Different Stages (thing)
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Different Stages Live is a three-disc live collection from Canada's premier band, Rush. The first two discs are taken from five 1997 dates and three 1994 dates, then assembled together to sound like one show. The third disc is a 1978 London show. This album continues their tradition of releasing a live album after every four studio recordings. This one is even more special because it came right in the middle of a long hiatus for the band, caused by the death of Neal Peart's wife and daughter. It would be the only album released until 2002's Vapor Trails.
As far as concerts go, the first two discs have many highlights for fans. The show starts out with a very rocking set of "Dreamline", "Limelight", and "Driven" which includes a lot of very nice bass work. "Closer To The Heart" has an amazing jam section at the end, which is a bit atypical for Rush but works extremely well. The best part of the first disc, though, is a full "2112" which checks in at an even twenty minutes. This is the first time the band has ever played the full song in concert. Alex Lifeson does his best guitar work of the album during "III. Discovery", playing like his life depends on it. Playing all around is energetic and extremely well done.
The second disc includes many of their more radio friendly songs: "Freewill", "The Spirit of Radio", and "Tom Sawyer". These all sound nice and are great crowd pleasers. "Leave That Thing Alone", "The Rhythm Method", and "Natural Science" forms almost one continuous song. The first is an instrumental which moves right into the intense eight-minute drum solo of "The Rhythm Method". The last is a nine-minute epic from Permanent Waves. This is a surprising track to hear because it's not often played. The show ends on another instrumental, "YYZ". It's a great song and they do a wonderful job on it. Finally, it ends with a tease of "Cygnus X-1" which fits amazingly well into the context of "YYZ".
Then there's the second show, recorded back in 1978 at Hammersmith Odeon in London. No songs from the first show are duplicated on this one. It being a lot older, they almost exclusively play songs from the first four albums. There's no less energy in this old show, though. "Xanadu" and "Cygnus X-1" are two of the longest and most complicated songs from the first several albums. Both sound great on this recording. Other highlights include a very good "Working Man", "Farewell to Kings", and "By-Tor and the Snow Dog". My one complaint with this show is what I think is a pretty weak ending: "In The Mood" followed by "Cinderella Man". Neither has what I would expect from a concert closer; they sound more like the middle of a show than the end of it.
Note that the Japanese release of this album includes one additional track, Force Ten.