Rush | 06.28.08

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rush.jpgPut any other act along side Rush and there is little comparison in terms of their level of musicianship, composition, creativity, longevity, number of hits and epic songs.


 

Verizon Wireless Amphitheater, St. Louis

You know, when someone says to me that they are not interested in doing something because they have done it before, I am blown away. It is not about that you've done it before; it is that you get to do it again. This was exactly one of those chances. Seeing Rush again is a lot like a faint scent that transports you back to a childhood memory, except that it is not a passing memory dispersed by a breeze, but a thunderous rush of sights and sounds that takes you there.

The first instant the opening riff of "Limelight" roaredover the sounds of the crowd and beckoned like a siren's song for me to bail onthe beer line. (That's how you know you are really into a show). This was obviously a true event not to be missed as I kept running into musicians from all over the St. Louis scene, everybody completely pumped about the show. Rush played a good mix of tunes from the whole range of their three decade career, covering the old epic tunes as well as new radio hits from their most recent release Snakes and Arrows. Some of my favorites from the night were songs like "Dreamline," "Mission," "Digital Man," "Subdivisions" and "Passage to Bangkok;" but it was the classics like "Freewill," "Red Barchetta," "Natural Science" and "Witch Hunt" that made feel thankful to be on this planet at this moment in time. Saving the best for last, they of course closed out the encore with "YYZ."

It was cool to see Alex Lifeson pulling out some of his old guitars, mostly playing that beautiful flame top Les Paul with the Floyd Rose tremolo on it. He whipped out his old white 335 from the first era of Rush, which is the one I somehow always picture him with. He also had the acoustics set up on the stands for the 12-string and nylon string parts like on "The Trees." His playing was right on the money. His solos were still just as soaring and inspiring as ever. He seemed enthusiastic and energetic throughout the show and played all of the tongue twister fingerings of the guitar parts withease.

Geddy Lee sounded at his best all night too. His singing wason the mark and he still is amazing on the bass. He had the whole keyboard setup too, complete with the old analog synth, the foot controlled bass pedals and a rotating miniature action figure of Neil Peart. Geddy Lee stuck to his custom Fenders most of the night, but did pull out the old Rickenbacker for one tune.

He did finally upgrade his stage amps to rotisserie ovens this time around. In a tongue-in-cheek comment on live on stage sound gear, he has in the past few years replaced his wall of bass amps with laundry dryer machines. Now instead, there are three giant backlit roasting ovens with rows of chickens spinning in them. I love that attitude of keeping a sense of humor about everything and themselves, despite the serious tone and subject of some of Rush's musical statements. For instance, they sometimes have little video introduction bits on the giant screens, one of which is a South Park version of Cartman singing the wrong lyrics to "Tom Sawyer" that then kicks off the tune. What a freakin' riot! I also really liked their balance of video, lighting and pyrotechnics; they kept changing it up so that the stage seemed to evolve with the music.

As far as Neil Peart goes, what can I say other than it is always good to get taken to school by the professor. For me, it is the drum parts that he writes as part of the compositions that show his real genius. I heard others say the highlight of the night was to see his main feature drum solo. He had and entirely different piece worked out that deviated from the formula that is on some of their previous live recordings. It was a refreshing direction that made me feel like I was watching someone perform sign language of complex calculus calculations with a pair of sticks. This tour he was sporting a more compact version of his iconic coliseum of drums that usually surrounds him.  For his acoustic set, I was surprised to see that he went with a smaller single kick drum with double pedal. He still had all of the percussion instruments at his fingertips including the electronic midi controller pads to play melodies and trigger keyboard parts. The entire platform would rotate around and would switch over to a complete electronic drum set where he had a multitude of different sounds assigned to each piece. For example, he had a deep floor-tom drum sound assigned to one of the crash cymbals - so that every time he hit the cymbal, it would sound like a drum. It is a very progressive way of challenging conventions and questioning our perceptions.

There are few other bands deserving of accolades as much as Rush. Awards handed out these days like the Grammys and induction into the Rock n' Roll Hall of Fame seem far from merit based. Put any other act alongside Rush and there is little comparison in terms of their level of musicianship, composition, creativity, longevity, number of hits and epic songs, the size andbreadth of their dedicated fan base and their constant pioneering intechnology, musical form and expression. After more than thirty years, Rush hasbeen breaking ground and paving a path for the mainstream to follow; and they've managed to do it all with dignity. You would be hard pressed to find any successful musician today who is not influenced by this band in some way.| Derek Lauer

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