Rush – Masters Of Stockholm (Cygnus 012/013)

Masters Of Stockholm (Cygnus 012/013)

Globe Arena, Stockholm, Sweden – October 27, 2007

Disc 1 (78:13) Limelight, Digital Man, Entre Nous, Mission, Freewill, The Main Monkey Business, The Larger Bowl, Secret Touch, Circumstances, Between The Wheels, Dreamline, Far Cry, Working Them Angels, Armor And Sword

Disc 2 (74:40) Spindrift, The Way The Wind Blows, Subdivisions, Natural Science, Witch Hunt, Malignant Narcissism, Drum Solo, Hope, Distant Early Warning, The Spirit Of Radio, Tom Sawyer, One Little Victory, A Passage To Bangkok, YYZ

Rush’s second post hiatus record, released on May 1, 2007, titled Snakes & Arrows was a return to what many consider the band’s definitive style of bass, drums, a bit of keys and lots of guitar and guitar solos. Led by the lead off single, Far Cry whose lyric seems to summarize drummer Neil Peart’s previous ten years, the record would boast three instrumentals and for this fan be the group’s most cohesive record since Power Windows. The tour to support would be comprised of two tours of North America with a European tour in the middle and with keeping with tradition would be another “Evening with Rush”.

This release from the Cygnus label (where are you?) features a soundboard recording from the European leg in the Capital of Sweden, Stockholm. The sound rivals an official release, perfect balance and not a blemish to be found. It sounds phenomenal when played loud and demands repeated listenings, in fact at times I think I prefer it to the official Snakes & Arrows live that was also recorded on this tour at the Ahoy Arena in Rotterdam. There has been a previous release of this concert, In Stockholm 2007 (Crystal Cats CC-866-68), a three CD set featuring an excellent audience recording. Other than one being a soundboard and the other an audience, the main difference is that the Cygnus title is like a music only version, the set intro videos are cut as is some of the between song dead air.

Limelight is a great set opener and quickly followed by Digital Man, Alex plays a superb solo and thanks to Neil’s slightly altered playing style (he had studied with Jazz great Freddie Gruber) really swings very powerfully. One of the biggest highlights of this set was the live debut of the Permanent Waves deep track Entre Nous, I saw this tour up at Pine Knob north of Detroit and certainly had an ear to ear grin while listening to this song. The band would play four instrumentals on this tour, the first from the new record is The Main Monkey Business. I was reading the Martin Popoff book Rush The Illustrated History where he likens the song to the post-metal music of Russian Circles, a band I am quite familiar with and I guess I never put the two together but you can certainly hear the similarities of style and structure (check out their Station record). Nonetheless a superb instrumental.

Circumstances makes its return to the set, nearly twenty years since it was last played on the Hemispheres tour, Gedd almost seems to struggle a bit with the chorus yet the song retains the same kick ass mega riffage as days of old. Between the Wheels is like an old friend, it never gets old. Alex’s guitar tone is nice and heavy, the sustained notes hang like heavy haze. To begin the second set the band would play a chunk of Snakes & Arrows material, songs like Far Cry and Working Them Angels blend well with the classics, Armor and Sword, musically would not have sounded out of place on Grace Under Pressure. Spindrift is probably my favorite of the deeper tracks from the record live (we would have to wait another tour to hear Faithless live), the music conjures up stormy seas, Alex’s guitar is maniacal sounding.

The older songs in the second set are culled from Signals and earlier, certainly I never tire of Subdivisions, but the real deal is the eight and half minutes that follow. When I first started listening to Permanent Waves it was side one, it had the hits but when I started listening to the second side it was quite different, Natural Science is the culmination of the record. The song soon became a favorite and once I discovered bootlegs I searched for a live version, finally succeeding with the version of the Kiel Auditorium 1980 concert. My first taste of hearing it live was the 1996 Test For Echo tour, and like Xanadu, I savor every moment and marvel at its complexity while retaining its wonderful sense of discovery. How do you follow that song, simple…Witch Hunt. Another deep cut and fan favorite from Moving Pictures, when Alex plays the fuzzy intro riff it sounds even heavier that the studio track and equally as lush when they hit the “Righteous Right”, just beautiful.

The second instrumental is Malignant Narcissism, Gedd starts it off, his bass tone is fat and juicy and his playing is sublime, the song is of course the vehicle for Neil’s drum solo, a highlight of EVERY Rush show. His solo moves through a variety of textures brought to life through percussion and ends traditionally with a snippet of Buddy Rich’s Cotton Tail. Curiously the next track is the third instrumental of the evening, Alex’s acoustic Hope, the music for Snakes & Arrows was written on acoustic guitar, for me this song brings feelings of viewing natural wonders like an oceans reef or mountain range, majestic and beautiful. If there is one record that has grown on me over time it is Grace Under Pressure, while Distant Early Warning has been steadily in the set list since 1984, I seem to appreciate it more now, it certainly rocks a bit harder these days.

The end of the concert is a feast, the deep tracks are over save one and it’s all about kicking ass. The Spirit of Radio starts things off, certainly played at every concert since 1980 for good reason, it rocks! Tom Sawyer, same thing, sadly this recording has the South Park intro missing. One Little Victory is the sole song from Vapor Trails, celebrate the moment indeed. The last of the deep tracks transports us back to 1976 and the 2112 record, A Passage To Bangkok…played just a tad slower but loses nothing. A joy to hear and easy to call it a favorite as there are so many. Certainly a bit more laid back than the versions in the late 70’s and just a tad nostalgic but really delivers. YYZ is the last instrumental and song of the evening, after two and a half hours of music the guys are a little loose, well Alex, but that’s the beauty of it.

The packaging is standard for Cygnus, full color inserts with shots of the band onstage as well as promotional shots all housed in a slim line jewel case. I am certainly late to the game for this review but have been buying a few titles I missed on the first go around. Rush is never a band that stays out of rotation for long.

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