Rush was planning on releasing a live album after the Permanent Waves tour, but manager Cliff Burnstein convinced the group that they were peaking musically, and should go straight back into the recording studio -- resulting in their finest album, 1981's Moving Pictures. So after the tour wound down, their postponed live album was finally assembled and released as Exit...Stage Left the same year. The album turned out to be the polar opposite of its predecessor, 1976's raw and direct All the World's a Stage; in fact, the performances often sound identical to the recently released studio versions. The contagious energy that helped make All the World's a Stage such a success is muted, replaced by workmanlike renditions that border on the uninspired. There's no denying the high quality of the songs selected -- "Spirit of Radio," "Tom Sawyer," "Xanadu," "The Trees," "Closer to the Heart," "Jacob's Ladder" -- it's just that the performances rarely catch fire. Compared to Rush's three other concert albums (the aforementioned All the World's a Stage, 1988's A Show of Hands, and 1998's Different Stages), Exit...Stage Left is probably the weakest.
AllMusic Review by Greg Prato