Thursday, October 7, 2010

Rush road trip: Thus endeth the bloggeth

Brought to you by the letter æ.

Sailing through the ticket scanners was no biggie. (By the way, aren't you glad all those sadists are gone - the ones who took such great delight in ripping your ticket right at the band name or venue location?) We drew a bead on our seats as Rush had now moved on to its second number, Time Stands Still. Because this is one of two songs I actually don't particularly like, I wasn't bothered to miss it as we got settled. For the record, the other one I don't like is Big Money. Its Rush's equivalent of Van Halen's Jump.

Here Again I was at a Rush concert. The crowd was clearly In The Mood, the view from our seats was really good, and the night air from the clear night sky was fantastic. I could see each of the band members pretty well - especially Geddy Lee and Alex Lifeson; however, having the three mega-screens still added a lot to the show. The camera crew was really good at zooming in on the hands and feet of Geddy and Alex during various solos. And the techs and board staff did their job to perfection with Geddy's equipment. His bass sound was impeccable - yet it didn't overpower Alex's guitars or Neil's drums.

A camera angled to the right of Neil Peart's bass drum presented some good shots. However, they also had a camera above Peart - which should have provided the best view of his chops. Unfortunately, from our seats, the lighting was terrible. The few times the overhead shot was on the screens, it was very difficult to see the details of his work. A minor inconvenience...

Source: Mucho gracias gnumoon

Upon first glance, I thought it was incredibly cool to see Ged sporting a Rush shirt with the logo from their debut album 35+ years ago. But with a second, longer look, I realized it said RASH on it. Even better! I do wonder if the long-sleeve shirt he wore was a rash guard to protect him from the Rash shirt?

Source: MSNBC

Geddy is pushing 60 - SIXTY. Yet, his bass playing skills are simply amazing. I've always listened in awe to Peart's drumming, and I had a respect for Geddy's playing - though not at the same level as I had for Peart. But he's definitely narrowed the gap. Its jaw-dropping to watch him play some incredible riffs and solos ... while working foot pedals ... while balancing bass lines with keyboard parts ... while remembering to sing the correct lyrics from about 35 years of recording.

After their first set was completed, the band took a break and so did I. Off to the bathroom, merch booth, and beer stand I went. At my age - with the exception of Rush - I now generally prefer my live music as singer-songwriters in small venues/clubs. This show reinforced a few of the reasons I've drifted that way over the last couple of decades: longer merch lines staffed by busy folks who really don't care, overpriced and uninteresting beer, and lack of interaction with the artist. Who wants to buy a $40 t-shirt and $8 Bud Light when I can buy $4 Shiners and a $15 CD autographed by Hayes Carll?

...and the meek beer shall inherit the earth...

When the Time Machine tour was announced, the big news was Rush planned to play all of Moving Pictures as part of the set list. Songs such as Tom Sawyer and Limelight have been set list staples from the get-go, but other songs such as The Camera Eye, Witch Hunt, and Vital Signs haven't historically been played nearly as often. Because I really wanted to enjoy the show free of bias from others, I refrained from reading show reviews, didn't watch any YouTube clips, and didn't download any bootlegs. Three wise decisions on my part I think.

Hearing The Camera Eye was a great treat. Listening to the lyrics with a fresh perspective and watching the big screen images of New York City and London in a post-9/11 world made the song a bit more prophetic and surreal.

Did you spot the "major award" from A Christmas Story at the :30 mark?

Hearing and watching Peart's drum solos never gets old. His performance is almost an optical illusion - frequently, I hear rhythms that quite frankly I don't see him play. One portion of his solo that's been around for a number of years simply blows me away. He rocks a 3/4 beat using his bass drum and high-hat pedals while playing multiple toms in a 4/4 time signature. The degree of difficulty puts the combo of patting your head and rubbing your belly at the same time to shame. Its simply not fair.

After playing on his more conventional, traditional set, he turned and sat on his throne facing the other direction as a 2nd drum set designed for the tour rotated around to face the audience. (Transition happens about 2 minute mark in the video below.) The bass drum was significantly smaller than his regular one. And one mounted tom seemed even to be bigger than the bass drum. The ability of the guy to continually re-invent himself, his skills, and even his drumming equipment just leaves me wondering how he does it over and over - similar to my wonderment of why people still buy Peeps at Easter.

Photo source: HoldYourFireAl's SmugMug page

The second and final encore song to close the night was Working Man - a Rush classic from their original self-titled debut album. Rather than start it as normal, the first stanza and chorus were played reggae style. I'm not a big reggae fan, and I'm a big fan of Working Man. So if you'd asked me if I'd like that combo entering the gates, I'd say no. Yet it worked. Very unconventional - but it was good. After the initial chorus, Alex led them back to the classic arrangement. Having WM as the closer was appropriate. It kind of cements why I'm still a big fan. Although Rush is not above some experimentation with musical influences, song lengths, and themes, they've stayed with a core sound from the early 1970s to present day.

During the encore of LaVilla and Working Man, I started feeling a mist. Earlier in the day, the weather forecast showed a nominal 10% chance of rain. So, surely it couldn't be raining - besides, we were in the covered seating. Initially, I convinced myself the moisture was from a misting system in the rafters of the amphitheater's covered seating area. I realize now the prophetic nature of the opening lyrics from Witch Hunt:
The night is black, without a moon
The air is thick and still
When the show ended and we turned to head for the car, it was pouring! The 10% forecast of rain suddenly became a 100% reality of us getting drenched.

Good news: Wet t-shirt contest!
Bad news: It was a Rush show. 90% of the crowd was male.

Video clips, song title drops, attempts at humor that perhaps made only me laugh, and yet you want more? How about some show photos? I found this Photobucket album tonight where some great pictures were shared.

A few show oddities - things that confused me but may be perfectly logical to those who've seen the band far more often than twice in 26 years:
  • During The Camera Eye, one image shown on the screen was an ear of corn. I don't get it.
  • Early in the show, a maid...pushing a shopping cart onto the stage...tossed rubber chickens...into the washing machines...that was making sausage. Completely random? Or is this some sort of metaphorical pretzel I can't untwist?
  • A baby carriage made repeat appearances on the video screens during the show. Why? We came up with a couple of possible, plausible reasons, but I'm interested to hear feedback from others.
  • Unless my eyes deceived me, someone dressed in a bear suit made a couple of laps on a bicycle around the stage as the band was playing. Maybe I was just Losing It at that point of the show.
Knowing I wanted to compose a blog entry or two about the show, I made a few show notes old school style - pen and paper - to supplement my tweets and texts. Guess this proves I'm still trying to balance between being The Analog Kid and a New World Man.

Did I leave wanting more? Sure, there were plenty of songs I wish they'd included in the set list. But the trio did give us two and a half hours of great rock spanning almost four decades. So In The End, to ask for more would be expecting Something For Nothing.

With the show less than 15 minutes behind us, the conversation turned to "where next?" The conventional wisdom is Rush will return to the studio to finish their in-progress album and then tour again in 2011 with an updated set list. Will I get to see them again? Who knows. I Hope so. But if not, I'll shed no Tears as I still had One Little Victory by waiting a quarter-century for my second concert.

OK, I'm Losing It. Review done. Test for Echo. Out. [white noise.....................]



  1. Thanks man. Having a retrospective helps me round out my week.5 Odyssey. Pictures and powerpoint coming soon.


  2. you can say a lot about a three man band. I'm glad your not a big fan of Chicago.
    btw. nice tshirt.