A Show Of Hands (1989)

2.The Big Money
5.Turn the Page
6.Manhattan Project
8.Distant Early Warning
9.Mystic Rhythms
10.Witch Hunt
11.The Rhythm Method
12.Force Ten
13.Time Stand Still
14.Red Sector A
15.Closer to the Heart


By now, you almost had to think that Rush was conscientiously trying to follow a set pattern. Their first two live albums were released after four successive studio albums, so why not continue to do the same thing? It was a great idea since Rush had a wealth of great tunes, although they weren't really burning up any particular music chart in any particular country – even their native Canada. But, oh, how the faithful still adored a Rush show! The boys never disappointed, so these annual respective releases were eagerly devoured by the somewhat impatient faithful whenever they were released.

Whereas their studio records around this time benefited from compact disc technology (i.e. room for more songs), in an ironic way, this album suffers from it. Although you could pack about 75 minutes worth of material on a compact disc, Rush live albums were generally double albums, and 75 minutes is mighty puny over two vinyl record albums. Sure they could have made this a double compact disc, but those were incredibly expensive – usually in the $25-$30 range. So this record is one disc – albeit a pretty full one, yet you can almost smell the omissions. Even the drum solo is cut short!

This album features their last four studio albums mostly, and, to be frank, there's not much here that a "casual" fan can immediately grasp. Time has been kind to songs such as Subdivisions and The Big Money, but at the time these, with the rest of the album, wasn't really what you would expect from a live album. A little bit of research would tell such individuals that basically all of their great cuts were available on a live album, just not this album. Yet that's a lot of information for a casual fan to digest. So looking back on this record, the songs are pretty much what they should be, and unbeknownst to anyone at the time, Rush still had masses of live cds (and dvds) that they would release in the future. So in a strange way, this cd hasn't really aged that well. With the exception of the closing track Closer to the Heart, everything here is from the 1980s – with heavy focus on the last two studio records. (Closer to the Heart was on the last live album Exit…Stage Left, yet it's been reworked quite significantly during the last few tours, hence its inclusion here).

Quality wise, it's pretty good. The band was trying for a compromise between the rawness of their first live record and the finesse of their second. They succeed, but the album still sounds a bit too polished for a live release – especially (again) compared to some of their later live records. There's also usually a moan about "overdubbing" parts of a live record. Usually, I don't give a rip, and this record is no exception. I only say this because this is the period of the band's history when they were using synthesizers and special effects galore, and it could very well be that they had to do a lot of post-show tuning to keep the standard up.

Interestingly, about a decade later, many fans (and even some band members) basically dismissed 80s Rush and were glad that the band went back to their core basics. Therefore, this record was kind of looked at as almost a reminder of the "keyboard" phase of the band's career, and it wasn't looked upon very fondly by some. Well, fast forward another ten years, and this kind of music is almost, dare I say, back in style. So whenever Rush would resurrect a lot of these tunes in later years, the fickle fans were now in heaven. Fickle indeed. Speaking of these songs on later live albums and tours, just about every song on this record would show up on a Rush set list from the years 2008-2013 (research it yourself if you don't believe me).

Also, as a nice compliment to this record, Rush released a live video of the tour (with the same title) in Birmingham, England – which is where most of these cuts on the cd were recorded. It was a nice compliment because the songs were slightly different. So if you had both formats, you almost had the entire show from the 1988 tour.

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