For our second installment of Classic Albums Live we go back to the 80’s. In early February of 1989 I can remember getting my greedy little paws on RUSH’S third live album A Show of Hands. Remember, my serious love affair began with Hold Your Fire. Before that I was a casual listener, so now that I was all in and fully invested, this very much felt like it was MY live album. I borrowed the CD from one of my bestest buddies Russell and made myself a copy on a trusty Maxell XL II-90 cassette (like I’d use anything else?!? Screw the Golds…these were my faves!) with my Fisher rack system. Now that I had that finished I put it in the trusty Walkman as bedtime listening, then promptly fell asleep two songs in; shame on me.
But lo and behold…what’s this? A snowstorm overnight, and no school the next day?? Saints be praised!! I got up, put on my 17 layers of winter clothing, grabbed the Walkman and went outside to shovel our driveway and walk as well as my three elderly uncles’ who lived across the street. With 15 live RUSH tracks in my ears, you could hardly call this work. After the Three Stooges intro the band kicked right into “The Big Money”, still one of my favorites, followed by “Subdivisions” and “Marathon.” To say I was in Heaven would be a gross understatement. I was practically wetting myself hearing these classics, Geddy Lee’s bass/keys and voice sounding incredible, Alex Lifeson’s guitars piercing the skies, and of course Drum God Neil Peart doing what Neil Peart does…make the jaws drop again and again.
The tightness of this group is unrivaled and can never be touched, that much is certain. And they certainly knew how to put a setlist together. Speaking of which, Hold Your Fire makes its first appearance with “Turn the Page,” and I daresay I prefer this version to the studio one. “Manhattan Project” is a track that even 15-year old me could tell was very heavy thematically, and while shoveling the snow I could feel the build-up to the chorus in my chest. Another live favorite from this record is “Mission”, and I was beyond thrilled when I finally got to see them do it in person back in 1990. This is one of the many times you simply can’t believe all this music, this wall of sound is coming from only three men.
“Distant Early Warning” always sounded particularly inspired on this album, and I find myself using my dashboard as keys every time it comes on. I also have always particularly enjoyed the renditions of “Mystic Rhythms” and “Witch Hunt” they chose for inclusion. They have a bit more bite than their studio counterparts. And of course there’s Peart’s legendary and incomparable drum solo “The Rhythm Method”! But the biggest thrill for me when I got this beast in my hands was the triple threat of “Force Ten”, “Time Stand Still”, and “Red Sector A”, three of my absolute favorite songs in the band’s arsenal not only performed live, but back-to-back-to-BACK!! And of course who can forget the amazing job the band did with “Closer to the Heart” to cap off the disc? Sheer perfection if you ask me.
In addition to that snowy February day there are so many more memories I have attached to A Show of Hands: listening to it and watching the VHS version with my girlfriend at the time, Chrissy (who I was such a shit to, unfortunately), hanging out at old friend Dana’s house while he, Russell, and I listened to it over and over again till the wee hours. Then when Russell got his license, my taped copy came in handy while we rode around in the old station wagon at 2 a.m. on a Saturday lookin’ for screamers (right, Russ?). All of these things took place with RUSH as the soundtrack. For these, and many more reasons that are mine and mine alone, A Show of Hands earns a well-deserved place in Classic Albums Live. ~dc