Monday, June 27, 2011
Rush Says It's Time
They say the third time's the charm - last night I successfully sat through an entire Rush concert. The other two times I saw the band were marred by alcohol and bad luck, so I didn't see (or remember seeing) a full show from the long running Canadian power trio. I wasn't interested in seeing them this tour because I figured something would happen and I'd miss a big part of the show but my wife insisted I should go. She was right. Thank you honey :)
So for the third time we made our way out to the Concord Pavilion (I know it's called Sleep Train Pavilion but it'll always be Concord Pavilion to me). The weather was warm, pleasant. We got good VIP parking. The pre concert music over the PA was a dream mix of classic prog - King Crimson, U.K., Genesis, etc. Had some time to people watch, and some of the crowd's antics bled over into the actual concert (more explanation in a moment).
This show was said to be sold out and judging the crowd size during the show I'd say that's about right. The mix of people there I would probably best describe as what you would see at a big city park. You've got your families with small children there for a group outing, couples there for a night out, homeless looking folk with unkempt appearances and stoners puffing the hell out of their hash pipes. When night fell some took to hiding in the bushes and trees to do whatever, probably more drugs. A fight almost broke out in my seating section because this young wanna be tough guy kid and his girl insisted on standing when everyone else was sitting and shouting at them to stop blocking their view. If he didn't look like a skinny teen kid in over his head trying to look badass in front of his loudmouth girl, he probably would have got beat down.
It was still daylight when Rush hit the stage, it was kinda cool how they nonchalantly walked out there once the opening comedy video ended. The videos showed the band's fake history in a comic light and were pretty amusing. At the end of the first video was the opening to "The Spirit Of Radio" which the full band then started live. The set list went:
The Spirit Of Radio / Time Stand Still / Presto / Stick It Out / Workin Them Angels / Leave That Thing Alone / Faithless / BU2B / Freewill / Marathon / Subdivisions
Tom Sawyer / Red Barchetta / YYZ / Limelight / The Camera Eye / Witch Hunt / Vital Signs / Caravan / Drum Solo / Closer To The Heart / 2112 / Far Cry
La Villa Strangiato / Working Man
Rush opening with "The Spirit Of Radio"? Can't go wrong. One of their biggest hits, blam! In yo face. To say the band sounded tight goes without saying, when doesn't Rush sound tight? The only negative point I can make is it's the end of the tour and G goes well with the whole time machine theme. "Presto" was eddy Lee's voice sounds like it. He had to really push his voice to try to hit notes and at times would lose enunciation as a result. But hey, these guys aren't exactly young and he has been on the road for a year so I cut him some slack.
I purposely didn't look up the set list before going so things would be a nice surprise. So I enjoyed the trio serving up 1987's "Time Stand Still" from the Hold Your Fire album. Kindaa real left turn, I hadn't heard that one since I first got the Cd. It was around here the fight almost broke out in my seating section. "Stick It Out" continued the song's timeline progression from 1987 up thru the 90s culminating in 2007's "Workin Them Angels". While the band sounded fine the drama of the potential fight mixed with some pot heads lighting up next to me made it difficult to focus on the music.
"Leave That Thing Alone" allowed the band to push forward some of their instrumental magic, ending with Geddy Lee tearing it up on his bass. Even though I like "Faithless", I started to feel that the Snakes And Arrows album was getting a bit over represented. Oh well, it was one of my favorite tracks off that disc so I lived with it.
The band then previewed one of two tracks for their in progress new disc, the song was called "BU2B". It reminded me a bit of the Snakes And Arrows approach slightly more developed and even more guitar heavy. So like that album I'd have to hear the song a few times to get how it really hits me, as it was I thought it was just OK. I was impressed that the band would included unreleased material in their main set, it's been ages since I've seen anyone do that. That was cool.
With the lack of big hits being played the audience was respectfully appreciative until they kicked into "Freewill". Maybe they were pumped by the crowd response or just hitting their groove, but 1985's "Marathon" became positively transcendent. The lyric "Like a streak of lightning that flashes and fades in the summer sky" as the sun began to set on the outdoor venue made for a perfect concert moment. A planned mid song explosion gave the crowd a jolt. Then Rush closed out the first half of the show with "Subdivisions". 'nuff said.
During intermission I entertained myself reading the text message board underneath the upcoming concert announcements. My favorite text from the evening? Somebody sent in a Rick Roll "Never gunna give you up Never gunna let you down". Too funny.
A lot has been made of Rush performing the entire Moving Pictures album this tour which is fine by me, it's my favorite Rush album (even though I haven't owned it since the mid 80s). Once they began the second half with "Tom Sawyer" I knew what I was in for. It's "Tom Sawyer", let the air drumming begin! Even though it's largely regarded as a Neal Peart showcase, I really enjoyed how Alex Lifeson switched up some of the guitar solo a little. Not a lot, but just enough to make it stand out as different from the record. And Lee had intermission to rest his voice so he was able to push his vocal a little harder on the band's definitive song.
True to album sequence "Red Barchetta" roared up next. Followed by that beast of an instrumental, "YYZ". I freakin LOVE "YYZ". Always have. So to say I marked out to this jam is an understatement. It was just too bad I had to rely on the video camera coverage to see what drummer Neal Peart was doing. His drum kit is so tall that the only thing visible to the naked eye was his left arm hitting the snare drum or when he tagged the cymbals up top. Still, things couldn't get much more perfect with Geddy Lee hopping all over the stage playing off Lifeson and Peart. Oh yeah, "Limelight" was next so I guess it could get more perfect.
Now I haven't owned Moving Pictures since about 25 years ago. That's how long it's been since I've heard anything from side 2 of that esteemed album (except for when I wrote a brief review of Moving Pictures a few years back, I played snippets of the songs online to job my memory). Although I remembered some of the keyboards on "The Camera Eye" I had forgotten how awesome a piece of music it is. A long form prog piece, "The Camera Eye" was damn good. "Witch Hunt" pleased the hardcore fans, as the voices that sang along with the band got noticeably less but clearer here. And "Vital Signs". Totally forgot that one. Maybe because the band knew they were playing lesser known material at this point in the show, the lighting mechanism lowered down over the band and moved it's mechanized arms up and down like an electric octopus.
With the sold out crowd in rapt attention following the Moving Pictures part, Rush threw out their second unreleased song "Caravan". It was slightly better than "BU2B", the song was a touch more memorable and the instrumental break killed. Neal Peart's drum solo was up next. It was epic. Peart is one of the best rock drummers of all time, his solo started on his massive regular drum kit before it rotated to a smaller kit. It finished with a big band part displaying Peart in his element.
Had to take a whizz and missed most of "Closer To The Heart". "2112" got fans fists pumping as Rush continued to dig into their 70s catalog. The band announced this would be the last song before returning to the Snakes And Arrows era for "Far Cry".
We left during "Far Cry" to dodge the traffic so I didn't see "La Villa Strangiato" and "Working Man". Fortunately, "Working Man" is one of the songs I recall from the first two concerts so I can say I've seen it.
I'm happy to say I've seen Rush in concert now without feeling like it needs an asterisk next to it. Saw it from start to finish. Their performance was near perfection. And all of Moving Pictures? Can't put that down. Sure I can quibble on Geddy Lee's vocal more or on having too many songs from Snakes and Arrows (3) but when all is said and done, I loved it.