On November 10, 1998, "Rush" released their fourth live album "Different Stages".
The album sums up the band's fourth era and especially the albums released during the 90s.
As we mentioned in previous reviews, the band used to release a live album after every 4 studio albums. They did this with "All the World's a Stage" from 1976 which summed up the Hard Rock era and the first four albums up to "2112". They did it again in 1981 with "Exit... Stage Left" which concluded the prog era and the four albums up to "Moving Pictures" And they did the same with "A Show of Hands" which came out in 1989 and summed up their four 80s synthesizer albums.
And now, the album "Different Stages" is released right after the band's 16th studio album, "Test For Echo", and sums up the band's albums from the 90s. The common denominator between them is the band's return to the roots based on "the Holy Trinity" - guitar-bass-drums. Naturally, the hard core of the songs on this album (about half of them if you don’t count the bonus disc), are out of the four said albums, that this live album is ostensibly meant to promote. But in this show there are also quite a few beautiful surprises, as we will describe later.
This album is a little different and special from the previous three live albums in several ways:
First, it is a triple album while its three predecessors were double albums that were truncated in the disc version to a single disc. Although one of the three albums on "Different Stages" is a kind of bonus disc that includes a performance by the band from 1978, it is still an initial precedent that will be perfected later for a triple album that was recorded entirely in one live performance with "Rush In Rio".
Second, drummer Neil Peart was not at all involved in the editing and mixing process of the album as he was dealing with the loss of his daughter and partner who died in 1997 and 1998 respectively. Following the two tragedies that befell him, Neil Peart informed his bandmates that he intended to retire from music. Geddy Lee and Alex Lifeson were sure it was going to be the band's last album and they treated it accordingly while editing. Needless to say, this album was eventually dedicated to Neil Selena's daughter who was killed in a car accident in 1997 and his partner Jacqueline who died of cancer in 1998. Geddy Lee and Alex Lifeson used the lyrics from the song "Afterimage" from the album "Grace Under Pressure" for the dedication to Selena and Jacqueline which read: "Suddenly. .. You were gone ... from all the lives you left your mark upon. In loving memory of Jackie and Selena".
It is not clear if this is due to the lack of Peart involvement, but this album is characterized by a limited production with minimal intervention, compared to the previous two live albums, which gives the listener a feeling very close to reality taking place on stage, and thus it's greatness.
Third, in this live album you can find a bit more improvisations of the band than those that exist on previous three live albums. The band, which by large did not deviate much from the versions of the studio albums, is having fun this time with nice little improvisations that on the one hand do not detract from the enjoyment of the listener who prefers the album versions and on the other give a little "twist in the plot". For example, already in the opening song "Dreamline" you can hear starting at 3:30 minutes a charming improvisation by Alex Lifeson's during his amazing solo then connecting to the original version of the solo from the album. It also happens with Geddy Lee's bass improvisation in "Driven" starting at 1:38, it happens again with Alex's solo in the song "Bravado" starting at 4:12 and it even happens in the masterpiece "2112" in the "Discovery" part that Alex gave "a facelift" that really flatters it.
This live album is very special for a number of other reasons:
This is the band's only live album featuring the entire masterpiece "2112", from beginning to end, with all seven parts. The piece was performed and recorded during a live performance on June 3, 1997 at "the Great Woods Center for the Performing Arts" in Mansfield, Massachusetts. The band transcends itself here and simply reinvents the piece with additions and small touches that do kindness to the classics, even 20 years after its release. The band playing is so precise, perfect and meticulous that we now get goosebumps just from thinking about this while writing. There is no doubt that the three friends are at their peak, but the one who stands out most is Geddy Lee, who managed to sing perfectly even with the highest notes, for example in "Soliloquy", where the protagonist can no longer come to terms with the world as controlled by the "priests" and puts an end to his life.
Although the album was mostly recorded in 1997 at the "World Music Theater" near Illinois, during a tour to promote the album "Test For Echo", it also includes three songs recorded during the tour of the album "Counterparts" and surprisingly it is not "Animate", "Nobody's Hero" or "Stick It Out".
In addition to the 11 songs from the last four albums covered by this live album, we get some favorite songs that we did not hear in a live performance until this release, such as "Limelight", "Analog Kid" and "Natural Science" which is the only one recorded live at the band's performances. This is a mini-piece that the band usually refrained from performing due to its great complexity, but this time the band responded to its own challenge and performed it perfectly.
But the real gem of this album is actually in the bonus disc that includes part of a performance recorded in 1978 at the "Hammersmith Odeon" in London, during the tour to promote the album "A Farewell to Kings". This is a recording that gives us a rare glimpse into how the band sounded in 1978, with songs that the band has refrained from performing since that tour , such as "Farewell to Kings", "Cygnus X-1", and "Cinderella Man". The quality of this recording is certainly not bad and it is not clear why the band only remembered to use it 20 years after releasing this treasure. By the way, if you are looking for this rare show in full, you can find it in the deluxe edition of the 40th anniversary press of "A Farewell to Kings".
The album "Different Stages" may not be considered a classic compared to the band's first two live albums, but it is definitely an excellent one with 33 songs that cover most of the important milestones in the history of "Rush" and beautifully illustrates how this great band sounds on stage.