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When RUSH comes to town I don’t miss it, and that has been the case since 1975 when I attended my very first rock concert at the San Diego Civic Theater featuring RUSH opening for KISS. What a show, but that’s another story (see My First Concert here).
I have been a fan of RUSH since day one, playing their 1974 self titled debut record until the grooves had grooves in them. I anticipated their next release for some more of the same only to find out that things had changed dramatically. A new drummer named Neil Peart and a whole new sound and direction. The debut album RUSH released will always stand alone as a straight forward blues based hard rock record.
What came next was something I had never heard before. Their 1975 release ‘Fly By Night‘ launched RUSH into uncharted territory. Sophisticated arrangements, thought provoking lyrics, unusual and complicated time signatures and all this with a hard driving, hard hitting energy of epic proportions. Thirty six years later, with 19 studio records (number 20 titled ‘Clockwork Angels‘ will be recorded at the conclusion of this tour) 8 live records, a full length documentary film, a star on the Hollywood Walk Of Fame and a million or so live shows, RUSH is still at it, and at a very high level.
An army of semi trucks filled with Steampunk themed gear including Geddy Lee’s Time Machine/Sausage Grinder rig, Alex Lifeson’s custom Hughes & Kettner amps that look like giant old fashion radios and Neil Peart’s copper themed DW drums (equipped with a rotating drum riser), a GeFilter (a device of musical genius) and a ton of lighting gear pulled into Chula Vista, CA. After a lot of sweat and hard work the stage was transformed into RUSH’s playground.
Getting close to showtime and the seats are filling fast. A short time later, the lights go down and the first of three very well produced and impressive video’s begins to play. After the hilarious opening video exposing the boys sense of humor as they act their way through a skit featuring goofy characters played by Geddy, Alex and Neil ends,RUSH hits the stage with their opening song, ‘The Spirit Of Radio‘ a standard show opener during various tours. The stage settings and lighting rigs are impressive, almost theme park like. Picture Disneyland for hard rock. The energy level is high and the mix is spot on. After three songs, the aforementioned ‘The Spirit Of Radio,’ ‘Time Stand Still‘ and ‘Presto‘ Geddy proclaims “Good evening San Diego, it’s good to be back” much the delight of the rambunctious crowd.
Speaking of the crowd, RUSH is now performing for at least three generations that include grey haired grandparents to kids being led around by the hand by mom or dad, this is truly a family affair. One that parents can be comfortable with because RUSH is and always has been a class act, leaving the foul language for more appropriate times and places.
Next up ‘Stick It Out.‘ At this point, the cool night air and stiff breeze has me feeling a bit chilly and it’s funny, because I was not willing to stick it out. I will let you in on a little secret. Since I saw this same tour in Irvine, CA in the summer of 2010 and the first part of the set is a bit weak (I know RUSH fans are freaking out as I say this, but for me it was) I decided to head to the concession stand selling RUSH apparel to lay down some hard earned cash on some over priced long sleeved Time Machine Tour shirts for my son Russell and I.
While on this mission I hear the boys break into ‘Workin’ Them Angels.’ $80 dollars later and were set. As I return to my seat (which I never sat in during the entire show) they begin to play ‘Leave That Thing Alone‘ and then ‘Faithless.’ At times Geddy appears to be working pretty hard to hit those high notes he once sang when he was younger, but being the consummate professional that he is, he gets there.
Now RUSH plays a brand new song, well sort of. It’s ‘BU2B‘ (Brought Up To Believe) the B-side to the single ‘Caravan‘ which was released June 1st, 2010 and will be included on the upcoming ‘Clockwork Angels‘ CD. This is a pretty heavy tune compared to what RUSH has been putting out lately and has me looking forward to the new CD.
Now for me, this is where the show really kicks in and I never look back. RUSH breaks into ‘Freewill‘ off my favorite album by the band, ‘Hemispheres‘ and my energy level, along with many others attending the show goes through the roof (if there was one) I can feel it. RUSH is at the top of their game as the song moves to the section where Geddy lays down a killer bass line as Neil joins in with his equally impressive drumming, Alex begins to shred on his guitar, performing an epic solo. Next, they begin to play a favorite track of mine off ‘Power Windows‘ called ‘Marathon,’ and it is on.
At this point a thought enters my mind, I don’t know why (well actually I do) but it does. This amazing band of unbelievably talented musicians who have influenced countless bands and musicians over the years and entertained millions of rock fans around the world for over 35 years have not even be nominated for the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame (or Lame as I like to call it) how can this be?
What a travesty, what an absolute joke that place is when they can’t even recognize the significance and impact that this magnificent band has had on rock music. I am standing here in awe of the greatest power trio in the history of rock music and those buffoons at the hall don’t even get it. I feel sorry for them that they have not embraced and enjoyed this juggernaut of innovative progressive hard rock music and reveled in their historic run through time. Just then I snap out of it as the rumble of ultra low keyboard notes blast out of the PA, ‘Subdivisions,’ oh yeah.
After their song about social outcasts and the unpopular, experiencing the pressures of growing up and fitting in concludes, Geddy announces “Due to the fact that we are 100 years old, we must take a break” and disappears off stage. The house lights come on and we are released from the grip of this mesmerizing display of sights and sounds.
With batteries recharged, the second half of the show gets underway with another video featuring the guys portraying different characters. Geddy as a snobby director, Neil as his cameraman and Alex playing a very fat Ray Daniels (the bands longtime manager) it’s quite funny, with a segment depicting German girls prancing around in Dirndl’s (traditional German dress) carrying pitchers of beer. When they walk through the set, director Geddy yells “Cut, cut, cut! Ladies, stop moving pitchers.” Frustrated, Geddy’s pretentious director character walks off the set and Alex’s character, Ray takes over counting out, 1, 2, 3, 4 and Rush breaks into ‘Tom Sawyer.'
Moving Pictures Moves Into The Limelight
This is the main feature of the Time Machine tour,RUSH playing their monster 1980 hit recordMoving Pictures in it’s entirety to celebrate it’s 30th Anniversary. Now for me this record is a double edged sword. On one hand it was another record by these master craftsmen that I loved, the problem was, so did everyone else. Moving Pictures movedRUSH into uncharted territory for popularity, and for me this was a problem, a selfish problem, RUSHwas my band. That may sound funny but as I said I have been a huge fan since day one.
Who were these sweater around their neck, Jordache Jean wearing wannabe RUSH fans bringing girls to the show, that’s right girls to a RUSH concert. Who ever heard of such a thing? RUSH shows were in small venues filled with long haired pimply faced screaming dudes that worshiped these Gods of progressive hard rock. Who were these people? I hated them. Now RUSH was playing large sold out arenas and I was pissed, I really was. Good for the band, bad for me. I told you this was selfish, but damn it, that’s how I felt at the time. I have mellowed a bit in my old age and enjoy RUSH shows with all the other fans, man, woman, boy or girl. I like the fact that the guys are getting the recognition they deserve. Are you listening Rock and Roll Hall of Lame?
Anyway, back to the show. Since Moving Pictures was and is such a popular record, RUSH has made numerous songs off the album staples at their live shows. ‘Tom Sawyer‘ and ‘YYZ‘ have been played live on every tour since the release of the record, and I’m pretty sure ‘Limelight‘ also has, along with ‘Red Barchetta‘ getting regular rotation as well. The other three tracks, ‘Witch Hunt,’ The Camera Eye‘ and ‘Vital Signs‘ not so much.
Since I have seen RUSH live so many times, the first four songs I mentioned were not as intriguing to see live as the other three. I was especially excited to see ‘The Camera Eye‘ played live, and I was not disappointed. ‘The Camera Eye‘ in typical RUSH tradition is by far the longest song off the record, clocking in at just over eleven minutes. The music compliments the lyrics of the song perfectly, taking you on a journey through a bustling city (New York to be exact) but really all cities around the world with faceless people frantically and methodically trying to make their way through another day. It is such a beautiful and powerful song, rich with Geddy’s brilliant keyboard work throughout as Alex ( a very underrated guitarist) performs a face melting solo. Next up, ‘Witch Hunt‘ the dark and ominous tale of vigilante type censorship from those who pretentiously think they know what’s best for us.
Did I mention all the amazing visual effects that accompany this piping hot, delicious feast of tuneage? No? RUSH could perform on a cement slab with three white spotlights placed upon them and that would more than satisfy the throngs of dedicated fans, but no, not RUSH they give you every pennies worth. Not only with their stellar performance but with their visual show as well.
The video’s I already mentioned. The lighting features more colored lights than I could count, including an overhead, mechanical, moving spider like rig that descends and transforms into various configurations. A large video screen that represents something you might see on a Steampunk device, flames towering into the night air from all around the stage, fog, and pyrotechnics, almost to much to take in, but I enjoyed trying. The attention to detail was staggering, everywhere I looked there was something new to see and discover. During ‘The Camera Eye‘ I noticed moving eyeballs peering out from around Neil’s drum riser, wow. Remember this was my second time seeing this tour, so I wanted to take it all in. Not only musically but visually.
To conclude the Moving Pictures celebration was the song ‘Vital Signs‘ a tune depicting human emotions and needs as circuits and mechanical devices, almost computer like.
Next up another new song from the forthcoming record called ‘Caravan.’ A longer number that plays even heavier and more progressively than ‘BU2B.’ Neil breaks into one of his legendary drum solo’s which features three parts on both his acoustic and electronic sets. The first segment is more of an improvised solo allowing Neil to stretch out and just riff, and riff he did. The next part is played on his electronic set that is more cerebral and subdued but equally as impressive. The third, as his drum riser spins back around to his acoustic set (this guy really is the ‘Professor on the drum kit’) is a jam with a triggered big band that he plays along with. Some of Neil’s influences come from the big band era. Masters of the skins like Gene Krupa and Buddy Rich are some of his heroes. At the conclusion of his mind blowing solo, Neil, being Neil, (one who shy’s away from the spotlight) disappears from behind his drums as the lights go out.
Alex (he is somewhat of a ham) gladly takes the spotlight and playing an acoustic guitar performs the song ‘Hope‘ which morphs into ‘Closer To The Heart‘ as Neil and Geddy rejoin him onstage. Then, that all to well known sound for RUSH fans, the intro to their sci-fi epic ‘2112‘ kicks in, and we all go nuts. Since ‘2112‘ is originally a twenty minute anthem, RUSH performs only the first two parts of the song, ‘Part 1: Overture‘ and ‘Part II: The Temples Of Syrinx‘ I was secretly hoping Alex would continue into ‘Part III: Discovery‘ but it was not meant to be. The last time RUSH performed ‘2112‘ in it’s entirety live was their 1997 tour in support of their Test For Echo record. Someday I hope to witness it again.
They closed the show with ‘Far Cry‘ from their Snakes and Arrows album. I know they had been playing for almost three hours but it seemed to end all to soon. After a short time with the crowd demanding an encore, RUSH reappeared on stage and Alex and Geddy generously tossed a hand full of tee shirts to the appreciative crowd. Then they began to play a strange polka flavored tune that led them into ‘La Via Strangiato‘ a monumental instrumental song off Hemispheres.
I know the boys need to change it up and entertain themselves as well as us now and then, but this is onetime I wish they had not altered the intro to this masterpiece, but so be it, it still rocked! The last song of the night was a reggae fueled version of ‘Working Man‘ their first radio hit from way back in 1974 (do you think they have played that song a few million times?). It was a raucous version with Alex, Geddy and Neil pulling out all the stops and blasting us with a scorching rendition of this rocker. At the conclusion, Neil and Alex gratefully waved goodbye to the crowd as Geddy yelled into the mic, “Thank you so very much, we hope to see you all again sometime” and disappeared stage right.
Now normally at this point of most concerts the crowd makes a mad dash for the exits, but not so tonight, a third video began to play and most of the crowd stayed to watch. This one featured actors Jason Segel and Paul Rudd playing their characters Sydney Fife and Peter Klaven from their movie ‘I Love You Man‘ in which RUSH made a concert cameo. This time our heroes find themselves backstage in RUSH’s dressing room hoping to get a double neck bass guitar signed by the band but are soon busted by Geddy, Alex and Neil themselves. A strange and comical exchange ensues and Fife and Klaven are unceremoniously booted out. But it has a happy ending as Geddy steps out and hands them the signed bass.
This was a magical evening spent with the greatest rock band in the world putting on the greatest show on earth…period.
SpaceTrucker blogs at Rock Choice.
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