[ATTENDED: June 25, 2015] Rush
I was a huge Rush fan back in the day. In fact, to last night’s show Sarah wore my Rush shirt that I bought in, oh, 1983 or so. Despite my huge love of Rush I actually hadn’t seen them many times live. I missed several opportunities in college (stupid work ethic) but finally got to see them on the Presto tour. Whether it was April 20 or April 25, it was definitely 1990 and most likely at the Brendan Byrne Arena (R.I.P.).
I feel like I may have seen them on one more tour before seeing them again (possibly three times, I have 3 stubs) in 2002. The problem with seeing them a lot in one tour is that they tend to keep the set list the same in every show (there’s some variation below). And I remember thinking i didn’t need to see them again after that.
Of course, after seeing them last night and today listening to the Clockwork Angels tour CD I am really kicking myself for not going to that tour because there is some really interesting stuff (and a string section) which would have been pretty cool to see. But that’s okay because the show last night was so good that it satisfied all my Rush needs–a great send off (presumably) to a great band.
Sarah had never seen Rush before (and in fact once actively disliked them, and may still). But she was won over by the show.
I haven’t been to a big arena show (except for Kiss) in a long time, so I kind of forgot what we’d be getting. And wow did we get a lot–flash pots, fire, lasers, explosions, video screen (even a possible marriage proposal in front of us). And, at any Rush show… lots of air drumming (including from myself).
I had been deliberately avoiding any spoilers from the set list. I didn’t want to have any expectations. And I have to say, if I had made an ideal set lit, (which I thought about doing), they would have hit quite a number of them. (Thanks Rush fans for not spoiling things for me). And thus, below is a whole bunch of spoilers [consider yourself warned]. But one spoiler you must read–do not leave during the encore, there’s more to the show when the music is done.
Rush shows have been opening with animations for quiet some time. And this tour is no exception. A wild and densely packed animation called The World Is…The World Is showed things from nearly every album. I need to watch it again just to see how much is actually in it. I mostly remember the sequence with Neil’s mustache changing. And it was cool that the video ended with them in Philadelphia. This is uploaded from a different show:
And then they came out, rocking out three awesome songs from Clockwork Angels–an absolutely fantastic album that I have been enjoying a lot lately. First impression is that Geddy Lee’s voice doesn’t sound so great anymore (he’s very screechy I’m afraid–I wonder if he considered singing an octave lower– I mean I know it’s his trademark, but still…. And when he does the lower notes he sounds fine). And the sound wasn’t as pristine as it could have been (such is what you get in a hockey arena), hmm, maybe MSG was the venue to go to?.
But hearing them play those three songs was great. There was even a mini drum solo!
And that’s when Geddy said that they would be traveling backwards through a time machine. I knew this was their 40th anniversary tour (or technically 41st), but I didn’t exactly know what they had up their sleeves.
They moved to the Snakes and Arrows album and played “Far Cry” and the fun instrumental “The Main Monkey Business.” It was here that I noticed that there were guys in red jumpsuits who were dismantling their set. The set started with all manner of things on stage–plasma balls, a Victrola and the like. And the guys started taking that stuff down and adding amplifiers behind Alex and washing machines behind Geddy. (these referenced past concert sets and it was a lot of fun to watch this transpire).
Then on to Vapor Trails (an album I love, but which when I listened to it recently I realized just how badly it was mixed–they fixed that in 2013 and I just got around to reordering the new mix–I’m pretty excited to hear it). It seemed like they’d be playing at least one song from every album (how could they possibly do that?), but then they skipped Test for Echo and moved on to Counterparts to play “Animate” (which had interesting visuals).
Then on to Roll the Bones. I have seen this song live many times and while I think the song it self really rocks, the rap in the middle kind of takes the momentum out of it. But this show was outstanding because they had a celebrity cameo video of people rapping it–Jason Segel and Paul Rudd, the Trailer Park Boys, Les Claypool (in a pig mask) and Tom Morello and, naturally, Peter Dinklage! It was outstanding.
They skipped over Presto and Hold Your Fire (to the dismay of my neighbor who shouted out for “Time Stand Still” (although she did it when they were playing songs from the 1970s so she clearly didn’t get the concept) and Powerwindows (I’m a little bummed at because I was just listening to it and had forgotten how good it was). And then on to Grace Under Pressure and Signals. The roar of applause at “Subdivisions” really surprised me as I can recall when that song came out (actually more of “New World Man”) it received mixed reception at best from Rush fans because it was so synth heavy,
Oh, and here’s the thing about this current set. It is really guitar heavy. Every song was loud and edgy–Sarah was really surprised that 3 guys could sounds so big. Every song rocks louder than on album and there’s almost no synths at all.
The synths are tucked off in the corner, so instead of Geddy being stuck behind the wall of keyboards, he is all over the stage with his bass(es). It also made me smile to think that as technology advances and gadgets get smaller, the huge Rush stage set (walls and walls of instruments) looks less impressive. When you can exchange a rack of foot pedals (circa 1980) for a box of sounds, it really reduces your load.
As the first set ended and their stage was full of amps, it was time to take a break.
When we returned, the R40 image had changed to an ARF ARF 40 with some puppies in the circle (a shirt that Geddy was wearing later). And then ARRRR 40 with Geddy dressed as a pirate.
And then came a hilarious video called “No Country for Old Hens” which was a compilation of outtakes from their previous tour video. And holy cow was it funny. For a band that is so serious about their musicianship and lyrics, they are a bunch of goofballs. Here’s the video from another show:
And when they came back, the whole set was full of gear–walls of amps, and tons of old percussion–Neil’s tubular bells! And that could mean only one thing–prog rock was back in the house.
The started off with “Tom Sawyer” and “Spirit of Radio” and then they tapped right into my wish list of “there’s no way” songs. “Natural Science” a ten minute mini epic and one of my favorite songs ever (how could my whole section be sitting down through this??). Followed by the other mini epic on that album, “Jacob’s Ladder!” No way (I loved the way they had the stage lights peek through like the sunlight burst thing through clouds.
And it just got better. The title track from Hemispheres (there was no way they could play the whole 18 minutes, I knew, and while I still hoped they would, they did a pretty sizable chunk). And that’s when Neil inserted a new (to me) drum solo. It’s odd to me that his solo is identical every show of the tour. I got a little sick of the one in 2002, even if the swing band section was pretty cool. So this was a neat one to hear and see, and to realize that he’s still got it.
And then “Closer to the Heart” and the only song I’d heard they were going to play, (and I was so nervous they wouldn’t)–Xanadu–complete with two double neck guitars (the only thing that could have made it better is if they had worn long kimonos like in the album). Getting to see Geddy play the six string was awesome. And Neil was playing the tubular bells with a mallet and everything!
By this point the roadies had reduced their giant amp set up to just a few stacks (appropriate for 1976).
Although I thought I’d never need to hear 2112 live again, by this point I as totally into it. Having an arena chant during the right parts is pretty exciting. And when the solar federation assumed control to end the second set it was pretty breathtaking.
For the encore, they had a video called Mel’s Rock Pile starring Eugene Lev. This was a bit that aired on SCTV back in the day, and Levy reprised it perfectly, with a hilarious introduction of the band “the band has opened for Kiss, if you can believe that.”
Watch the clip below:
I hoped that they would play something from Caress of Steel, the much maligned third album. And I secretly hoped it would be “Lakeside Park” (well, actually, I super secretly hoped it would be “The Necromancer,” but knew better). And they played it. This was especially neat since we visited Lakeside Park when we were in Toronto last year.
The roadies removed some more gear and Geddy “introduced” guitarist Alex Lifeson who roared into “Anthem.”
And then with but one amp propped on an old chair and a backdrop looking like an old high school gym, the band played a song from “their debut album”. And it was awesome.
After the curtain went down, there was final, hilarious video Exit Stage Left which referenced all of the band’s album and mocked the guys. Hearing Alex say, “Fuck you, puppet” may have been a career highlight.
And speaking of Alex, this was totally his show Even though Neil did his usual great drum solos, and Geddy was Geddy, I feel like the spotlight was always on Alex. Geddy never did anything too fancy on the bass (of course, everything he plays is great, but he was almost subdued out there). It was all about Alex. With the lengthy solos in the proggy songs, and the lengthy solos in “What You’re Doin'”and “Working Man” (under a disco ball), it was easy to remember that on the first album, Alex was the start, not Geddy. He also got to play two songs that opened with acoustic guitars from which he switched to electric, he did a ton of backing vocals, and I’m fairly certain he was playing foot pedals too.
At the same time it was also comforting to see that eh is fallible–he hit some bum notes–who ever heard of such a thing? And while that’s not something to applaud, it was kind of cool to have some flubs to make this a real live experience.
This show was so fantastic, it was beyond all my expectations. The only regret I have is that I didn’t go see them more.
I am pleased that we got “YYZ” instead of “Red Barchetta.” An while I would have been in another kind of heaven if we had gotten “The Camera Eye”…not at the expense of “Natural Science.” And while it may have been interesting to hear “Hot It Is,” “One Little Victory” sounded so good.
The real toss-up is “Between the Wheels” instead of “Distant Early Warning.” But I thought DEW sounded great in this really rocking version, so that’s okay. And I see that they played “Losing It” with Ben Mink in Toronto (apparently for the first time ever?). That would have been pretty damned amazing but I understand that that’s a one off, (and it will be on the DVD anyway).
This was such a great show, and I’m glad Sarah wanted to go with me because it was a lot of fun sharing my fandom with her (and letting her see that there are several thousand other people as obsessive as I am).Some setlists:
|1990 East Rutherford, NJ||2002 Scranton, PA||2002 Uncasville, CT|
|Force Ten||Tom Sawyer||Tom Sawyer|
|Freewill||Distant Early Warning||Distant Early Warning|
|Distant Early Warning||New World Man||New World Man|
|Time Stand Still||Roll the Bones||Roll the Bones|
|Show Don’t Tell||YYZ||YYZ|
|The Pass||The Pass||The Pass|
|Closer to the Heart||Bravado||Bravado|
|Manhattan Project||The Big Money||The Big Money|
|Xanadu||Between Sun and Moon||The Trees|
|Drum Solo (The Rhythm Method)||Natural Science||Natural Science|
|Scars||set two||set two|
|War Paint||One Little Victory||One Little Victory|
|Tom Sawyer||Ghost Rider||Ghost Rider|
|encore||Secret Touch||Secret Touch|
|The Spirit of Radio||Dreamline||Dreamline|
|2112: Part 1||Red Sector A||Red Sector A|
|La Villa Strangiato||Leave That Thing Alone||Leave That Thing Alone|
|In the Mood||Drum Solo (O Baterista)||Drum Solo (O Baterista)|
|2112 Part 1||2112 Part 1|
|2112 Part 2||2112 Part 2|
|La Villa Strangiato||La Villa Strangiato|
|The Spirit of Radio||The Spirit of Radio|
|By-Tor & The Snow Dog||By-Tor & The Snow Dog|
|Cygnus X1 (prologue)||Cygnus X1 (prologue)|
|Working Man||Working Man|
|2002 East Rutherford, NJ||2015 Philadelphia, PA|
|Tom Sawyer||The Anarchist|
|Distant Early Warning||Clockwork Angels|
|New World Man||Headlong Flight (with mini drum solo “Drumbastica”|
|Roll the Bones||Far Cry|
|Earthshine||The Main Monkey Business|
|YYZ||One Little Victory|
|Bravado||Roll the Bones|
|The Big Money||Distant Early Warning|
|Natural Science||Tom Sawyer|
|One Little Victory||The Spirit of Radio|
|Ghost Rider||Jacob’s Ladder|
|Secret Touch||Cygnus X-1 Book 2 Part 1|
|Dreamline||Cygnus X-1 Books 2 Part 2|
|Red Sector A||Drum solo|
|Leave That Thing Alone||Closer to the Heart|
|Drum Solo (O Baterista)||Xanadu|
|Resist||2112 Part 1|
|2112 Part 1||2112 Part 2|
|2112 Part 2||2112 Part 4|
|Limelight||2112 Part 7|
|La Villa Strangiato||encore|
|The Spirit of Radio||Lakeside Park|
|By-Tor & The Snow Dog||What You’re Doing|
|Cygnus X1 (prologue)||Working Man|
|Working Man||(Garden Road)|