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Rush On Tour – The Paradiddler’s Epilogue

by Omar on November 20, 2010

in Event Review

Before the details of Rush’s Time Machine tour came out, The Paradiddler wrote an article detailing what songs would be ideal for them to play on the tour (at least from The Paradiddler’s point of view). Usually The Paradiddler focuses more on drumming, and hence the drummer, than a particular band, but this band happens to have as one of its members The Paradiddler’s ‘reference drummer’. In the article “The Paradiddler’s Wish List for Rush’s Next Tour”, it was stated: “I realize that not everyone who visits TheParadiddler.com, or even some of those subscribed to the newsletter, is a Rush fan. But I hope you’ll indulge me, just this once, as I deviate a little from the complete emphasis on the drums and more towards an ensemble, if you will. That ‘ensemble’ being Rush, which of course who’s drummer is my favorite of all, Mr. Neil Peart.” I ask the reader’s permission once again to indulge the author on the flip side of this tour, or, as it turns out, the middle…

Yet again, Rush doesn’t fail to fool their fans.

Not that we mind, though!  As mentioned in the article “The Paradiddler’s Wish List for Rush’s Next Tour”, fans always try to guess what songs Rush will play when a tour is announced.  Not to be outdone, the article expressed, in full detail, what the author would have liked to see Rush play.

At the time Alex Lifeson announced that the band was going to tour, he made no mention of what the format of the show would be.  He did mention, though, that they were working on a new album, and that probably two of the songs would be featured on the tour.  This was something they did a few times, but it had been a while.  So it was a treat for the newer fans, and for those who’ve stuck around who remember such things.

So when I wrote the aforementioned article, I had no thought of there being a theme to the show, since there was no recent album (or CD) to support.  Silly me!  All I had to do was look at recent history, and see that Rush has toured based on a theme and not necessarily to support a record.  The 30th Anniversary Tour was this way (even though they had released Feedback, which was just an album of covers, so that doesn’t really count :)).

A little later Rush announced the details of the tour, and that it would be called the “Time Machine Tour” featuring all of Moving Pictures. Everyone and their mother (quite literally!) were excited about this news, since to date this has been Rush’s most successful album, and most Rush fans, and those on the fringe and even beyond, identify Rush mostly with this album.  My ‘wish list’ did include “The Camera Eye”, one of my all-time favorite Rush songs.  I had never seen them play that song live, so it was a real treat for me.

Now the race was on for the tickets.  I was determined to get better seats than I had for the Snakes and Arrows tour (lawn seats).  However, I was unable to procure the tickets right when they went on sale.  So I waited a bit, but I got them.  Front row tickets!  Well, as long as I got to the show early, because they were LAWN seats again!  (If you’re sitting at the front of the lawn, does that count as front row seats?  :)).

My son was to accompany me again, to his second concert, both being Rush shows.  The bar was set high indeed!  My daughter would accompany me to the show as well.  We had never been to any concert together, so this was to be a treat for us.  A family affair!

So the day finally came for the show (September 29th, 2010 at the Verizon Wireless Amphitheater in Alpharetta [Atlanta], GA).  However, my daughter got really sick that day, so sick that she couldn’t go to the show.  The only way to console her was to tell her that Rush would be back next year touring their next album, Clockwork Angels. She was still bummed, but hopefully she’ll feel better the next time around.  But her loss was to be someone else’s gain.

I started thinking who could come with me in her place on such short notice.  I had an extra ticket now, so I made some calls.  First person, couldn’t reach him (he was disappointed later when I told him!).  I then reached a young friend who had never been to a concert of this scale.  When I offered him the ticket, he was ecstatic.  Anyway, we were three again.

The atmosphere at Rush shows is almost family-like.  You have people of all ages there.  Since many fans have stuck with the band for decades, they now bring their kids to the show (such as yours truly).  This makes for a very friendly vibe.  You hear a lot of chatter between people, total strangers, about when their first Rush show was and the stories behind them.  Truly, the Rush experience extends well ‘outside the gilded cage’.

I will go over a few of my observations of the show I attended, but if you really want a review of the entire tour, I suggest going to the news section of the Power Windows – A Tribute to Rush web site.  It’s arguably the best Rush fan site out there, and there’s extensive coverage of the tour, including the entire set list, reviews, show details, etc.

The venue was the typical (these days) outdoor amphitheatre setting.  I remember seeing Rush during the 30th Anniversary tour in 2005 in West Palm Beach, FL at the outdoor venue there (the Cruzan Amphitheater, as it’s now called), and to me they’re practically identical.  We got there early enough, and when the gates opened and the legions of fans rushed in, we were able to secure our ‘front row’ seats.  Now for the waiting…

The show was a little late to start.  It finally opened up with a video of Rush poking fun at themselves (being called ‘Rash’ instead of Rush) – how the band actually began way back when.  It is incredibly funny.  As serious as Rush takes their music, they’re equally adept at poking serious fun at themselves.  So much for self indulgence!

When the actual band came out after the video and played “The Spirit of Radio”, it was evident that this was going to be a visual feast.  The light show was spectacular.  Throughout the concert, the light show was very well an integral part of the songs, and it was excellently executed (as Rush shows usually are).  But as far as visual feasts go, I’m always looking at the drums – oh my goodness.  I think this may be the best looking drum set I have ever seen.  The cymbals have a ‘steampunk’ theme, and the drums match.  Sabian.com explains how the theme of these cymbals, and by extension the drum set shell design, came to be, in an excellent article that’s worth reading.  There are some excellent accompanying pictures as well.  I’ve included a few of them here.*

Photo by: John Arrowsmith

Photo by: John Arrowsmith

Within the set list, once again Rush brought out songs that they never played live.  The very inspiring “Presto” (from the 1989 release of the same name) was beautifully played.  The guitar sound was incredibly crisp and clean, and pierced through the air, loud and clear.  I’ve always loved this song, now even more after hearing it live.

They brought back the instrumental “Leave That Thing Alone!”.  Although Neil’s drumming sounded great throughout the show, this is the song where I really noticed how crisp and ‘poppy’ the snare sounded.  Also, of all of the versions of this song I’ve heard, the bass playing at the end of this one was just outstanding, better than all the others.  So much so, that after the song Geddy thanked the crowd for indulging their “little ditty”.  No problem, Geddy – anytime!

Another song that was played live for the first time was “Faithless” from their Snakes and Arrows release.  Alex was inspired to play the guitar like a violin, using the mic stand as a bow.  It was an incredible visual.

I don’t think I noticed at the beginning of the show, but Neil had full headphones on during the entire show, instead of the in-ear monitors.  This was most likely due to the chronic ear infections he was suffering from during the tour, as he detailed in his September 2010 edition of “News, Weather, and Sports”.  Neil writes about a variety of topics in these ‘reports’, and it’s always a very interesting read.  He almost always includes pictures and detailed descriptions of his motorcycle odyssey throughout the land, plus any other musings of, well, news, that is happening at that moment.

During the first set Rush played the first of their two new songs, “Brought Up to Believe” (BU2B).  This song was very LOUD, especially during certain sections when large columns of steam were spewed out in sync with the song.  I had heard the song when released via iTunes; the live version was even better.

Rush then played "Free Will", and I was wondering if, after a gazillion times of hearing this song, if it could still move me.  Well, it did! It was as good a jam (referring to the middle instrumental section) as I’ve ever heard, and especially Alex – he just went off like I’ve never seen him.  They made the song sound fresh, after all these years of playing it.

Sometimes the band will play a song at a slightly slower tempo than the studio version.  When “Marathon” was recorded on the Hold Your Fire tour on A Show of Hands, it was played a little slower than the studio version found on Power Windows. That wasn’t the case this time.  “Marathon” was played at a quickened pace, at least as fast as the studio release.  A timed explosion and a little extra ‘calm’ time after the mid-jam made this version of the song an instant classic.

The second set began with another very funny video of Geddy and Alex as ‘dueling’ music producers, and Neil as a cameraman.  The Time Machine was in play again (seen in the opening video), changing the musicians to different ages.  The theme continued as the video introduced “Tom Sawyer”, and hence the entire Moving Pictures record.  During the song you even see Neil playing lead guitar – hilarious.

Of all the songs I was eager to see, “The Camera Eye” was my most anticipated.  In the above-referenced ‘Paradiddler’s Wish List’ article, I explain why I love the song so much, so for me it was the summit of the show.  The song was shortened just a little, but tastefully so.  It is a grand and epic song, more so live.  By the way, of all the songs on the aforementioned wish list, this and “Witch Hunt” were the only ones played.  More on that later.  🙂

All of the songs had some light show and/or video images associated with it, but some stood out more than others.  “Witch Hunt” had very haunting images capturing the essence of the theme of the song (with flame geysers going off with each ‘bell’ at the beginning of the song), while “Vital Signs” showed a spectacular choreographed light display with the synthesizer sequence.  A palate for the senses.

After Moving Pictures was over, it was back to the future with the second new song, “Caravan”, which is a loud, hard rocking song with a great instrumental middle.  If this is a portent of things to come, we’re in trouble!  🙂

One of the main highlights of any Rush show is the drum solo.  When it was time for the solo, it was the first time that I observed it from a critical stance than from a fan’s stance.  In doing that, it was a totally different experience for me, and I didn’t realize I was observing it that way until the solo was over.  In the past I ranked all of Neil’s published solos, from ‘worst’ to first, in an exhaustive series of articles.  In doing so, I observed this solo with the mindset of comparing them to all the others.  Since I did it that way, I may not have enjoyed it as much as the typical concert-goer.  That’s not to say I didn’t like it – it was incredible, and Neil introduced some new sounds and patterns to the mix.  There was a stick drop, and it seemed like the electronics failed at the end, but all in all I’ll say that it was at least as good as any of the solos he’s done in the past, which is still, to say the least, pretty darn good.

Alex then delivered a beautiful solo on a twelve-string acoustic, which then transitioned into “Closer to the Heart”.  They changed it up a little by playing a little reggae, and the jam at the end was just awesome.  Again, ‘finding a way’ to infuse some freshness into the classics.

“La Villa Strangiato” was played in the encore, with a sort of polka type intro.  The last song was “Working Man”, a fitting end to a tour called the “Time Machine Tour”, with the song that started it all for them.  It also had a reggae type intro, but it was all business after that.  This might have been the best version of that song ever.  The jam of all three in the middle of the song was simply unearthly, especially Alex – he was out of his mind with his solo, some of his best playing that I’ve ever seen.  Geddy was doing his best to keep up, and of course, he did – it was spectacular interplay between the two, the way only musicians who’ve played decades together can jam.  Oh, and Neil?  Of course, he kept right up with them, laying the foundation, so the other two could go wild.  There was no better way to end the show.

I have to admit that even after the Hold Your Fire tour way back in 1988, I was ‘worried’ that the guys simply could not keep up that level of musicianship.  There were just so good, that I thought only youthful energy could make it look and sound good.  I’m so glad that I didn’t have a clue what I was talking about!  They continue to amaze me.  It may be the case that they can’t play as fast or tight as, say, what was on display on the Grace Under Pressure live DVD, but that’s not even the point anymore.  If they still played like that, they might not be around anymore.  They continued to progress musically, lyrically, and in their overall songwriting ability.  More than ever their playing serves the song, which to me is critical.  They can play anything they’ve recorded in the studio, with a maturity that may be unequalled in the music business.  Their musicianship is simply off the charts now, and even if you’re not a Rush fan, I would think that if you saw them live, you would at least appreciate the professionalism that these guys exude, in addition to how much respect they have for the music, and their fans.

I think I’m finally agreeing with Geddy that they’re playing better than they’ve ever played.  I had a lot of respect for Alex Lifeson before, and he’s always been one of my favorite guitarists (alongside Steve Howe, Steve Hackett, Pete Townsend, and Eddie Van Halen).  But for all the comments of him not being as good as the other two guys in the band, I don’t think that can be said anymore.  Alex has arrived – no question.  Geddy Lee continues to amaze me as to how he can handle the bass, keyboards, and singing without skipping a beat (literally!).  That guy is a multi-tasking genius, as far as I can tell.  And not only that, but doing it all with world-class skills that few can duplicate.  And Neil Peart?  Well, readers of this blog know that Mr. Peart is The Paradiddler’s main inspiration (see “The Reference Drummer”).  I am quite amazed at how much energy he still plays with.  He really hits those drums and cymbals hard, with authority.  He becomes the song he’s playing, and his famous (or infamous!) face of concentration is ever present.  Every time I watch or hear him play I have to get to my drums and play!  Truly an inspiration.  With these guys pushing 60, I don’t know how long they can keep playing with such youthfulness.  But one thing’s for certain:  I won’t question them anymore.

Just when we thought the tour was over, Rush has announced some European dates in the spring of 2011, including a visit to Ireland for the first time ever.  I have a feeling that Rush may be visiting other places they’ve never been to for the Clockwork Angels tour, but I’ll address that then.

Well, there’s still the issue of all those songs that remain on my wish list.  I’m still wishing!  But I also have a very special request, that I have no way of asking for it except to play it as a drum cover.  That will be coming up in an upcoming drum cover article, so look out for that.

Thanks very much to Alex, Neil, and Geddy for your continued dedication and inspiration.  “We hope to see you again sometime!”
________
*From the article “Steampunk Cymbals” at Sabian.com

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{ 1 comment… read it below or add one }

Lee Hazlewood November 23, 2010 at 2:23 pm

Thanks for the article on RUSH! I wasn’t able to see them here in Houston,TX on Sept.25,2010. I’ve been trying to see all the bands I’ve been a fan of for years and well I had a chance to see KISS for the 8th time which was my first concert at 8yrs old in 1977.Then I seen IRON MAIDEN,for the 4th time! Well I have never seen RUSH live and I’m a super big fan of Neil Peart! To me he is the best well rounded drummer ever. He has managed to accomplish things as a drummer that not many drummers have been able to do or don’t want to do! So I was really disappointed I didn’t have the money to go due to the money I spent on the other shows.I assure you I will see them next year for the first time! I’m starting a RUSH ticket fund right now so I will have the money to get a great seat as soon as they go on sale! I’ve watched countless videos on RUSH and the history behind them,and they are by far the most underrated band who by critics were really treated wrongly but they are still putting out great songs and touring so they are having the last laugh so to speak! “LOL” I truly believe that now they are more respected because they were able to prevail through all the critics and tough times! I just love the fact that they stayed loyal to their fans and keep on doing what they do best, and that’s writing great songs and making it sound so great as well! Long live RUSH, and again thanks for the article!

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