Saturday, May 8, 2010

Rush - July 12, 2008

No opening act. That’s the first thing I remember about going to see Rush at the PNC Bank Arts Center with my Uncle Steve, my cousin Michael, and one of his friends. There would be no opening act. Usually when a band performed without an opening act, it meant that they planned to perform for a long time. That was encouraging.

I had never seen Rush before, so for my first experience, I wanted everything. Rush was supporting a new album that I did not own, Snakes and Arrows, so I knew they would be performing a few songs from that album, but there were going to be classics throughout the night. There had to be.

My uncle, cousin, his friend, and I all set up on the lawn and waited for Rush to take the stage. It was a Saturday night and we were looking forward to an excellent evening of entertainment. I was anxious to see the performance and hopeful for a lot of classics. Within minutes of settling into the lawn, Rush took the stage for their first set of the evening.

The opening song of the night had me on my feet and cheering in no time. After showing a strange video just before the band took the stage (an inside joke that referenced chicken and would be the theme of the night), Rush belted out Limelight. There was a huge roar from the crowd who were all very happy to hear such a classic opener.

Limelight gave way to Digital Man, followed by Ghost of a Chance and Mission. Those were some solid classics to get the evening rolling. The next song was even better. The band broke into Freewill and I screamed my appreciation and clapped my hands raw. There are some Rush songs that I enjoy so much and make me feel so good that I want to hear them over and over again. Freewill is one of those songs.

Two new songs from Snakes and Arrows were next and I listened to them with an open mind. I did not own Snakes and Arrows, but I also had not purchased a new Rush CD since Roll The Bones. I did pick up a copy of Different Stages about a month prior to the show, so I was able to learn some of the band’s newer material that way.

After the two new songs were performed (and done quite well, I might add), the band pulled out one of the greatest car songs ever written, Red Barchetta. My face erupted in a full grin. Red Barchetta was one of my favorite Rush songs ever, second to only Spirit Of The Radio, and Fly By Night. Red Barchetta sounded incredible and the band performed it flawless.

Neal Peart was remarkable on the drums. Not that I expected he wouldn’t be, but hearing him pound the skins live gave me a much deeper appreciation for him as a drummer. What I really noticed by watching the band live is how talented they are musically. Alex Lifeson is one of the most underrated guitarists in rock and roll history. Overshadowed by Neil Peart and Geddy Lee, Alex Lifeson is amazing with an ax in his hand. When he cuts loose, he shows what an important member of the band he is.

The first set ended with a brilliant performance of Dreamline. After that it was time for a short break which allowed everyone to catch their breath. My uncle and I noticed that there were rotisserie ovens on stage and what appeared to be real roasting chickens inside. The joke continued.

Set two was filled with a lot of Rush songs that I did not know well or at all. A few songs from Snakes and Arrows (they were promoting the new album after all), added with songs I just did not know. While the choice of songs was a little disappointing, Rush’s performance of them was not. Played with as much passion as they had for the classics in the first set, Rush made you believe in these songs, even if you had never heard them before. In essence, Rush was brilliant live.

One of the highlights of the second set was Neal Peart’s drum solo. Now, I had heard a lot about Neal’s solo over the years, and I had seen a few videos of him in action. Nothing prepared me for his live drum solo. Engineered to a pristine science, Peart was like a chemist in the lab behind his drum kit. Every little nuance was accounted for and nothing was taken for granted. His drum kit was so large that it swallowed him inside, but we could hear him play those drums like no one ever has. No one was leaving for beer while Peart was playing. His drumming ability was mesmerizing.

The highlight of the second set (and perhaps the entire evening) was The Spirit Of The Radio. One of (if not the) my favorite Rush songs of all time, I yelled like a madman when I heard the opening rapid fire progression of the guitar notes followed by the slam of the drums to drive it home. Begin the day with a friendly voice indeed.

The opening and closing of the 2112 Overture and Tom Sawyer wrapped up the second set and set the stage for the encore. A 3-song encore of One Little Victory, A Passage To Bangkok, and YYZ closed out the night. YYZ was a great way to end the show and was astonishing live. 3 musicians making all that music with no other outside help. Wow!

All in all, Rush impressed me that warm summer’s evening. I would definitely see them in concert again, given the opportunity. They showed why they’ve been so beloved for so long.

First Set
Digital Man
Ghost of a Chance
The Main Monkey Business
The Larger Bowl
Red Barchetta
The Trees
Between The Wheels

Second Set
Far Cry
Workin’ Them Angels
Armor and Sword
The Way The Wind Blows
Natural Science
Witch Hunt
Malignant Narcissism
Neal Peart Drum Solo
The Spirit of the Radio
2112 Part One: Overture
2112 Part Two: The Temples of Syrinx
Tom Sawyer

One Little Victory
A Passage To Bangkok

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