I’m sure you’ve heard the saying “If it’s too loud you’re too old.” Well, let’s face it in some cases it is true. However that’s not my deal. Mine is, “If I have to stand at a concert for 2 ½ to 3 hours I’d rather stay home (or at least sit at the show and watch the screens). I admit I broke my own rule this evening; I stood for almost 3 hours for Rush at the BB&T Center. This counts my fourth time seeing the three gentlemen (Geddy Lee – vocals/bass/keyboards, Alex Lifeson – guitar, Neil Peart – drums) from Canada live in concert. My other worldly musical encounters was their SIGNALS tour in 1982, GRACE UNDER PRESSURE in 84, and finally PRESTO in 89.
I’m sure if you were to ask any of the 19,000 fans here in Sunrise tonight I would probably be in the minority when it comes to those who have seen the band before. The concert goers who venture out to see Rush are a breed all their own. Loyal would be an understatement and most have seen them in concert over 10 times. Most of those in attendance tonight were dressed in vintage Rush concert shirts while cars in the parking lot could be heard loudly playing Rush songs. It is much to their fans credit that the band finally got their overdue props when they were inducted into the Rock ‘N’ Roll Hall Of Fame earlier this year. The non-stop campaigning finally paid off so much so that the powers-that-be had to take notice. “We’ve been saying for a long time that this wasn’t a big deal,” drummer-lyricist Neil Peart told the Nokia Theatre crowd at the ceremony, most of whom came out to specifically support the band. “It turns out, it kind of is.”
Admittedly I have not kept up with the band’s latter releases but I certainly wasn’t going to pass up the opportunity to see them again after 24 years. Good grief, I can’t believe it’s been that long. Tonight brought it all back as if it were yesterday. For those of you who haven’t seen Rush in concert it is a cerebral musical symphony you really need to experience in person. They are not a ‘crotch rock band.’ There’s no tunes about sex, drugs and rock’n’roll (thanks in large part to Peart’s incredible visceral lyrics); no scantily clad female dancers or background singers. Its three incredibly gifted and talented musicians that make the guitar, drums, bass, vocals and keyboards sound unlike any other. That my friends is the essence of Rush in concert.
Rush – Clockwork Angels Tour stage looked massive from every seat in the house. The instruments and stage props were all covered with black drapes; massive towers of speakers and lighting rigs hung down and around the stage from above. The opening segment of the show appeared on the screen behind Neil Peart’s mountain of drums. A vignette that incorporated elements of the classic films ‘Metropolis,’ combined with ‘Frankenstein,’ served as our introduction to the band and the evening’s festivities. The ‘mad scientists’ were building each individual member as though they were ‘the monster’ themselves. Once the band physically took the stage the familiar beginning of SUBDIVISIONS boomed through the sound system like a jet taking flight. Sticking with their apocalyptic theme the stage was adorned with an oversized brain in a huge jar, an old popcorn machine, rusted musical instruments, and periscopes that doubled as video screens. It was quite an imaginative set up that lent itself perfectly to the new material as well as the old.
The highlight for me when it comes to a Rush concert is Neil Peart’s phenomenal drum solos; tonight we were treated to a few. Arguably the greatest drummer of his generation his bombastic drum kit flanked him on his stool. I couldn’t begin to tell you how many individual drums or cymbals in his kit but I can definitely say his Remo drum heads took a beating; literally. The huge center screen behind the band gave everyone in the audience an up close and personal look at the guys playing chops. Great close-up of the guys as well as clever animation and imagery melded perfectly to the music and kept the songs themes in tact. Lifeson’s Les Paul Gibson guitars sung the sweetest serenades and oozed blistering solos as he played effortlessly, barely breaking a sweat. Geddy Lee’s vocals as always were clear and pierced the air with high intensity. His keyboard playing was on par and though his bass was superb it sounded a bit off. His solos came across perfect however when mixed with Peart and Lifeson the bass sounded a bit muffled and not clear.
Never to be outdone there was the usual fog machine present (it’s a rock show requirement) along with a couple of surprises that literally shot me out of my seat. Fireworks, steam, fire and a bomb or two scared the bejeezes out of me though I was cool enough not to show it. And if you believe that I have a bridge just outside of NYC for sale; I jumped a good foot every time they shot something off I wasn’t expecting.
The show was in two parts with a 15 minute intermission after the first 1 ½ hour. Did I mention I stood for almost 3 hours? The only disappointment I have, if you can call it that was the majority of the second half of the show was primarily selections from their latest CD CLOCKWORK ANGELS. The stage set up changed slightly with the addition of 10 video/TV screens that hovered over the band and moved back and forth, up and down. Though the songs were really good (it is Rush after all) there was a lot from their catalog that was obviously missing. A bonus that was added to this set was a 7 piece string orchestra that was set up behind Peart. Fan favorites did surface at the end of the show, YYZ, THE SPIRIT OF RADIO and the infamous TOM SAWYER which whipped the crowd of all ages into a frenzy. The encore can best be described as just that as they proceeded to lay down the rock’n’roll gavel with 2112/OVERATURE/THE TEMPLES OF SYRINX/GRAND FINALE. After all these years and over 40 million albums sold it is clear that Rush still rocks and puts on one hell of an entertaining show. Is there a fifth Rush show in my future? One never knows and I never say never.