Rush | 09.22.12

ingrid sqRush sold this (sort of indulgent) long foray into unfamiliar tunes with sheer showmanship.

 

 

 

Photos: Cencio Boc

 

Rush and St. Louis go way back. St. Louis was one of the first U.S. cities to get behind the fledgling rock trio way back in 1974 (behind Cleveland, who first broke them on radio); as such, founding member and vocalist/bassist Geddy Lee never forgets to acknowledge onstage just how much the band has appreciated the city’s unflagging loyalty. This ongoing love story is in large part due to the band’s nearly 40-year relationship with Midwest rock radio behemoth KSHE, which has tenaciously promoted Rush’s records (through a long, sound-changing career of strong and sometimes not-so-strong studio albums and, seriously, way too many live records). Their unfaltering support and reliable spins have helped to turn the band into rock royalty in StL, right up there on the Classic Rock pedestal with (and several steps higher than) the city’s other favorite rocker, Sammy Hagar. Several of Rush’s early StL appearances were at KSHE events, including the station’s legendary 1975 Kite Fly concert in Forest Park, where the band played to an enthusiastic crowd numbering 80,000—the largest audience they’d played for at that point.

With this kind of shared history, it was only fitting for KSHE to celebrate its 45th birthday this week with an epic, three-hour Rush spectacular at Scottrade Center—the first time the band’s played an indoor venue in town since their ’96 Kiel Center appearance. While Rush have only improved as a live band over the years (no, Lee can’t reach those screechy ‘75 high notes anymore [THE DUDE IS 59, PEOPLE!], but the band’s energy and, most importantly, their surprisingly silly sense of humor, make for a riveting and always enjoyable live experience), it was interesting to see how their fans have grown, as well: They were equally enthusiastic about the nine songs IN A ROW from the band’s recent concept album, this year’s Clockwork Angels, and a very unusually ‘80s-heavy set, as they were to the old tried-and-true Rush KSHE classics, of which there were surprisingly few. Certainly a refreshing change from the crowds this writer remembers at the band’s ’88 StL appearance at the Arena, when much of the newer ‘80s material was outright booed by some of the most passionate fans who still felt betrayed by the band’s sudden fascination with sequencers and synths. To fans of 2012, that era is just another page in their favorite band’s varied and rich catalog. That said, when Lee announced between song eight and nine of the Clockwork Angels segment that they were doing one more CA tune before going back to the older stuff, the audience picked this very opportune moment to hit the john en masse.

Opening with the majestic synth intro to the ’82 classic “Subdivisions” followed by the sequencer-heavy ’85 video hit “The Big Money,” Rush spent much of their first of two sets rediscovering a few hidden ‘80s gems long excluded from their setlists. Two standouts—1985’s Power Windows’ deep cuts “Grand Designs” and “Middletown Dreams”—sounded fresher than ever, despite having not been played live since 1986. The roller-coaster bass and guitar unison runs in ’82 crowd favorite “The Analog Kid” (out of commission since ’94) immediately had the crowd on its feet. It didn’t hurt that Lee personalized the song’s lyrics to include the titular kid pulling “down his Cardinals cap” to cover up his eyes. After several more ‘80s selections that hadn’t seen the light of a concert stage for decades—including a rousing “Force Ten,” a surprisingly peppy “Territories,” a somber pass through, well, “The Pass,” and a reliably virtuosic take on the exuberant instrumental “Where’s My Thing”—Rush ended their first set with a more recent fan favorite, 2007’s “Far Cry.”

Here’s where things could have seriously gone awry—after a short 20-minute intermission, Rush opened their second set with the aforementioned 50-plus-minute set of brand new material, featuring backing from an eight-piece string section (the first time the band’s ever used extra musicians live) to complement the old-fashioned grandiosity of the ambitious new songs. Although we couldn’t hear much of these ballyhooed stringers beyond an occasional flourish (turn it up, dudes; this is a Rush show), Rush sold this (sort of indulgent) long foray into unfamiliar tunes with sheer showmanship. Out came new lights, eight new mini video screens (to complement a giant one already behind the stage) that moved in seemingly every direction and formation imaginable, and a re-energized Rush obviously proud and very much enjoying sharing this new material with their fans. High points included the rocker “Caravan”—with its preternaturally catchy sing-along refrain, “I can’t stop thinking big, I can’t stop thinking big,” which I will be singing in my head for weeks, through no choice of my own—and the nod to their ‘70s Caress of Steel-era roots, “Headlong Flight,” which borrows some arrangement flourishes and a similar main riff for guitarist Alex Lifeson from that album’s “Bastille Day,” and manages to become one of the band’s most anthemic and exhilarating rockers in decades.

Old-school fans needn’t despair, as, after stirring takes of “Dreamline” and “Red Sector A,” Rush closed out their marathon performance with the inevitable extended solo for renowned drummer Neil Peart (did I mention there were two other slightly shorter drum solos earlier? There were), and crackling takes on some classics: every middle school music geek’s fave instrumental, “YYZ,” a soaring “The Spirit of Radio,” and an encore of the band’s arguably most famous works, “Tom Sawyer” and the first three parts of “2112.” While for some older school fans these classic hits might have been too little, too late, the majority of us were in Rush Geek Heaven, chatting with strangers about arcane trivia, reminiscing about the band’s past triumphs, and optimistically looking forward to the hopefully weird chapters still to come. | Brian McClelland

Photos: Cencio Box 
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Setlist

Set One

  1. Subdivisions
  2. The Big Money
  3. Force Ten
  4. Grand Designs
  5. Middletown Dreams
  6. Territories
  7. The Analog Kid
  8. The Pass
  9. Where’s My Thing? (with drum solo)
  10. Far Cry

Set Two (with string section)

  1. Caravan
  2. Clockwork Angels
  3. The Anarchist
  4. Carnies
  5. The Wreckers
  6. Headlong Flight (with drum solo)
  7. Halo Effect
  8. Wish Them Well
  9. The Garden
  10. Dreamline
  11. Drum Solo
  12. Red Sector A
  13. YYZ
  14. The Spirit of Radio

Encore

  1. Tom Sawyer
  2. 2112 Part I: Overture
  3. 2112 Part II: The Temples of Syrinx
  4. 2112 Part VII: Grand Finale

 

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