Sunday, July 22, 2007

Concert Review - RUSH

Riddle me this, Batman? What do you get when Rush decides to shelve some of their more tired workhorses from the last three or four tours, like 2112, Working Man, Roll the Bones and damn near all of their recorded output from 1987 through 2004?

You get one of the freshest Rush set lists in years. You get Digital Man, Entre Nous, Circumstances, Passage to Bangkok, Witch Hunt, Natural Science, Freewill and – not kidding – nine new songs from the latest album Snakes and Arrows (good thing the album kicks ass). And not one medley!

I just returned from seeing the band at the Clark County Amphitheater and they did not disappoint. But I didn’t really expect them to. No, you can pretty much rely on Rush to perform really really well no matter what. That is not even a question.

The question becomes, what are they going to play? Who are they catering to on the tour? I have to say, the band on this tour is catering to the die hard Rush fan, finally. Long gone are the ‘crowd pleasers’ like Closer to the Heart and New World Man. Now we get four of the seven songs from Permanent Waves, half of Moving Pictures, and two from Signals. Very heavy on the 1978-1982 period. We also get 80s gems like Between the Wheels and Mission. But no Big Money or Force Ten. Can I say it any louder – THANK YOU! Killer, killer set list.

And this time around, not only did they dig deep into the catalog, they featured their newest release more prominently than I remember them doing since they did seven out of the eight songs on Power Windows on that tour in 1985. This is epic and shows that Geddy Lee, Alex Lifeson and Neil Peart are not going to wrap it up any time soon.

I mean, they could easily rest on their laurels and play the same rotation of songs over and over again but they clearly believe in the new album so much that they want to feature it heavily. And the new songs went over really well, even when they opened set two with five of them in a row.

Granted, three of those nine new songs were instrumentals, and one of those is an Alex Lifeson acoustic solo piece called “Hope.” (Rush instrumentals always work and get a big response). So that meant that with the encore closer YYZ, they did four instrumentals plus the drum solo.

And yeah, I had read this elsewhere but Neil’s drum solo was totally different. He didn’t repeat anything from previous tours and it was far less flashy and more jazzy. He even wrapped up the solo by playing along to a pre-recorded jazz track. It was more like a Buddy Rich solo, minus the swearing. And of course it was jaw dropping, but that is a given.

Again, you expect a certain level of excellence from Rush and you always get it. I’ll tell you though, the one stand out for me was Geddy’s voice. Even as far back as the 80s I sensed he could not hit the high notes anymore, but tonight it was insane. He hit them all, with the exception of the verses to Passage to Bangkok, which he sang a bit differently from the album version. But that was the last song he sang all night and his voice must be tired. Also – YOU try and sing it. It’s supersonic screech for the whole song.

But the high verse in Freewill and the chorus of Circumstances in particular gave me chills he hit those notes so well. Not sure how you are making that happen Ged, but keep it up.

I also sensed fewer pre-recorded backing tracks this time around. Every tour over the last decade they seem to use less, and I say good. On the Presto tour in 1989, I remember being as disillusioned as I ever was with Rush because I felt like they were just playing along to backing tracks and there was more pre-recorded stuff than live stuff.

The pendulum has swung the other way and there were only a couple of songs where I heard instruments that no one was playing. I am not including the keyboard patches and such that they trigger on Taurus pedals with their feet – I am talking about backing tracks that seem to add complete instrumental parts throughout the whole song, as if there were a fourth and fifth member of Rush playing from under the stage.

I am also not talking about backing vocals, because there were numerous pre-recorded Geddy Lee vocal parts and harmonies layered on all of the new songs. They have been doing this for years and I got used to it, even though I think it’s ‘cheating.’ My remaining gripe in this department is that they need to get rid of Alex’s mic, which is clearly not even on. And when he sings into it and you hear seven Geddys, you know it’s a ruse. But whatever. He’s been doing that for years, so I guess I should just deal with it.

Alex had some very nice acoustic guitars mounted on stands so he could switch back and forth from acoustic to electric in the same song, a la Steve Howe from Yes. His 12 string work in Entre Nous was gorgeous.

I love the fact that Geddy played a Fender Jazz bass all night (except in Bangkok, when the Rickenbacker came back out – wow!), and Alex is mostly on Les Pauls.

Funny note – Geddy’s backline was thee large Rotisserie chicken roasters (since he plugs his bass into the PA direct, he does not need amplifiers and he started putting random stuff behind him instead a few years ago – like clothes washers and candy machines).

This brings up another point, which is that these guys have a great collective sense of humor and there were a lot of funny video clips of the band doing all sorts of things as intros to some songs. Two that stand out are Geddy dressed up like a Scottish dude called “Harry Satchel” trying to get the band onstage (think Groundskeeper Willie from The Simpsons), and a video of the South Park kids as a garage band trying to play Tom Sawyer, where Cartman has a wig on, screws up the words and says to the other guys, “I’m Geddy Lee dammit and I can sing whatever I want!”

It’s so great to see these same three guys after more than 30 years and 19 studio albums still playing with passion, integrity, precision and yes damn it FUN. They clearly love what they do and are very concerned with delivering their best, always. Name another band around even half this long that has toured behind every single one of their studio albums and has done so much for their loyal legion of fans. I for one will go see these guys every time they come through town. They have my word.

But next time they can skip Subdivisions and Limelight and add Jacob's Ladder, M'kay?

Set one:
--Limelight
--Digital Man
--Entre Nous
--Mission
--Freewill
--The Main Monkey Business (instrumental)
--The Larger Bowl
--Secret Touch
--Circumstances
--Between The Wheels
--Dreamline

set two:
--Far Cry
--Workin' Them Angels
--Armor And Sword
--Spindrift
--The Way The Wind Blows
--Subdivisions
--Natural Science
--Witch Hunt
–-Malignant Narcissism (instrumental)
--Drum Solo
--Hope (instrumental)
--Summertime Blues
--The Spirit Of Radio
--Tom Sawyer

Encore:
--One Little Victory
--A Passage to Bangkok
–-YYZ (instrumental)

Oh and P.S. – A big thanks for playing BOTH Seattle and Portland. Normally bands these days choose one over the other and I have to drive three hours each way to see ‘em because they choose Seattle.

Yeah and P.S.S. – So psyched the Clark County Amphitheater provides free parking instead of the $20 I had to pay in Oakland for Roger Waters. Even thought it took and hour to get out of the parking lot last night. Ce la vie.

14 comments:

Dr. John said...

Wow! What a great sounding show. I was bummed to have missed them this year, but oh well. Maybe I will get the DVD when it comes out. I would love to see Neil's drum solo if it is changed a lot from the R30 tour. He did a DVD called "Anatomy of a Drum Solo" where he takes apart his solo from R30 and gives the details about how it was put together and what he was trying to do. Talk about a guy that thinks things through! Oh, and he can sit at the kit and just jam for 45 minutes straight too (he does that on the DVD too).

The set list sounds great, especially Entre Nous, Circumstances, Natural Sciences, Bangkok, etc., songs that I don't think they ever did live, or at least they have not done for a LONG time. I do remember them doing Witch Hunt for the Power Windows tour (the song kind of fits the theme of that album) and it was AMAZING!

Glad you had a good time. What would you give to actually meet any one of these guys???

JunieRose2005 said...

Hi,

Enjoyed reading this review a lot!!

Wish I could have been there!

Thanks for visiting my site! And I see from your profile that you like a lot of the same music bands that I do! :) I will be back to read more!


Junie

Jeff St Real said...

Nice review. Sounds like a good mix of the old and the best of the new. Jacob's Ladder would have been a great bonus!

James said...

Thanks for stopping by my site (even though what I posted was hardly a review). I agree that it was a fresh set and that the band was in fine form. I saw three shows from almost the dino era (being 42 now after all) - Hemispheres, Moving Pictures and Permanent Waves - this was far and away the best one.

This was back when I grew up in Calgary and you could count on Rush to hit every Canadian city on absolutely every tour. No Vancouver this time, which is why my travels were so awful.

I'm certainly glad we missed part of the first set, rather than the second!

Barbara (aka Layla) said...

Great review! I am so glad you found my blog because now I found yours!

Neil Pert. He is the best.

Adam said...

Nice review bro! And thanks for stopping by my blog. :)

BruceMcc said...

Thanks for leaving a comment on my Blog! Nice review.

Always glad to meet a fellow Rush fan.

Cheers,

Bruce

VoxMoose said...

Nice review, Isorski. Sadly, it is doubtful I'll get to see them on this tour, but your writeup let me live it vicariously! Thanks, man.

A bit of Rush trivia (probably already well known by many Rush fans on this blog): the South Park/Rush connection goes back at least to the movie South Park: Bigger, Longer & Uncut where Geddy and Alex did the music for O Canada.

Paul said...

Excellent Rush review. I loved your comments about taking away Alex's microphone stand. So true. Thanks for the comments about my review too. I only wish I could see them again on this tour. Hopefully we will get another DVD.

Paul

Anonymous said...

i think everything's been said, been going to see rush since 1980, this was absolutely the best, most fresh show ive seen. i believe this is the first and only performance of entre nous live, curcumstances always been my personal favorite, mission just killed, i thought geddy sounded so good on that, much better that the recorded version and some old video ive seen, the new stuff kills, just frigging incredible. im going again 9/17 msg show, great seat, cant wait.
mark

BlackSun said...

isorski,

Your review was great! A lot more comprehensive than mine. I agree with most everything you said. Thanks.

Stay tuned, though. I'm going to do the whole shebang on the album, DVD, etc...

Tim said...

What a detailed review...Awesome. I was really upet to have missed the concert in Calgary but work happens i guess. Like James , I grew up in Calgary and saw hemispheres , moving pictures (in vancouver) and Presto. Nice blog Isorski.Keep it up.

ez allen said...

funny, I saw free willy twice and never knew rush was on the soundtrack. nice they're still playing that theme song, it was such a great flick.

guitarnut said...

I really enjoyed Rush this tour. Such a huge back catalog to choose from for their set list and their sound was so clear. The sound man did a great job. I have to say it was the best Rush tour ever for me.