Rush : Grace Under Pressure Tour DVD Review

By: Karl Stern of When It Was Cool (@dragonkingkarl, @wiwcool, karl@whenitwascool.com)

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I was recently given two Rush DVDs by a friend that, oddly enough, I did not previously have in my current DVD collection- Grace Under Pressure and A Show of Hands.  I had owned A Show of Hands for many years on VHS to the point I wore it out and the tape literally broke.  I just, somehow, never managed to replace it on DVD.  We will review that one later but today I want to take a look at the concert DVD that supported the 1984 Rush album Grace Under Pressure.

As I have pointed out in previous When It Was Cool articles like The 100 Greatest Rush Songs of All Time, I am a fan of mid-1980s Rush which is a divisive time for many fans of the group.  Now, I did not say I was not a BIGGER fan of earlier Rush or a BIGGER fan of later Rush but while some Rush fans hate the mid-1980s run of synthesizer heavy music I happen to like a lot of it.  In fact, as I have stated before, I think Neil Peart was at the peak of his lyrical writing powers during this era.

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Alex Lifeson & Geddy Lee

Grace Under Pressure (the album) is kind of short by Rush standards, clocking in at only 39:23. I mean there are some Rush SONGS almost that long from a previous era but there are several real gems on this album including Distant Early Warning, Red Sector A, and The Enemy Within. But let's talk about the concert video.

The packaging is nice.  It came out circa 2006-2007 and was remastered containing nine songs and two medley's.  While the music quality sounds great the video quality doesn't hold up so well.  This was clearly from a time of small, square, cathode ray televisions and gets pretty grainy and fuzzy on today's modern big screen sets.  Also, and this is where the real trouble lies, the camera editing is horrific with constant cuts between cameras, never focusing on any moment more than a couple of seconds.  It actually got kind of nauseating with all the quick cuts but such was the MTV style of the mid-1980s.

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The stage set up is sparse by later standards.

The next most striking thing was just how young Alex Lifeson, Geddy Lee, and Neil Peart looked in 1984.  They were all in their early thirties at this point and it just reminds you how time stands still (see what I did there?) for no man not even the gods of prog rock.  They also look very Flock of Seagulls-ish here with their mid-1980s style.  Alex's hair and Neil's impressive Rat Tail stand out as a snapshot of the time.  But I jest... the 1980s were awesome.

The set list is heavy with "OMG, I HATE THIS ERA OF RUSH" hits which I just so happen to love so maybe this DVD was made just for me.  They kick off with The Spirit of Radio which is one Rush classic I'm sure we can all agree on.

Then they roll into the Fear Trilogy: The Enemy Within, The Weapon, and Witch Hunt which is everything I want out of life.  I am a giant fan of the Fear Trilogy (later in the 1990s they would add yet another part) so I am loving this disk at this point.

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Neil Peart doing what Neil Peart does.

Next up we get, oddly, the only Rush song to chart in the United States on the Billboard Top 40 New World Man.  The thing that stikes me here is that the guys are having so much fun.  You can tell everyone is just having a blast and that youthful enthusiasm is wonderful to see out of this amazing band.

Next up we get two songs off of Grace Under Pressure- Distant Early Warning and probably my favorite performance of Red Sector A.  It is the performance of Red Sector A from this disk that is the one most often used as the "video" with Neil wearing the red headphones and a nice light show to accompany the song.

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Rush - Grace Under Pressure

Next up is crowd favorite Closer to the Heart followed by a medley of tunes: YYZ, The Temples of Syrinx (from 2112), and Tom Sawyer.  I don't really care for those three songs mashed together in this fashion and trimmed down but the crowd is going nuts for it.

Next the band plays Vital Signs from off of the Moving Pictures album and wraps up the show with another medley of Finding My Way and In The Mood off of the debut Rush album.

I can see why some people might not list this concert collection among their favorites as it misses so much of the "classic" Rush stuff from their break out era but as a showcase for the Grace Under Pressure time period it is a good retrospective collection.  The non-stop camera cuts really take away from the enjoyment of this DVD and it's too bad that the video quality couldn't have been cleaned up more but even the worst of Rush is better than the best of a lot of groups and I had a fun blast watching this moment of time caught on film.

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