When ‘All the World’s a Stage’ Became Rush’s First Top 40 Album
Live albums became commonplace in the '70s, from the Who's Live at Leeds through Rockin' the Fillmore by Humble Pie and moving forward. As the decade went on, these records went from being mere souvenirs of a concert to career-defining works, like with Kiss Alive, Cheap Trick at Budokan and Frampton Comes Alive!
For Rush, that album was All the World's a Stage. Released on Sept. 29, 1976, it was only the first of several live LPs that would follow over the ensuing decades. What sets it apart was how All the World's a Stage captured Rush in the middle of becoming a more and more complex unit, but with their hard-rock foundation still in place.
The two-record set was culled from a three-night stand in Rush's native Toronto earlier in the year, when they hit Massey Hall in support of their 2112 album. It was a treasured venue: "The first show I saw here was Cream, I believe – don't ask me what year it was, but it's a very clear memory," Geddy Lee told the Toronto Globe and Mail in 2015. "I couldn't get anyone to go with me, so I said, 'Screw you all, I'm going by myself.'"
By the time Rush played Massey Hall, Lee's perspective had completely changed.
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"When you are in front of the stage, the place feels huge – but when you stand on the stage, it just feels so much smaller than you remember it," Lee added. "There's a shift in perspective that happens, and it becomes a different place. You cannot reconcile it's the same place you used to sit in the audience and watch bands."
Rush proceeded to dish out fierce renditions of songs from its catalog over four sides. They even played most of 2112's epic title track – a smart move since that album was pushing them to the next level. But the concert versions found on All the World's a Stage often eclipse the original studio takes.
"Bastille Day" and "Anthem," for example, shake foundations in ways the studio recordings couldn't quite capture, thanks to Alex Lifeson's fierce guitar work. There's also a landmark drum solo by Neil Peart on the medley of "Working Man" and "Finding My Way."
Even though they would go on for many more years and release several more live albums, All the World's a Stage captures Rush at an early peak, when they were searching out more esoteric ground while still kicking out the jams. The album helped break the band in the U.S., even reaching the Top 40 – a first for the band. It was just the start of their rise.
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