Review: Rush – Time Stand Still (Documentary)

rush-time-stand-still

So you’re saying there’s a chance?

However high, or low, the possibility, Rush fans shouldn’t hold their breath for their beloved members of the famed Canadian rock group to return to the stage, though the door wasn’t exactly slammed shut during the documentary of Rush Time Stand Still shown nationwide on Thursday for one night only in select theaters around the country.

The much anticipated film chronicling what’s believed to be the band’s final major tour picked right up where R40 left off in 2015 – sold out – albeit in a movie theater. After an animated short and a 20 minute introduction titled “Salute to Kings” featuring interviews with Gene Simmons of KISS, Ann and Nancy Wilson of Heart (with Nancy describing Rush music as a dog whistle only heard by males), and Taylor Hawkins of Foo Fighters, among others “Time Stand Still” began with a backdrop of the concert from Portland, OR and some haunting words from Rush bassist and vocalist Geddy Lee when he said walking away from it is not fun before cutting to Lee in the backseat of a car heading to the first show of the R40 tour.

Time Stand Still (available Nov. 18 on DVD and Blu-Ray) follows in the same vein as 2010’s Rush – Beyond the Lighted Stage but proved less about the band’s history, as the first documentary covered quite well, and more about now. Narrated by actor Paul Rudd, the film followed Lee, guitarist Alex Lifeson and drummer Neil Peart from opening night in Tulsa, OK to the final show on Aug, 1, 2015 at The Forum in Los Angeles with various snippets and interviews in between.

A handful of super fans were featured including one gentleman with a 90-plus page of documented Rush memorabilia he owned, the founder of RushCon and one of the more emotional moments talked to fan George Summers from Scotland who survived a brutal car crash and used Rush’s music, specifically the fantastic “Everyday Glory,” (finally gets its due!) to help him through injury and recovery.

But the stars of this movie of course make up the stars of Rush. Lee, Lifeson and Peart re-told a few stories of the past – some rather comical – “The Bag” – others touching – Lifeson finding out the lead truck driver was getting married and stopped the caravan to bring some champagne and celebrate with the engaged couple in the cab – and one hilarious – the speed metal arrangement for “Subdivisions.” But most accounts discussed the rigors of touring, the love of the band from devotees and touring personnel, and a mostly unwilling embrace of the inevitable end.

Surely, time is the infinite jest on Rush and their fans.

Age knows no boundaries even when it comes to childhood heroes who seemingly return every few years like clockwork for nearly half a century. Peart struggled through a painful foot fungus during the R40 tour and Lee and Lifeson recounted seeing the drummer’s hands during the final shows which were cracked and calloused. The men laughed at their own expressive demeanor when it came to their personal pain threshold over the years but marveled at Peart’s stoicism. Lifeson, too, struggles with arthritis which Lee described as a ticking time bomb.

Time Stand Still neared tenebrific at times in terms of any future dates to the stage. Peart said he was done with touring after the band’s first tour. And, not until the Clockwork Angels tour did he feel happy about a tour. In fact, R40 was an 11th hour approval after the mates got together to discuss the band’s future – Peart was out with a slight window –  and it was Lifeson who said, “Let’s do it one more time” that fully opened it.  Lee appeared genuinely doleful, at times.

Time Stand Still was well-done and felt like a Part 2 or continuation of Beyond the Lighted Stage. Yet, Donna Halper, the woman credited for bringing Rush to the United States was nowhere other than a camera shot of a poster thanking her, and perhaps a bit too much time committed to the RushCon founder. You have to wonder who got left on the cutting room floor.

The end of touring enveloped the hour and 40 minute long film, yet, still no one broached the subject of Rush creating new music, a topic not asked or really discussed during interviews of the band members since their “retirement.” Lee and Lifeson have indicated a willingness to move forward together with Lee saying their music would sound like Rush without Neil. But writing and recording a new album is something easily done with today’s technology allowing Lee, Lifeson and Peart to collaborate from the comfort and confines of their own homes. If they so desire.

Indeed, a glimmer of hope remains to freeze the moment of Rush a little bit longer. “If there’s more there’s not a lot more,” said longtime manager Ray Danniels and as “The Garden” from Clockwork Angels somberly played while the cameras followed Lee and Lifeson off The Forum stage into the backroom, before the screen went black, Lifeson perhaps nudged the window slightly ajar.

But it wasn’t enough to diminish an overall presentiment of closure.

Written By: AndrewT

Concert Review: Dream Theater – The Astonishing Live in Portland

Well, that was different.

If you’re going to write and record a concept album you might as well play the whole thing, front to back and center the accompanying tour around it. That’s exactly what Dream Theater did with their latest release The Astonishing and they brought it live to the Arlene Schnitzer Concert Hall in Portland, OR on Tuesday to the faithful.

The casual fan, the mildly interested fan, even the old school fan still cranking out Images and Words and Awake on their way to work might have come away a bit less than inspired but the true fan – The Astonishing Live was for them.

Dream Theater played no other songs from any other album. They opened with the first track “Descent of the NOMACS” which was pre-recorded then the band plugged in with “Dystopian Overture” and they cranked off the entire album, in order, all the way through to the final song, “Astonishing.” They took one break, a 20 minute intermission, after playing 90 minutes then returned for the second set, another 45 minutes, and then the final song for the encore which really was unnecessary as wrapping up the show to conclude the second set would have proved just as effective.

It was a rock concert yet it wasn’t. Lots of lights, some strobes and a video played on a carefully crafted screen behind the stage just as you’d expect at most concerts. But it was also very much a musical, or a play. It even included rolling credits to end the show. In fact, the supporting video streamed during most of the concert felt more like a graphic novel on screen as it illustrated the plot of The Astonishing which Dream Theater carried forward in song.

The band? Merely the actors in this stage performance. Singer James LaBrie singing his parts and often, if not always, leaving the stage as the supporting cast played their lines. And on cue, LaBrie returned when it was his time. Meanwhile, the mostly male audience watched intently some head bobbing but no air drums, air guitar or even help with chorus singing. Maybe that’s because it’s a new album and the only album played this evening but it just didn’t seem right to rock out. It was indeed a theatrical production.

LeBrie doesn’t envelope the stage like other larger than life front men.  He’s pretty straightforward actually, bringing his vocals to the spotlight and letting the band fill in the rest. He only engaged with the audience at the end of the show when he urged them to stand for the final two songs but what he lacks in charisma he certainly makes up for in song. His soaring and ultra-smooth vocals stole the show at times and he didn’t miss one note and sang strong throughout the evening.

Guitarist John Petrucci, the mastermind behind The Astonishing, is also a master on the fret board. Quite graceful, Petrucci ripped solid chords all night and peppered the evening with a number of solos that helped the audience to remember they were indeed at a rock show. He was accompanied by fellow founder and bassist John Myung, keyboardist Jordan Rudess and drummer Mike Mangini who aptly replaced longtime drummer and co-founder Mike Portnoy six years ago.

The Astonishing, the band’s 13th, is a hard album to digest. If any of the overheard pre-show chatter is believed, most of the fans appreciated the effort but it’s not a favorite. The record released in January features 34 tracts with a few a minute or so long but fully comes in at around two hours of music. The album as a whole moves the story along though a few songs work singularly like the classic sounding “The Gift of Music” and the hard rocking “Moment of Betrayal.” The album is ambitious to say the least and LaBrie described The Astonishing as a pinnacle moment for the band and something they had to do.

Most of the songs melt in to one another so unless you’ve dialed the album into your subconscious you’ll likely get lost as far as song placement which isn’t so much of an issue – it’s not like walking in on a movie halfway through. But show up late to The Astonshing Live you might wonder what’s going on if you didn’t catch this performance from the beginning.

Of course, both halves of the show (Act 1 – 17 songs; Act 2 – 12 songs), included many songs, but each felt like one long song saga. It’s not as if they all sound the same, though you can hear similar approaches and argue like-themes, which perhaps in many respects that’s how a concept album works, but they often sound complementary while incorporating different harmonies, structures and bridges throughout. Occasionally melodious and majestic but sometimes tedious and a bit lengthy you don’t necessary need to know the plot to enjoy The Astonishing though it certainly helps.

Like all concept albums it seems, the record revolves around a dystopian society and this one somehow incorporates an ancient past, shades of Games of Thrones here, with a distant and frightful future. The concept album is a favorite of late for the progressive rock type, well at least those bands whose members actually play their instruments. The Astonishing arrived on the heels of Muse’s Drones and a few years back Clockwork Angels from Rush.

But leave it to Dream Theater to take it to a whole new and untapped level. All that really felt missing was an accompanying playbill to further immerse fans in the band’s adventure and help the audience follow along as each act of this play unfolded.

By the way, if you’re planning on catching a show don’t bother bringing a camera or trying to use your cellphone. Venue staff makes it clear taking photos is unacceptable and if you’re caught – you’re out.

Dream Theater Portland (Arlene Schnitzer Concert Hall) Setlist

  1. Descent of the NOMACS
  2. Dystopian Overture
  3. The Gift of Music
  4. The Answer
  5. A Better Life
  6. Lord Nafaryus
  7. A Savior in the Square
  8. When Your Time Has Come
  9. Act of Faythe
  10. Three Days
  11. The Hovering Sojourn
  12. Brother, Can You Hear Me?
  13. A Life Left Behind
  14. Ravenskill
  15. Chosen
  16. A Tempting Offer
  17. Digital Discord
  18. The X Aspect
  19. A New Beginning
  20. The Road to Revolution
  21. 2285 Entr’acte
  22. Moment of Betrayal
  23. Heaven’s Cove
  24. Begin Again
  25. The Path That Divides
  26. Machine Chatter
  27. The Walking Shadow
  28. My Last Farewell
  29. Losing Faythe
  30. Whispers on the Wind
  31. Hymn of a Thousand Voices
  32. Our New World
  33. Power Down
  34. Astonishing

Written By: AndrewT

Book Review: The Masked Rider by Neil Peart

I finally got around to it.

I’ve had The Masked Rider by Neil Peart on my bookshelf for several years now. It was purchased more as a way to complete the “Neil Peart Collection” of books rather than to read, though eventually the plan was to read it.

That plan jumped off the book shelf a week ago. I looked at it, looked at it and said “Why not?” Let’s read it before we get too far down the road in life and it becomes harder to read. The Masked Rider: Cycling in West Africa is 20 years old and recounts a story nearly three decades old.

I find it perhaps eerie to read a true story that occurred so long ago. Peart is in his mind-30s and reading about others in a present tense sort of way but who are now 30 years older brings on a touch of gloominess. Elsa, the oldest of the traveling companions is approaching 90 now if not passed already. And, you know eventually Peart’s likely to mention his wife and daughter, and he does, who have also since passed.

I remember this book sold during the Test for Echo tour and I did not want to become one of those fans. Gobble everything up Rush even that which has a minor scent of the band. Besides, while I was sure about Mr. Peart’s ability as a lyricist I wasn’t sure about his prose as an author.

The front cover also turned me off, it’s not exactly attractive, and the idea of reading a book about someone else traveling by bicycle across West Africa was also a wall. It sounded, well, boring.

Was I wrong.

So why now? Someone once told me you know you’re a writer because you have to write. That’s how this blog started. OK, but the book is two decades old! That’s the beauty of the Internet: the ability to provide emotional feedback, on a timeless wavelength that can bear gifts and is, for now, still free. Heck I can always back date it and make it look like I reviewed this in the following months of the book’s release but that would be a question of my honesty. Yes, my honesty.

Enough of the opening color and on to the book.

Procrastination also arrived after reading Mr. Peart’s other books. Their magnet included a more up-to-date feel and more relevant to what I wanted to read therefore they got first billing. After digesting them it was clear the author indeed enjoys writing his thoughts on paper. Perhaps a bit too much. While I mostly enjoyed all of them, at times they could be a bit verbose, sometimes offering innocuous details that failed to move the narrative forward.

However, I couldn’t put The Masked Rider down. In fact, I finished it three weeks ahead of my mental schedule.

It is a delightful read and comes across as a fictional novel full of adventures and colorful characters. Plus, any book that makes you feel smarter as you turn the pages certainly counts for something.

Peart offers vivid details of the African landscape, peppering the book with splashy words (some of which I had to look up!) and recounts interactions with his riding group and the natives like a seasoned reporter.

As his frustrations mount and at times boil over – he brings you there. You feel the assault on his skin color, the rising pulse during border interrogations and the grumblings in his lower intestines. No, he doesn’t paper over what happens afterwards, either. Well, he actually might but still writes about it.

Why Peart ever ventured on this adventure perhaps is another book or maybe just a novella. It’s primitive living, to say the least, and the “guide” if you can call David that, wings it, or at least that’s what it feels like. The party of five often ride alone, sometimes even an hour or two spaced apart so if feels less like a touring group and more like mere acquaintances getting from Point A to Point Z via the same route. It begs the question why anyone would bike ride, much less bike ride alone, in an ostensibly lawless country. The hotel “accommodations” make crashing on your buddy’s couch in a musty basement for a month look like the Four Seasons.

If you’ve not read this book you’ll learn Rush nearly came to an end in 1988 if not, quite possibly, for Leonard, the black American in the traveling class who “saved” Peart’s white skin from a gun wielding, drunk and belligerent military official. If not for the perceived fellow countryman, how Peart would have escaped that encounter probably crosses his mind every now and then.

Even without the assault rifle toting commando who could have gunned down the drummer of Rush without so much of a shoulder shrug much less a murder trial, learning how Peart and the rest of his clan manage to get out not only mostly unabated but unhurt keeps the pages rolling.

Refreshingly, Peart is not PC in his assessment of Africa. Of course, that new religion was probably in its infancy in the 80s and just starting to gain steam in the 90s when the book hit shelves, but what is published is published. Visiting Africa, much less traveling by bike, is not for the faint of heart. At least back then, maybe things have changed in 30 years, but doubtful. Based on this book, I don’t care find out first-hand.

What’s more, Peart does not sanitize the characters central to the story. In many respects, The Masked Rider also serves as a catharsis for Peart to release some pent up annoyance and resentment on the power hungry authorities he encounters, the sometimes irritating natives and the selfishness of his fellow riders. Really, Elsa, not even an apology after accidentally kicking Peart as he dozed off during an afternoon nap? That’s just one illustration.

Peart also airs own dirt laundry, interjecting personal reflections throughout the book, at times recognizing his own shortcomings and insecurities. Additionally, this book “introduces” you to the person that is Neil Peart, at least in the mid-80s. He intersperses his opinions and beliefs and the “argument” scene with his fellow riders not only is a pivotal moment in the book that decidedly ends any chance of post-trip friendships, but provides a chance to cheer on the percussionist, assuming you too tire of bitter Westerners trashing their homeland in favor of more oppressive regimes romanced by domestic media.

When you’re not learning the lay of the land, getting to know Peart’s riding companions or soaking in African food and culture, you get a bit of history and some explanation of why things are the way things are. It’s a different way of life on the African continent and you wonder why the people seem content living in squalor.

Then you’re just happy everyone gets to their final destination, safe and sound, and as Peart relishes in western living to close the book, you too feel a sense of peace, harmony and thankfulness for running water, air-conditioning, clean plumbing that works and the freedom to walk, bike or drive anywhere you choose without the looming presence of armed guards demanding your papers.

Written By: AndrewT

Album Review: Rush – R40 Live CD

Rush is never going to get a #1 album as long as they continue to release a much anticipated new album the same day someone else, who has a wider fan base, releases theirs.

R40 Live has ZERO chance of going #1 against Adele’s new album and it is pretty rare for a live album to top the charts but this album proves what everyone who attended the sold out shows during the summer discovered – Rush has way too much left to call it a career.

Released on its own or as a combo with the video version on DVD or Blu-Ray Rush R40 Live captures the full essence of the band’s sold-out live performance this summer and fully rectifies the abysmal Time Machine 2011: Live in Cleveland that featured a less than stellar vocal performance by singer Geddy Lee. Though it should be noted the DVD of that tour proved otherwise.

Filmed and recorded during the two night stand in Toronto, Canada, R40 Live in fact should put an end to any debate about Lee’s vocal range and his ability to sing Rush songs into his 60s. It’s a near masterful performance considering his age, years of singing and the altitudes he reaches on those early tracts that come after two hours of singing. Lee reportedly practiced for months getting to a vocal range that compliments what he left behind after the 1970s.

Of course he doesn’t reach the falsetto of those early records, he probably couldn’t 20 years ago, and even if you’re not a fan of those years because of his vocals, the polished performance he produced cannot be denied.

R40 Live showcases the widest catalog of Rush material ever recorded and does a solid job of providing a souvenir for those who caught a show and giving those who didn’t a glimpse into what they missed. The performances are nearly flawless on every level. The recording sounds unprocessed and is an accurate reflection of what came out of the amps those two nights.

The live album starts off with “The Anarchist” and while it doesn’t show-off Lee’s coming vocal performance (a bit garbled at times) it does feature his hard-thumping bass guitar which often takes the limelight throughout the entirety of the album. The band stuck in the emotional “How It Is” on Disc One as the primary offering from Vapor Trails even though “One Little Victory” routinely got the nod during the tour. That song got placed on Disc Three.

R40 Live follows the concert setlist starting with newer songs off 2012’s Clockwork Angels and tracking back in time to 1974 finishing with “What You’re Doing” and “Working Man” off the band’s self-titled debut album. Rush also played on the tour this album commemorates, for the first time live, “Losing It” off Signals and brought Ben Mink the original electric violinist from the album. His performance is featured on the opening disc and the performance by Jonathan Dinklage who played with the Clockwork Angels String Ensemble on the 2013 tour is on Disc Three.

There’s little sense in going through the album song-by-song but the standouts include “Headlong Flight,” “Losing It,” “The Camera Eye” and all the tracts from the 1970s. Guitarist Alex Lifeson’s blistering solo on “Working Man” roars to life despite not “being there.” And no your ears don’t deceive you, drummer Neil Peart’s traditional solo is present and accounted for but it’s no longer the eight minute marathon, instead coming midway through “Headlong Flight” and a longer second solo on “Cygnus X-1.”

The version sold at Best Buy comes with a Rush R40 pocket flashlight, otherwise save a few bucks on Amazon or get a package deal through the Backstage Club that comes with one of the tour shirts.

Grade: A-

Rush R40 Live CD Disc 1 Setlist:

  1. The Anarchist
  2. Headlong Flight
  3. Far Cry
  4. The Main Monkey Business
  5. How It Is
  6. Animate
  7. Roll the Bones
  8. Between the Wheels
  9. Losing It (with Ben Mink)
  10. Subdivisions

Rush R40 Live CD Disc 2 Setlist:

  1. Tom Sawyer
  2. YYZ
  3. The Spirit of Radio
  4. Natural Science
  5. Jacob’s Ladder
  6. Hemispheres: Prelude
  7. Cygnus X-1/The Story So Far (drum solo)
  8. Closer to the Heart
  9. Xanadu
  10. 2112

Rush R40 Live CD Disc 3:

  1. Lakeside Park/Anthem
  2. What You’re Doing/Working ManOne Little Victory
  3. Distant Early Warning
  4. Red Barchetta
  5. Clockwork Angels
  6. The Wreckers
  7. The Camera Eye
  8. Losing It (with Jonathan Dinklage)

Written By: AndrewT

Rush Is Alive and Well – No Plans to Retire

Attention all Planets of the Solar Federation:

Rush’s Alex Lifeson Says There’s Life After R40 Tour: ‘I Don’t Think It Is the End’

Rumors of Rush’s demise have been greatly exaggerated — at least according to guitarist Alex Lifeson.

The Canadian trio’s R40 tour earlier this year — documented on the new R40 Live CD and home video set due Friday — was accompanied by reports that it would mark the end of Rush, mostly owing to physical ailments suffered by Lifeson and drummer Neil Peart. It may well prove to be the last tour of its kind for Rush, but the band is still very much alive and ongoing, as far as Lifeson is concerned.

Read more here plus check out Lifeson’s comments on a new album at the end of the article!

Concert Review: Rush at The Forum – The Final Show

There will never be another Rush.

This much is true.

The trio hailing from Toronto, Canada closed a large chapter of their 40 year + career to a sold out crowd on Saturday at the Forum in Los Angeles. The final concert of the 40th anniversary tour is quite certainly the last of its kind but whether it is indeed their last of all time only the future knows or at least Geddy Lee, Alex Lifeson and Neil Peart.

It was another stellar evening with Lee in strong command of his vocals along with a very present bass, Lifeson, ever the virtuoso on guitar, in pristine form, and Peart the professor behind the drum kit. They kept it straight, no extra songs, nothing different than what’s already been played since they embarked on the R40 tour on May 8 in Tulsa, OK.

The final show got “Losing It” off Signals. This time Jonathan Dinklage, who played with the Clockwork Angels String Ensemble during the last tour, took violin duties. Who would have thought the violin could rock so hard?

When it was all over the three stood arm-in-arm. A site I’ve never seen before. Peart didn’t bolt off stage, instead he stuck around. Lee’s concluding remarks: “And I do hope we meet again sometime.”

To say it’s time to hang up the guitars and put away the drum sticks is not only unfair but a false premise. Now in their 60s, nary a glitch accompanied the nearly three hour sets and nothing but positive reviews about the live show. Lifeson’s struggles with arthritis, now pretty widely known, he showed no ill effects. Lee reached back and brought to life a vocal range he hadn’t hit since the 70s. And Peart, sure his drum solo got cut in half from past tours, but he still puts on a clinic.

It’s an odd thing to say goodbye. It’s not like they are family. But in many respects they are. To legions of fans this band represents a porthole into their past, the feel good of the present and a lifeline when the future was looking dark. Rush told us we’re the ones who have to shine; but they provided the electricity.

All good things do come to an end or in the case of Rush, all great things. In the chronicles of rock history good luck finding a band so, well, like Rush. Somehow they found each other.

So loved. Respected. Admired. That professionalism. The raw talent. Fully embraced for their music and as people. At least by those who understand what it is all about. Perhaps a debt of gratitude then is owed to the detractors of so many years ago, who by the way, no one remembers. In many respects, it was those people who fought the fire, while feeding the flame.

Rise from the ashes a blaze of everyday glory. Or at least from the Down the Tubes tour.

Wow, didn’t they?

Saying goodbye or at least acknowledging the time has come to get prepared to say goodbye is not easy. Rush means so many things to so many people. Surely it would be easier if Mr. Peart had departed long ago and Alex and Geddy trudged on. Or, Mr. Lifeson went solo or joined another three-piece as Geddy and Neil moved forward with a new lineup. Mr. Lee’s solo album? Let’s face it. Sounded a bit like Rush but in many respects it didn’t. Something was missing. Yes, the singer is always the benchmark of a band. But can you imagine: “Featuring the voice of Rush – Geddy Lee!” Nope. Rush is and always will be GAN.

Saying goodbye means closing the door on my childhood. The preteen years. The teenage years. My 20s. My 30s. Saying goodbye means reminiscing on all those memories takes a whole different perspective.

Like that time I got my dad to take me to Music Plus so I could purchase Signals and Exit…Stage Left. Back then “live” albums were always more expensive. I settled on the studio album and informed my father I wasn’t going to spend the money required for the live version. As we drove away in the car, Signals in hand, my dad insisted on playing whatever he picked up, probably Neil Diamond. Actually, it was Exit…Stage Left.

It’s important to note my dad is not, will not, nor will ever be a Rush fan. And he also doesn’t get my fondness for the group that has been in my life longer than anybody sans my immediate family. He’s really not even into music for that matter.

I also have vivid memories of nearly every album purchase or, in the case of Grace Under Pressure, acquisition. My fifth grade classmate told me he went to a swap meet and they were giving away Rush albums. Huh? One of those was 2112, the other was one I did not have or even one that sounded remotely familiar.

So I told him to bring me the unfamiliar one. The day I arrived home with it my brother was on his way to, what else, Music Plus to buy the new Rush album. You mean Grace Under Pressure? Ha Ha! You see I already had it. Thanks to a guy named Keith. To this day I don’t know what the real story was behind those giveaways.

Sweet memories.

How about a literally midnight hour plan for a 24 hour turnaround trip from Portland, OR to San Jose, CA to catch the Counterparts tour with a friend who wasn’t much of a fan? I convince well. The Rush songs at my wedding. My wife recognizing Rush is not music for morons. The girls in fourth grade who told me about that new band that was better than Rush? Yes, Duran Duran is still together but…

Seeing them at Red Rocks? Check. Would there ever be a better concert than the wind-driven Snakes and Arrows show at the beautiful The Gorge in George, Washington? A sound Memorex could never reproduce. Little did I know, that night would meet its match many years later as I sat third row during the R40 tour. Celebrating my birthday with Rush at the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame Induction Ceremony. Did that too. I wish I could live it all again.

I could go on. And on. So could any fan. Check that. Authentic fan.

What is it about this band? One concert is never enough. We get amped up at the very hint of time spent in the studio. Any “limited edition” item is an immediate sell-out. Do we have some type of common denominator? Were we all cast outs? Or all Second Borns? Is Rush to our ears akin to how those with a refined palate appreciate certain delicacies? Did my nine years as a trombone player help me appreciate their craft? No one understands the bass cleft!

Maybe it is Authenticity.

If one word could sum up Rush, perhaps it is authenticity. Rush is the equivalent to rock music as “what the players wear” or “on-field apparel” is for fans who wear football or baseball jerseys. What fan buys a replica jersey for half the cost? I want what the players wear! Therefore, I want what the musicians play and the musicians play Rush.

As the songs ticked off on this final night, would this be the last time? That dreamy solo on “The Main Monkey Business.” One of the most complete rock songs in “Distant Early Warning.” The opening to “Far Cry.” That ending to “Jacob’s Ladder.” The beautifully long intro on “Xanadu.”

Just imagine what they’re going through on this trek through the past as the evening comes to a close. This is the last time we play “The Spirit of Radio” together. “Subdivisions” too. “One Little Victory” means so much, will it turn into one more? Should we have played “Fly By Night” or brought out another one of our missing “children” on this, our final night as a band. Even more apropos now then during the Time Machine tour – “Time Stand Still.” But it was left off, maybe because it reminded them and that we must mold a new reality. Our old friends are growing older.

But that’s what we all want. To freeze this moment a little bit longer. And make each impression a little bit stronger.

Rush started off the R40 tour with everyone believing this was the last chance to watch three living rock legends. Though they didn’t actually say it. Then possible future albums were mentioned. Geddy said the band wasn’t breaking up. And touring was still on the table though for sure the large scale multiple city effort was in its last days. Fair enough. We’ll come to you now. Just invite us. Please.

So, perhaps they’ll give that to us. Remain immortal just a little bit longer. Maybe Geddy and Alex will finally give Neil his wish albeit 25 years late. We’ll take a few more albums sans the big tour won’t we? You know what? Two more studio albums (Feedback doesn’t count!) and two more “live” albums gives Rush the most appropriate stopping point. 21-12. Yes, wishful thinking but it would at least hold off the inevitable and provide us a few more years.

Because as long as Rush enters the studio or takes the stage we’re still 10. Or 12 or 21. Or whatever slice of life that so defines the Rush years. It gives us one more opportunity to feel that excitement shiver up and down our spine. Before it’s gone. Forever.

A new album, a new tour even on a small scale means we’re still young, wondering the face of the earth and wondering what our dreams might be worth.

The world could use their beauty, for a while longer. Besides, I’m not ready to say goodbye.

I hope they aren’t either.

Rush R40 Tour – Los Angeles (The Forum) Setlist:

  1. The Anarchist
  2. Headlong Flight
  3. Far Cry
  4. The Main Monkey Business
  5. One Little Victory
  6. Animate
  7. Roll the Bones
  8. Distant Early Warning
  9. Losing It
  10. Subdivisions
  11. Tom Sawyer
  12. Red Barchetta
  13. The Spirt of Radio
  14. Jacob’s Ladder
  15. Cygnus X-1 and X-2 Medley with Drum Solo
  16. Closer to the Heart
  17. Xanadu
  18. 2112
    1. Overture
    2. The Temples of Syrinx
    3. Presentation
    4. Grand Finale
  19. Lakeside Park
  20. Anthem
  21. What You’re Doing
  22. Working Man

Written By: AndrewT

Concert Review: Canada Bids a Farewell to Their Kings

Alex and Geddy Feature Photo

The One Direction fans that filled BC Place Stadium on Friday night have no idea what they missed.

But the Rush fans who filled Rogers Arena sure do.

Now on the tail-end of their R40, and possibly final tour, celebrating 40 years, Rush played the remaining scheduled date in their home country stopping off in Vancouver, BC and played a 23 song, nearly three hour long set delighting old and young fans (who didn’t go across the street) with a strong setlist featuring a whole bunch of older songs but quite a few newer ones too.

The youngsters from Toronto opened with two each from their last two albums starting with “The Anarchist” and the driving “Headlong Flight” from Clockwork Angels released just three years ago, and then “Far Cry” and the superific instrumental “The Main Monkey Business” off 2007’s Snakes and Arrows which featured one of many blazing solos by guitarist Alex Lifeson. The 2000s came to a close with the defiant “One Little Victory.”

Alex Lifeson on Guitar

Rush Guitarist Alex Lifeson

By now, whether it’s your first introduction to what the tour comprises or you already know what’s literally going on behind the scenes, Rush is stepping back in time ticking off a song or two from their albums along the way. Meanwhile, stage hands quietly slip on stage and begin removing props that the dedicated fan base knows represents different tours.

Not present on this night Test for Echo, Presto, Hold Your Fire and Power Windows, the latter album getting serious stage time a few years ago on the Clockwork Angels tour. But the rest of their 15 studio albums (not counting the covers album Feedback) stretching back to 1974 all got the live treatment for at least one song.

Representing the 1990s, just two songs, the bass heavy “Animate” off Counterparts and the fun title track off Roll the Bones. Rush simply rocked out to “Distant Early Warning” one of the finest rock songs of the 1980s that just doesn’t get much radio play for some reason.

Then it was what everyone was waiting for. The rumors were confirmed weeks ago. But what night(s) would the song so many thought should have been played on the last tour that featured a string ensemble? Tonight was one.

Geddy Lee Singing

Geddy Lee singing and on bass guitar

Famed violinist, fellow Canadian and resident of Vancouver, Ben Mink appeared and one of Rush’s most emotionally driven songs came to life. “Losing It” never played before this tour completed the evening and the show wasn’t even half over. Long ago Rush’s reputation for their dedication to and remaking so accurately live the songs on their albums helped build their rapid following. This performance proved why.

It’s an interesting song to bring to what’s billed as a final large tour. Much speculation has arisen about Rush’s future. Singer and bassist Geddy Lee, drummer Neil Peart and Lifeson are now in their early 60s but are far from losing it. Fans and critics agreed, for once, embracing their latest, Clockwork Angels, and the band is playing just as strong as they did during the Snakes and Arrows tour perhaps the pinnacle of their career when it was noted that Lee was not simply singing but performing.

No longer is Lee’s higher range vocals a concern as far as the longevity of the band. He hit all the high notes and even managed to raise the bar reaching back to his 70s register when he sounded like the damned howling in Hades. Though he certainly was stretching his limits on “Lakeside Park” which sounded a bit raw as did “Anthem” but then he brought it home for the 41 year old “What You’re Doing” and “Working Man” all four in that order, for the encore, ended the night.

However, it’s Lifeson who hardly plays like some managing arthritis but indeed it’s this ailment that even Lee believes could ultimately end the band. He’s been dealing with it now for 10 years and it’s progressed into his feet but you wouldn’t know it as he carried around double-neck guitars on “Xanadu” playing one of the best openings to a rock song ever recorded. His blistering solo on “Working Man” yes at the end of three-hours of playing is what should make Eric Clapton want to burn his guitar.

Neil Peart Vancouver

Drummer Neil Peart

Rush followed “Losing It” and closed out the first set with “Subdivisions” both off 1982’s Signals. They opened the second half with “Tom Sawyer” and the airport-code instrumental “YYZ” before playing half of Permanent Waves the first album released in 1980. Audience and radio favorite “The Spirit of Radio,” musician’s favorite “Natural Science” and the rumbling “Jacob’s Ladder.”

The “Cygnus” medley comprising portions of Cygnus X-1 and Cygnus X-1 Book and incorporating a Peart drum solo followed, then “Closer to the Heart,” “Xanadu” (combined technically half of A Farewell to Kings!) and finally the song that in many respects started it all, 2112, closed out the second set with the band playing four of the song’s seven “suites” with another shredding solo by Lifeson to close it out.

There were a few flubs on the night though unless you were in the rows closest to the stage you’d probably never know it. The opening to “Roll the Bones” was a bit rough so was “Distant Early Warning” and there was an obvious issue with Lifeson’s guitar on “Jacob’s Ladder” as he was clearly agitated trying to get something working and got a bit of technical assistance. The song sounded in order, but once the problem was fixed the missing chords were very apparent.

All quite easily overlooked considering these three control all the sounds coming through the speakers.

It was an evening of mastery. Three musicians who, along with a lot of natural talent , put in a lot of hard work, refined their craft and established one of the longest running careers in rock history.

A stark difference to the manufactured pop that was happening just a stone’s throw away.

Rush R40 Tour – Vancouver, BC (Roger’s Arena) Setlist:

  1. The Anarchist
  2. Headlong Flight
  3. Far Cry
  4. The Main Monkey Business
  5. One Little Victory
  6. Animate
  7. Roll the Bones
  8. Distant Early Warning
  9. Losing It
  10. Subdivisions
  11. Tom Sawyer
  12. YYZ
  13. The Spirit of Radio
  14. Natural Science
  15. Jacob’s Ladder
  16. Cygnus Medley with drum solo
  17. Close to the Heart
  18. Xanadu
  19. 2112
    1. Overture
    2. The Temples of Syrinx
    3. Presentation
    4. Grand Finale
  20. Lakeside Park
  21. Anthem
  22. What You’re Doing
  23. Working Man

 

Rush R40 Tour – Seattle, WA (Key Arena) Setlist:

  1. The Anarchist
  2. The Wreckers
  3. Headlong Flight
  4. Far Cry
  5. The Main Monkey Business
  6. How It Is
  7. Animate
  8. Roll the Bones
  9. Between The Wheels
  10. Subdivisions
  11. Tom Sawyer
  12. The Camera Eye
  13. The Spirit of Radio
  14. Jacob’s Ladder
  15. Cygnus Medley with drum solo
  16. Close to the Heart
  17. Xanadu
  18. 2112
    1. Overture
    2. The Temples of Syrinx
    3. Presentation
    4. Grand Finale
  19. Lakeside Park
  20. Anthem
  21. What You’re Doing
  22. Working Man

Rush R40 Tour – Portland, OR (Moda Center) Setlist:

  1. The Anarchist
  2. Clockwork Angels
  3. Headlong Flight
  4. Far Cry
  5. The Main Monkey Business
  6. One Little Victory
  7. Animate
  8. Roll the Bones
  9. Distant Early Warning
  10. Subdivisions
  11. Tom Sawyer
  12. Red Barchetta
  13. The Spirit of Radio
  14. Jacob’s Ladder
  15. Cygnus Medley with drum solo
  16. Close to the Heart
  17. Xanadu
  18. 2112
    1. Overture
    2. The Temples of Syrinx
    3. Presentation
    4. Grand Finale
  19. Lakeside Park
  20. Anthem
  21. What You’re Doing
  22. Working Man

Written By: AndrewT