09
Sep
12

Interesting Rush show last night

I’m going to take some time away from running to post about my favorite band.

Last night (Friday 9/7) I felt privileged to see Rush open its North American tour in support of their latest disc (and 20th overall) Clockwork Angels. Why they chose Manchester, N.H., to kick off the tour I’ll never know. But this was my ninth time seeing them, so it was a treat to see them play that show for the first time in front of an audience.

I first saw Rush in 1983; I was a sophomore in high school. It wasn’t my first concert (YES was, at the old Boston Garden, for $12.50 a ticket). It was a Friday afternoon and a classmate of mine (Steve Morley, whom I didn’t know that well, but eventually became friends with) had an extra ticket for Rush’s Grace Under Pressure tour. It was in Portland, Maine, and it was great. Most Rush fans at my school were waiting to see them in Worcester a week later, but I got to see the guys beforehand. It was cool to walk around school the next Monday with my concert T-shirt on; it was one of the few times I actually FELT cool in high school.

Rush has always been my favorite. I admire the musicians for their attention to detail as mush as I do their humbleness.

From there I saw every subsequent tour, even saw them twice in one tour – eight days apart – in Saratoga, N.Y., and Mansfield, Mass. The only exception was Snakes and Arrows four years ago, but it wasn’t as if I didn’t have tickets. My friend Mark and I decided – as a 40th birthday gift to ourselves – to go and see then at Red Rocks near Denver. (I was living in Montana at the time; Mark was in Natick).

But the threat of severe weather cancelled the show and they rescheduled it for later in the summer, which we couldn’t make. I remember that there were stars out at 8 p.m. (the time that show was supposed to start). Lame!

This time I didn’t miss them.

It had been close to 10 years since I saw Rush (those two close-together shows on the Vapor Trails tour), so it was huge for Mark and myself to go see them. It was quite the interesting show.

I was hoping to hear some songs I hadn’t heard at a show in a while. Did I ever, though not the ones I was expecting.

The guys threw me – and a lot of fans – a curveball by playing a slew of songs from their mid-80s keyboard era. It was quite a surprise … for two reasons.

1) Rush usually does what it wants and doesn’t cater to record companies or the mainstream. Lots of bands were using keyboards in the 80s and Rush figured they would too, since that was what popular. But by the 90s, they had done away with the keyboards and took on a more of a rock edge. Their last several albums hardly include any keyboards, so I figured they’d moved way past those times.

And 2) Rush’s songs from that era are good, but not good “concert songs.” It’s hard to groove to The Body Electric, which was one of the first half-dozen songs. Same with Big Money and Force Ten. Same with the opening song, Subdivisions, which has a great guitar solo, but you won’t see many fans rocking in the aisles to that one.

And so it went. They played four songs from Power Windows, the height of their keyboard era. They played two from Grace Under Pressure (Red Sector A and Body Electric, which I hadn’t heard live since that first show in Maine). From Windows, they totally shocked me by playing Territories, which is a cool song, but is rather quiet and most fans just stood with their arms folded.

The first part of the show hit a peak when they played The Analog Kid, mostly because it’s uptempo pace, and fans were dying to move and groove. The song also has one of my favorite lyrics: “And when I leave I don’t know what I’m hoping to find and when I leave I don’t know what I’m leaving be-hi-i-i-ind.”

At this point – about a dozen songs in – they took a 10-minute break. They hadn’t played any songs before 1982’s Signals album and hadn’t touched anything from Clockwork Angels. I knew what was coming: lots of Clockwork.

Before they returned to the stage, a group of about 10 string players appeared behind Neil Peart’s massive, sparkling, rotating drum set. Before long they were playing the first notes of Caravan, which is the first track off Clockwork. They didn’t play the entire album from front to back, but they came close. Only about three songs were left out.

Fans seemed to enjoy the new material, and Alex Lifeson’s guitar sounded great on the new songs. The song Wish
Them Well was a surprise hit with the crowd, as Geddy Lee’s prerecorded scream of the chorus penetrating the smoke-filled arena. Headlong Fight also drew a big response, mostly because, again, of its hard edge. These fans wanted to rock.

But the last song they played from Clockwork – The Garden – was a bit of a downer. It’s very slow and includes piano, which, surprisingly, was played by Alex. Never saw him play anything but guitar.

At this point, roughly 22 songs had been played. Though none from Counterparts, Vapor Trails and Presto, and the two they played from Roll The Bones did not include the title track. I figured the hits were coming, the hard-edge ones for sure. But the string players were still on stage, and they again shocked me by playing Grand Designs and Manhattan Project from Power Windows. More keyboards.

The band played just one song from their Snakes album: Far Cry. I was hoping they’d play more from that album since that was the tour I missed due to the severe weather that never came. (I’m not bitter, not in the least).

The first encore was Tom Sawyer. Always a crowd pleaser, though it was one of only two songs they played from Moving Pictures. YYZ was the other.

They finished strong with The Spirit of Radio and ended up playing for a Springsteen-like nearly three hours.

There was no Closer to the Heart, no 2112, no Limelight, no Trees, no Xanadu. But I wasn’t disappointed. I’ve been hearing those songs played live for years. And Rush has been playing them for years. I give them credit for not becoming human juke boxes and playing the same old set list time and again.

Even Neil’s drum solo (there were actually three short ones rather than a 10-minute montage) was different. He played one on electronic pads that can only be described as techno.

The band also played a stripped-down version of Working Man, at least until the halfway point of the song, anyway.

These guys have been together since the late 70s (Neil turns 60 this month) and they’re trying to mix things up. They’ve played the hits, the crowd pleasers ad nauseum.

Most bands who enjoyed their commericial peak in the 80 are playing state fairs now as part of a triple bill. But Rush is enjoying new popularity. They’re still filling arenas. And still doing things their way.

But I wonder how the diehard fans (I don’t consider myself one) felt about the show in Manchester. I know many were expecting to hear more 2112 than one-zero-zero (from Body Electric). They guy next to me (who was drunk and went missing for most of the Clockwork songs) kept saying he wanted to hear Tom Sawyer and 2112. About two-thirds through, I told him they, and many other of the old staples, were coming.

Little did I know, although Sawyer was played.

There were also some glitches. At one point, the arena remained dark while a stage hand work feverishly to fix what Geddy desrcibed as “technical difficulties.” The famously hilarious Alex helped take the crowd’s attention away by telling a joke about a drunk with vomit on his shirt.

Alex also seemed to lose himself for a second during the solo for Tom Sawyer and Neil dropped quite a few tossed drum sticks.

But they smiled through the whole show. Hey, just like the song BU2B says, they are “only human.” And that’s what first shows are all about – getting better as you go.

I’d love to see them in Boston in October. They’ll probably play the same show, but I bet it’s way more polished.

I look forward to seeing Rush again, though it probably won’t be quite that soon. I just hope they keep rocking.

Happy (Vapor) Trails.

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2 Responses to “Interesting Rush show last night”


  1. 1 Roberto
    September 9, 2012 at 2:25 pm

    ok nice job……… as Rush fans tend to do…let me correct a few things…..They are not playing in Worcester in Oct, but at the TD Garden in Boston. Grand Designs wasn’t with the strings it was earlier in the set, the other strings song was red sectoer A. You kind of made it sound like YYZ was an encore…it wasnt. and rumor has it they will be swapping out 4 or 5 songs for an alternate set list. Hopefully we get that one in beantown


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