While other music fans were at the Britney Spears spectacle at the Rose Garden or the My Morning Jacket shred-fest at Edgefield, I trekked north—to Clark County, in pursuit of a rare glimpse of Canadian power trio Rush. I hasten to mention that this was not done out of any sense of irony or as the result of losing a bet. No; for a couple brief years pre-adolescence, I was an immense Rush fan, and swiftly accumulated six or so of their albums on cassette with embezzled lunch money. Then other things happened (girls, grunge, Roll the Bones) and Rush and I went our separate ways. But the older I get, the more I realized I'm pretty much the same person I was at age 10, and seeing as how I have never ever seen Rush live, I pounced on the opportunity to catch them at the Sleep Country Amphitheater.
As should be expected from anyone except the most dickish of music snobs or anyone attached to a vagina, the aging Canucks put on a great show. I shall do my best to explain how, and why, without coming off as a total nerd. Yes, their first set consisted of mostly newer, inferior material; yes, they shamelessly baited fans by performing one of their two best albums, Moving Pictures, in full (their other best album is 2112); yes, Neil Peart is starting to look a little like Gandalf. Despite these things—actually, because of them, really—the show was killer.
A quick word about any song Rush has released in the last 20 years: ehhhhh. I wasn't familiar with any of the new stuff (meaning any of the six songs they played from the era stretching from 1993's Counterparts up to 2007's Snakes & Arrows, not to mention the two tracks from the forthcoming Clockwork Angels) and wasn't crazy about any of the songs after having heard them. So there was that. Thick, busy, post-progressive rock; one day later and I'm having trouble remembering anything significant about any of those songs. But the oldies—ohhh man, those oldies.
The second set began with Moving Pictures in its entirety. That's the one with "Tom Sawyer." And "Limelight." And "YYZ." And "Red Barchetta." It's also—I had forgotten this—the one with "Witch Hunt," which (apart from the sheer emotional cataclysm of seeing "Tom Sawyer" performed in the flesh) might very well have been the highlight of the show: a near-apocalyptic, slow-burning powerhouse that was custom-built for big outdoor sheds like Sleep Country Amphitheater. The band was spry; Geddy Lee hopped all over the stage and gamely attempted to hit all the high notes. He didn't make them all (as on the "Temples of Syrinx" section of "2112"), but it's worth noting the band didn't transpose any of their material to lower keys despite it being written for an elfin man three decades younger than Lee is now.
There were some funny, puzzling video clips in between the sets, including a genuinely hilarious (albeit stupid) clip with Lifeson in a fat suit and a bunch of German beermaids walking around with pitchers of beer (get it? Moving pitchers?) and a really adorable one with Paul Rudd and Jason Segal reprising their roles as the Rush-loving pals from I Love You, Man. And there were some deafening explosions—like, really, really LOUD explosions. And they played "Closer to the Heart." And "La Villa Strangiato." Oh, and I saw Neil Peart do a drum solo. In other words: it was AWESOME.
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