Despite being around since the ’70s, Canada’s most celebrated progressive rock band is still going strong. These past few years have been especially kind to Rush, with a guest appearance on The Colbert Report and cameos in the 2009 comedy “I Love You Man.”
Currently Rush is back on the road touring in celebration of their seminal album Moving Pictures; playing the album in its entirety, but also playing a multitude of songs from their extensive discography.
I was lucky enough to catch Rush twice on tour over the summer, and for anyone who has yet to experience the power of Geddy Lee, Neil Peart, and Alex Lifeson live, its highly recommended.
There are no opening bands, just three hours of Rush. The show starts with a comical video involving the band playing the role of disgruntled people in a sausage restaurant watching the band “Rash,” a fictional polka band from the 40’s that has no chance at all of making it big.
A time machine is then revealed which updates the band’s take on “The Spirit of the Radio” from polka, to disco, to country, until finally it sounds like the song everyone is familiar with.
At that point something goes horribly wrong and the machine launches the Rash into the future. The video ends and the real Rush appear on stage playing an energy fueled performance of “The Spirit of the Radio”.
At this point it’s clear to the audience that Rush have just as much life in them as they did when they started out.
Geddy Lee can still hit those ultra high notes in his unique voice that could be described as Robert Plant on helium, and his finger-picked bass playing does nothing but confirm that he is one of progressive rock’s top bassists.
Watching Neil Peart pound complex drum fills on his massive kit inspires the audience to go into an air drumming frenzy. Alex Lifeson after all these years is still criminally underrated, both as a lead and rhythm guitarist.
“The Spirit of the Radio” was followed by “Time Stand Still”, a song from Rush’s late ’80s synth heavy phase, in which Geddy Lee has to alternate between keyboards, bass playing, and singing. Afterward the band’s set leaned heavily on their ’90s and 2000s output of stripped down, but enjoyable hard rock.
The only exceptions were Freewill and Marathon. It was obvious that some of the Rush traditionalists were put off by the newer songs and opted to get an overpriced beverage instead, despite the band playing BU2B from their upcoming album “Clockwork Angels.”
After about 90 minutes of music, Rush closed out the end of their first set with their classic “Subdivisions,” a song that is still relevant today in describing the lack of conformity in society, and being shunned for being different. Afterward the audience patiently waited out the intermission. They knew what was coming next, and it was enough to make any progressive-rock fan giddy. Rush were going to play.
When Rush came back out to play the album it was flawless. The crowd went into a frenzy from the opening bass synth of “Tom Sawyer” till the surprisingly lively performance of “Vital Signs”.
Never before have I seen that many people air drum, air guitar, air bass, and even air keyboard at concert (Yes, I was also one of those people). Even a Dream Theater concert was tame in comparison. This set was particularly special because the 11 minute epic “The Camera Eye” hadn’t been preformed since their Signals tour in 1982.
After Moving Pictures, Rush launched into another new song “Caravan” from Clockwork Angels (Rush traditionalists used it as an excuse to have a bathroom break.).
It was then time for Neil Peart’s drum solo, a staple at any Rush concert that produces awe, even in non-drummers. Neil Peart blasts through multiple time signatures and music styles, even a swinging big band segment.
He’s like a machine, never making errors and having no expression other than determination on his face.
Not being left out, Alex Lifeson followed with his own solo on a 12-string acoustic, while Geddy Lee took a much-deserved rest until the band kicked back in gear with a pair of fan favorites from the ’70s, “Closer to the Heart” with an extended jam section, and the first two parts from 2112 (arguably the first progressive metal song ever).
“Far Cry” closed out the set, one of Rush’s most popular tracks off of their 2007 output “Snakes and Arrows” and is likely to be a concert staple for years to come.
For the encore Rush came back out with La Villa Strangiato which highlighted each member in the band, but Alex Lifeson in particular with his emotive electric guitar leads.
What followed took most of the crowd by surprise. Rush played a reggae inspired take on “Working Man,” before switching to the hard and dirty rendition heard on the studio take halfway through the song.
Before the concert came to an official close, another video was played. This time it featured the two main characters from “I Love You Man” engage in an awkward but endearing backstage encounter with the band.
What more can be said but Rush put on a phenomenal show that is well worth the price of arena tickets. For those of you have yet to see Rush live, they are playing at the Allentown Festival September 2.
Devon Czekaj can be reached at DC678434@wcupa.edu.