Recorded at arguably the highest point in Rush's career, Exit...Stage Left
serves as an appopriate time capsule of that period. Featuring recordings from their Permanent Waves and Moving Pictures Tours respectively, the album is a wonderfully produced and highly entertaining listen featuring some of the group's best work.
Rush were nearly infallible at this stage of their career, and this live document only proves that. The performances are note-for-note perfect, and there is never a sloppy moment. This is especially impressive considering the duties each band member faces: Alex and Neil both have to expertly play some of the most complex and intricate music ever composed, and Geddy must sometimes provide vocals, keyboards, synthesizers and bass all at the same time. With such responsibility on the band members, one would assume that eventually one of them would make a mistake, but no mistakes are found on this album.
Because of Rush's goal to make each song nearly identical to its studio album counterpart, this leaves little room for improvisation. Songs such as "The Spirit of Radio" and "Freewill" are simply high-energy versions of their studio originals with added crowd cheers and whistles. However, this is no problem, because this album has the perfect production that every live album needs. The songs are clear and audible, but they are very obviously live - there are no added effects to make the album sound clearer or more polished than it needs to. While the album lacks the rawness of All The World's A Stage
, which is the group's first live album, it more than makes up for that fact by containing such flawness performances.
While the performances and song selections are both superb, where the album only slightly fails is the fact that the performances often sound a bit too, for lack of a better word, professional
. Although the lack of rawness or bombast is not exactly a flaw because the music sounds great, the album lacks the punch
of an album like, say, Thin Lizzy's Live and Dangerous
or even the band's first live album. As stated previously, the performances themselves are flawless, and any Rush fan will love this album because of the stunning tracklist alone, but many of these tracks are simply too identical to their studio counterparts. If one already loves the songs as I do, this is no flaw at all, but for those expecting an album of improvised and spontaneous jam sessions that live albums like Live at Leeds
and Made in Japan
are famous for, Exit...Stage Left
will, for the most part, sound like merely a best-of compilation.
Despite its single half-flaw, this album is nearly perfect, and any Rush fan will love it. While it certainly won't convert those who are adamant haters of the band, because all of Rush's trademarks are here (Geddy's creates a new definition of "falsetto" on "Freewill" and "Beneath, Between & Behind," and yes, there is a somewhat lengthy drum solo), it will please even a casual fan because it serves as a perfect document of what a slightly doctored and polished version of a Rush concert in the early 1980's sounded like. The songs rock too.