Rush – “Spirit Of The Airwaves” — 10 track live album (2014) (2nd in our RUSH Retro Live Infamously Recorded Gig Reviews)


By the time that studio album #7 for RUSH, “Permanent Waves” rolled around, all the drama, talent and versatility to make albums of varying moods and styles had combined with the sheer ferocity of getting the job done.1974’s “RUSH” and “2112” versus “A Farewell To Kings” and “Permanent Waves” would set the well-lighted path/(stage) towards the more refined, and — yes — more civilized efforts of albums # 8 and #9 “Moving Pictures ” (1981) and “Signals (1982), respectively.

RUSH had started the peculiar habit of making an official  live in-concert document by way of a special audio package after every four studio album jaunts. 1976″s “All The World’s A Stage” and 1981’s “Exit… Stage Left” started this pattern. Inevitably, RUSH ended up with 4 quarterly stage extravaganzas before the 20th century closed. The RUSH caravan lumbered on in a fashion where they alone were creating their own time machine’s increments. Yet the pattern was to be abandoned in this brave new 21st century as each studio album brought a live album and DVD to boot.

Yet one album threatened after just one official live document in the can to upset the plan. So much of an almost farewell to the Prog Metal model RUSH  was 1980’s “Permanent Waves” that January 14th, 1980 became a famous radio broadcast tuned into by every devout RUSH fan and subsequently became one of the most famous bootlegs in all of RUSHdom. Though New Jersey’s video footage from the “2112” era and a few other gigs come to mind with explosive firepower to match it.

“The Spirit Of Radio” lead off the new decade’s primo track, a keyboard coasting it along, in-concert the ivory-twinkling of Geddy Lee through a forbidding massive bank of up-to-date spaceship control room modules decked the vocalist/Bass player’s side of the stage. Coasting the unexpected radio smash along riding the crest of keyboards “…The Spirit” became couched in a sophistication even the 1979-devised song’s studio recording didn’t  portray as portly and prominently. When Geddy Lee announces, afterwards that the song just played was “The Spirit Of Radio” the first epic of refinement in the RUSH can is then tackled. The proudly-worded “Natural Science”, being from “Permanent Waves” goes for 10-minute territory, and though pulling up just short of that, the numerous  time changes and impeccable and mind-boggling performance of Neil Peart drums and lyrics take center stage. It almost seems by the last line of the song that the audience is keying for more. They seem in stunned silence.

“Between, Beneath, and Behind” rears up next to stand as an epic number from “Fly By Night” with finely orchestrated/syncopated playing by the trio.

The song in the set-list before “The Spirit Of Radio” is the resplendent “Xanadu”. The third of three epics that start this disc. “2112” and massively fun “By-Tor And The Snowdog” are as epic as can be. Yet RUSH prove that 5 1/2 minutes can be enough sometimes for the twists and turn of Progressive Metal. “By-Tor” becomes an OTT treat when it’s successor “The Necromancer” is tied onto it, yet it is not to be played in elongated format anymore with the more streamlined RUSH a mainstay format till the bedlam of improvisational full concept album madness was to grip the band from 2010-2013 will the promised-and-delivered full length progressive hard rock full-length studio album (and novel!) “Clockwork Angels”.

A 22+ minute excursion into the dark and forbidding lands of The Necromancer would stymie the flow of RUSH, for the 1980s-onward at least. (That there-in’s a good workable plot  for a fan film: “The dark, controlling Necromancer Meets the brooding, scheming Anarchist” — sorta KISS meets The Phantom BLAH BLAH BLAH).

But I digress.

Yet allow me one more aside ardent RUSH fans, before our review of this monumental gig by the Fabulous Torontonian Three Men ensues :

Four nights later, on the bootleg “Magic Of Radio”, in Cincinnati Ohio, there is a 6-minute instrumental version of “Different Strings”, done in pre-show rehearsal replete with the bluesy solo skills that Alex Lifeson wouldn’t fully unleash till the touching romantic decade-later “Roll The Bones” album track, the romantic “Ghost Of A Chance”. So that means that “The Spirit Of Radio”, “Freewill”, “Natural Science”, “Jacob’s Ladder”, “Entre Nous”, and “Different Strings; the sum total 6 songs that comprise the groundbreaking almost effortlessly made (compared to the mindboggling, overreaching “Hemispheres” as the RUSH studio album previous in 1978), new-decade-opening “Permanent Waves” have all been staged live by RUSH.

“Permanent Waves” was released just as January 1980 got under way.

Many will pass up this album, as it is unofficial. Yet in Europe, it has become available in vinyl as well as CD format. There is almost the not-so-small other reason for not getting “Spirit Of The Airwaves”, besides having taped it and preserved it off the radio which I had done but to no avail as the tape eventually gave out. It has been a hugely popular gig circulating in what was once originally known as the “tape-trading underground” (the old name for doing the underground fan collecting of bootleg recordings thang): “The Spirit Of St. Louis”, “La Villa Strangiato”, “Hyperspace”, “St. Louis ’80 — Remaster”, “Taurus Pedals From Hell”, “Natural Science”, “The Spirit Of Radiostar”, “Valentine’s Day Massacre”. The ardent collector will find, enough nuanced differences in recording modes and curiosities in amongst the recordings to get ’em all no doubt. Though, being a diehard fanatic of RUSH myself, when it comes to “Permanent Waves” the bootleg recording called “National Sound” (a truncated concert recording with just a batch of songs intact) and “My Brain Hurts”. “My Brain Hurts” recorded n Poughkeepsie, New York 1/26/1980 featuring a 7:47-timed “Jacob’s Ladder ” to open, and the infamous “Archives Medley” (15:48) which contains parts “i” through “vi” — “Working Man”, “Finding My Way”, “Anthem”, “Bastille Day”, “In The Mood” and finally “vi) Dr. Braino On The Drum Kit” offer delectable RUSH tidbits.

“Working Man” is in top form on this night as is the “Medley” of first and second album highlight tunes. That 3 dates were played in St. Louis at this Kiel Auditorium speaks to the enduring first taste of mass success that RUSH would enjoy profusely in 1980-1981-1982-1983-1984 with record-breaking concert attendances.

“Hey Cookie it’s a quarter to eight …” is Geddy’s I-am-Geddy-Lee-And- I-Will-Sing-What-I- Want  clarion call to  get  “n The Mood” for Rock ‘N” Roll”. “Okay kids it’s time for Dr. Braino” is    up next     as  Bubba Peart’s cue   to   bang  away  a  drum solo. Encore, “La Villa Strangiato” is resplendently done with exacting fervor to close this great night’s recording. The keyboard on “La Villa …” can be heard improvising. And blarps and bleeps are emitted as well in the aforementioned “Xanadu”.

“Xanadu” is the clear-cut showstopper  extraordinairre   and   the  most masterfully presented song.

We need an official representation of both books of Cygnus X-1 though. That would be dynamite.

Yet don’t think RUSH are tame even though they, in 1980, begin their classic rock radio regular rotation success with “The Spirit Of Radio”. Don’t let it fool you.

Geddy had cut back on the anger in his voice, though. The strident anger that framed the performances on “2112” and marked the beginning of Progressive Metal, launched as a genre, is not present.

Forget about that though. It is not necessary. The band got lots of tricks up their sleeve. On this recording and in the future they will flex their creativeness and still play very loud and joyously.

Alex Lifeson has plenty of Jimmy Page in Led Zep mode if you listen on “Spirit Of The Airwaves”. So lean in closely when a jam-out is done. And there is plenty of Dirk and Pratt’s instrumental grandeur on offer on this recording, to boot.

Enjoy the sheer finesse of a band that are virtuostic in replicating their carefully dotted path with fire and joie de vivre!

– Rich Castle