Long Beach 1981 (Cygnus 034/035)
Long Beach Arena, Long Beach, CA, USA – June 14, 1981
Disc 1 (64:13) 2112 (Overture / The Temples Of Syrinx), Freewill, Limelight, Hemispheres (Prelude), Beneath Between and Behind, The Camera Eye, YYZ, Drum Solo / YYZ, Broon’s Bane, The Trees, Xanadu
Disc 2 (59:37) The Spirit Of Radio, Red Barchetta, Closer To The Heart, Tom Sawyer, Vital Signs, Natural Science, Medley : Working Man / Hemispheres (Armageddon) / By-Tor and the Snow Dog / In The End / In The Mood / 2112 (Grand Finale), La Villa Strangiato
Rush would play four concerts in the greater Los Angeles area in 1981 as part of the tour to support Moving Pictures, two at the Los Angeles Sports Arena, one in Anaheim, and one in Long Beach. Of these four concerts, just two were recorded, the Anaheim date features the superb Millard tape and found on Anaheim 1981 Mike Millard 1st Gen (Cygnus 032/033), and the concert two nights afterward in Long Beach, the subject of this new title released simultaneously with the Anaheim show.
The Long Beach recording had begun circulating soon after the concert thanks to a vinyl bootleg that came out in 1981, a double LP entitled Tom Sawyer (UD-6565/6) that featured most of the recording save for the first few songs. Knowing that Rush were a “thinking mans music”, the bootleg title featured a Rush crossword puzzle, no doubt lifted from the tour book. It would be years before the recording would see another release, Moving Stage (Gypsy Eye GE-093/094) was released in 1999 and like the vinyl, would be missing the first few songs. This new title from Cygnus features the complete recording and is touted as being from the original master tape and should be an upgrade to the older Gypsy Eye title.
The recording falls into the very good to near excellent range, slightly distant but clear and detailed with all instruments and vocals coming through cleanly in the mix. The reason why the first few songs are cut is due to a lot of commotion near the taper, there is a lot of movement in the audience and figuring out seating arraignments, once it clears the sonics greatly improve. There is a wonderful ambiance on the tape and the atmosphere inside the 12,700 capacity arena. The concert was sold out and the opening band was FM (big thanks to the excellent Wandering The Face Of The Earth book by Skip Daly and Eric Hansen).
The recording begins like the Anaheim tape, lights go down, band takes the stage and tests equipment during the swirling 2112 intro, once they break into Overture the audience lets loose. The onstage explosion between Overture and Temples of Syrinx gets a maniacal cheer from the audience as they are at a fever pitch, the excitement comes through on the recording. The crowd and recording actually begin to settle down during Freewill until a discrepancy over seats is overheard (“Are these your seats?…are you sure?…I have tickets…”), it’s not as bad as it sounds though and seems to quickly become resolved. Occasionally you hear a woman scream, this does not interfere with the recording in anyway yet is noteworthy as it has long been assumed that chicks don’t dig Rush, myth shattered.
The audience settles down near the taper and the sound settles down as well, Limelight is well received, Geddy is in really fine voice and punctuates many of the lyrical lines in Beneath, Between, and Behind. The recording is at the near excellent point by the time the band reach The Camera Eye just in time for more shouts of “Sit down”, the clarity is perfect and we can listen to the intricate guitar, drums, keyboards and bass pedals in full flight. You can pick up what is bass pedals and actual bass guitar, was glad to hear this song live during the Time Machine tour in 2011. YYZ is introduced “This is instrumental, this is where we live, this is Why Why Zed”. Another brilliant Neil drum solo in all its Exit…Stage Left glory, the latter part of the song you begin to hear the bursts of firecrackers. Broon’s Bane gives some audience members some time to chat, thankfully The Trees drowns them out, thankfully as the song features wonderful drum fills and percussion from Mr. Peart.
More firecrackers introduce The Spirit Of Radio, after the expansive Xanadu, Radio and Red Barchetta are warmly greeted by the audience, so much that afterwards a barrage of firecrackers are let off to which Geddy replies “Hey you know throwing firecrackers in this building is really dangerous and stupid so don’t do it OK?”. Closer To The Heart is played as an almost peace offering, it works as the remainder of the concert is relatively problem free. Again Natural Science is brilliant, the playing is perfect and the band make it sound easy, Neil’s playing is simply a grand and complex pattern, the framework from which the song is build around. This is the last of the very complex songs that the band would write, a brilliant piece of music.
Working Man features the wonderful Reggae intro and the medley section is consistent with the rest of the tour. Highlights are definitely the Fly By Night songs, featuring a nice chunk of By-Tor and In The End, and 2112’s Grand Finale is stunning. La Villa Strangiato is the final song, again its Alex’s solo that blow the audience, and me, completely away, even better than the Anaheim version, very moving. Geddy does some lyrical inspiration, I have no idea what he is saying, almost sounds like a chef from a hibachi grill or something. The tape keeps rolling and we get a glimpse of the PA music being played to calm the audience, We’ll Meet Again by Vera Lynn.
The packaging is designed to match both the Chicago and Anaheim releases, a collection of live and posed shots with fonts oriented similar to the Moving Pictures album. Picture discs and numbered sticker, nothing was spared. Excellent release that I was quite pleased to see as it seems like Cygnus does not stray from the sure thing. For the casual collector either Chicago or Anaheim would be best suited, for the season Rush collectors, this is a great title to get (and enjoy!).