Power Run (Cygnus 008/009)
The Spectrum, Philadelphia, PA – April 16th, 1986
Disc 1 (48:40) 3 Stooges Intro, The Spirit Of Radio, Limelight, The Big Money, New World Man, Subdivisions, The Manhattan Project, Middletown Dreams, Witch Hunt, Red Sector A
Disc 2 (50:02) Closer To The Heart, Marathon, The Trees, Mystic Rhythms, Distant Early Warning, Territories, YYZ, Drum Solo. Bonus Track The Fab Pros “Tough Break”; Le Studio Moran Heights, Quebec, Canada 1981
After closing the door to another chapter in the history of Rush with the brilliant Exit…Stage Left record, the band struck out on uncharted territory. They added keyboards to their arsenal in 1977 and had been integrating them into their complex and progressive music ever since. With the new decade of the 1980’s in full stride and the rising popularity of new wave the band found themselves intrigued and fascinated with this new sound and would look to take this new found inspiration and seek to meld it with the rock sensibilities.
The results were interesting to say the least, Signals and Grace Under Pressure where very good takes on this new amalgamation but the band found what they were after with the brilliant Power Windows record, for this reviewer the pinnacle of these achievements in that particular decade.
Of course the tour in support of the record was very successful, Rush has always managed to keep their fan base, one of the most loyal in rock and the tour found them hitting the sports arena across the North American continent. The recording from the bands second night in Philadelphia has been circulating for some time, firstly on CD-R as Visions And Illusions (Digital Reproductions: DR-41686-1) and silver CD as Philadelphia Project (Gypsy Eye 192/193). This release from the Rush label Cygnus is the best I have heard, the soundboard is what is referred to as bare bones with a nice warm feel and absolutely incredible sound. If one was to find something to complain about, I am digging deep here, is that the guitars cool have been a touch louder. Anger your neighbors, frustrate your wife and alienate your kids and turn this up loud and you will have your walls shaking in no time.
When the band toured in support of the Signals record they used some pre taped video skits utilizing the SCTV comedy troupe from Canada, this was our first glimpse to the bands wonderful sense of humor (anyone who has seem their last couple of tour has seen their latest charades) and for this tour they use a 3 Stooges intro to announce their imminent arrival on stage. The band take the stage with Spirit Of Radio, the sound is a little flat but during the first couple of minutes the sound man makes a few adjustments and the recording stabilizes into a fantastic sounding document.
Limelight immediately follows and Geddy’s bass is nicely in the mix, he provides a great throbbing beat, we will be treated to a lesson from him throughout the evening as his talents are in perfect clarity for us to enjoy. Gedd greats the Philadelphia crowd and tells they have “thousands” of songs to play and introduces The Big Money. The song was the records big single but has many moods throughout the song as well, music layer with guitars, keyboards and incredible percussion. Neil was at his most mechanical during this stage and his timing is computerized perfection. I like the live versions of the song better, Alex has a nice and nasty sound to his guitar giving the song a harsher feel.
The techno pop of New World Man follows, the song was so different sounding for the band at that point. I have always liked the song and it works very well for me, again we can enjoy Gedd’s bass playing as it is far more intricate than one would expect and the crowd gives a loud ovation at its conclusion. The keyboards layered Subdivisions follows, from what I have ready the song was the first written musically by Geddy on keyboards alone. The tale of teenage alienation in one that transcends any era and maintains its relevancy.
We start to get into the really heavy songs from Power Windows with The Manhattan Project, based upon the development and use of the atomic bomb. The extremely literate Peart wove a wonderful and compelling lyric set upon a wonderful musical journey that has a soaring yet scientific feel to it, certainly on of the bands bests works. “Another song from Power Windows” is next, Middletown Dreams is another song that has Neil again speaking about the human condition, Neil came from humble working class background and this song speaks to them. It was a pleasure to see the band dust off this gem on their most recent tour (Grand Designs also) as it again maintains some relevancy in our current economic situation.
The brilliant Witch Hunt is next, the only song not played during the Moving Pictures tour but was adapted to the stage on the Grace Under Pressure tour to be played as part of the Fear trilogy (along with The Weapon and The Enemy Within), on this tour it is played as a standalone piece. The intro is perfection, the sound of the chanting hoard and visualizations of burning fires and pitchforks, Neil’s use of chimes and percussion is superb. The keyboard melody played adds such ambiance it Alex guitar have a heavy yet fuzzy feel to it giving the song its eery feel. The poignant Red Sector A ends the first disc, the lyric is one of forced incarceration and the lyric sounds very personal for Geddy whose parents were German concentration camp survivors and who’s father died at a young age due to the effects. There is about a second of silence at the 2 min 32 second mark that is common on this tape.
The second disc starts with a regular take on Closer To The Heart, I do enjoy how they play a part with some reggae influence and do a kind of in a jamming style, it makes for a feel good ending. The next “new”song is Marathon, this could be deemed a stripped down version as the studio version had orchestra enmeshment as well a 25 piece choir added, although Gedd’s keyboards help produce the effect. The trees is next, this song is great because we can he all the little nuances in this recording, the sounds of birds chirping to barking dogs in the distance .Mystic Rhythms is one of those songs that is fascinating to listen too, when you first listen you are drawn to the incredible drumming from Neil but upon further exploration you come to realize that the guitar and keyboards are also rhythmic instruments and makes the song have a very ethereal feeling as it floats throughout the canopy of sound.
A mood inspiring sounds cape leads us into Distant Early Warning, the feeling is as if a cool breeze in the form of audio comes blowing over you. The song has a wonderful fast and aggressive undertone to it and is a perennial concert favorite. The last of the new songs in the set (only because the recording is cut) is Territories, the song evokes the Far East and is a diverse song in the bands catalog and one where they lyrically celebrate different cultures, better beer for sure. The final verse is a most poignant one as it seems to sum up a lot of what goes on in our world. YYZ is the last song from the show, as Red Lenses, Tom Sawyer, 2112- Finale, Grand Designs (damn) and In The Mood are all missing. At least we have YYZ in all its frenzied glory, the beginning has some deep drone over it like Gedd is adding either keyboards or a scat vocal over it, very interesting. Neil’s drum solo at this time features his drum set “in the round” so to speak, he keeps some of his older parts while exploring some new patterns, sadly it is cut at the 5:40 mark.
The bonus song has a curious tale, one that started in the Signals Tour Book, Mr. Peart take it from here,
“We were getting a little bored with inactivity. During the mixing of “Exit… Stage Left” there was really not much for us to do except say “it sounds good” or “it doesn’t sound good”.I had been working down in the little studio, cleaning and renovating an old set of Hayman drums that were kicking around, and had started working on a “Jack Secret” song with Jack and Skip from the crew. Geddy and Alex soon joined in on keyboards and rhythm guitar, and we later recorded the song (“Tough Break”) up in the studio. …”
– Neil Peart
The sound is excellent and while it is not know who exactly from Rush is playing what (it does not sound like Neil on drums unless he is playing VERY retrained) it is another small piece of the bands history and is welcome to hear it.
The packaging is full color inserts with some very incredible graphics along with full color shots of the band from the Power Windows era, as with other Cygnus release very classy indeed, all this is packaged in a slim lined jewel case. Great packaging, incredible sound quality make this a must have.