source, The Weapon also features the hilarious Count Floyd introduction the band also used on the Signals tour. Alex plays a great solo, bit in the back of the keys but really good and carries the melody quite well as keyboard “blasts” go off overhead. The last part of Fear (until 2002 and Freeze from Vapor Trails) is the excellent Witch Hunt, certainly the most evocative song of the group, it takes the full Rush arsenal to bring it to life, the intro gives the feeling of the mob mentality and harkens to torches and pitchforks. Alex’s riff is stark in contrast but when the full band breaks back in it is high drama, lush and highly retrospective. “Quick to judge, quick to anger, slow to understand…ignorance and prejudice…and fear…walk hand in hand”, lyrics like this prove even when we live in a technologically advanced society, we have not moved to a higher plane of humanity.
New World Man certainly lightens the mood, certainly the influence of new wave and pop can be heard, the band did not hide their appreciation of the new music form and you can hear the Police influences in the song. Between The Wheels is a great song, again the synth laden song has some excellent playing from Alex, he was finding his own musical voice through the 80’s, a song like this is a predecessor to what he would do later on with Power Windows. The wheels keep spinning for a glorious romp through a great Red Barchetta, the band are having a great time and Gedd starts to laugh, during “Suddenly ahead of me” part.
Distant Early Warning begins the second disc, I can remember seeing this video on MTV back in day, the kid flying on the missile, heavily influenced by the Cold War that was still raging in the media and minds, the song is very strong live and features Gedd with some nice echo effects on his voice to boot. In 1984 when GUP came out, it took little to figure out what Red Sector A was about, it was later that I learned that Geddy’s parents were concentration camp survivors, his father dying at a young age do to the lasting effects it had on him physically. The line “I must help my mother stand up straight” I am sure come from his role of a man after his fathers own demise. It is only fitting that they follow such a poignant song with one of hope, the brilliant Closer To The Heart features a wonderful acoustic intro by Alex and Neil’s chimes are killer for sure. A mainstay of the live set during the 80’s and one of the bands most beloved songs, for good reason as evident on the extended jamming found towards the end.
The ending of Closer finds Neil using the full extent of his kit, kids he is just warming up. YYZ is started Morse code style and the band kicks it into high gear. This is power trio on steroids so to speak, all three playing to perfection, so tight yet Gedd’s playing is nice and loose and he plucks notes effortlessly. Of course the song is a vehicle for “The Professor” on the drum kit. Back in the day his solos were mini epics and the change from All The Worlds A Stage to Exit…Stage Left was astonishing, so it was with great anticipation that one would look forward to a Neil solo. His six minute solo flies by fast, but I continue to be amazed by his talent. After a quick YYZ reprise the band blast into Temples Of Syrinx from 2112 and finds the band picking up the tempo of the concert greatly with its metallic renderings. It segues perfectly into Tom Sawyer without missing a beat, so to speak. The set ends with a crowd pleaser and after Gedd says “goodnight” there is a tape cut to the band coming back onstage, the date is confirmed as he tells the audience that it is the last gig of the tour as he noodles around on his bass, they then break into Red Lenses. It is great to hear this song live, Neil plays very complex percussion that is incredible, the lyric is a retrospective of the times and what was popular in the news, from politics to entertainment. The middle is Rush funk at its best, something I thought was not possible, yet with this band nothing is impossible. An excellent and superbly played concert.
The packaging is excellent, simply beautiful with shots intertwined with Grace Under Pressure graphics, the front insert is visual stunning. The CD’s have pictures on them, full color live band shots and the set comes with a numbered sticker. With the announcement of the band’s up coming R40 tour one can only hope we see more releases from this label, everyone of their titles has been top notch and this one is very highly recommended. Live Long And Prosper.
Yes, thanks very much for the great review of this excellent 2CD. However, I like Cygnus’ “Largo 1984 Original DAT Master” a little more (has most of the same tracks), plus “Largo 1984” also has several bonus tracks from a 1991 show (also soundboard) that are quite enjoyable, and give it a considerably longer total playing time (nearly 37 minutes more).
Great review of an excellent boot.