Rush were a struggling progressive hard rock trio during their early years, but by the time they released their first live album ALL THE WORLD'S A STAGE in 1976, they had solidified their status as a force to reckoned with. When Rush went on this tour, their landmark fourth album 2112 was climbing higher up the charts and became their first gold record. With that stream of confidence, the band made a triumphant homecoming to Toronto and played for three glorious nights, which is all layered out for our listening pleasure on ATWAS.
Though the band hints at progressive ambition with awesome versions of "2112" and "By-Tor and the Snow Dog," ALL THE WORLD'S A STAGE mainly focuses on the early heavy metal side of Rush. "Bastille Day" and "Anthem" prove to be a winning hard rock combo, and I love the way the catchy "Fly by Night" leads smoothly into the bluesy "In the Mood." "Something for Nothing" sounds even more powerful than it does on the studio version, and the Zeppelin-esque "Lakeside Park" relaxes you a bit after the first four pile-driving tracks. But without a doubt the best performance on here belongs to the five-part, 15-minute version of "2112." With "Discovery" and "Oracle" taken out, this trimmed down "2112" sounds infinitely heavier and epic in concert than on the 20-minute studio original. Alex Lifeson reigns supreme on this track, especially during "Presentation."
The aforementioned "By-Tor and the Snow Dog" just flat out rocks with some exotic, beautiful moments during the instrumental portion. "In the End" is a great power ballad with good singing by Geddy and hair-raising guitar work, and Neil Peart's drum solo during the "Working Man/Finding My Way" medley sounds like the one he did on the live "YYZ," but I still love it. The menacing "What You're Doing" closes out the set list, with the band members all leaving after the show is over.
If you don't want to get all four of Rush's early records in one shot, then ALL THE WORLD'S A STAGE is the perfect coda for fans wondering how Rush were like in their beginning years. Also recommended: EXIT...STAGE LEFT, another live album which is just as good, if not better