[Review] - Rush

"We’ve got a gazillion songs so let’s get started."

I'm impressed by technical achievement. People at the top of their game, working at the extremes of their abilities, and turning out amazing products is something I can respect and enjoy. Musicians especially, have a special place in my heart, partly because I have no musical ability at all, and envy them so, but also because anyone who has lasted decades in the industry, continues to create new music, while performing their originals like it was second nature, deserves admiration.

Which brings us to Rush, recent (and long overdue) Rock and Roll Hall of Fame inductees, and the real headliners of the 2013 Bluesfest (they received an earlier start then any other group, had no warm up acts, and played a longer full set then any other have been allowed). The crowds packed in to Lebreton Flats Monday night to experience the band, and they were not disappointed; it was an experience. Loud, long, bright and mesmerising, the evening was something to behold. If not wall to wall perfect.

Hit the jump for the review.

You should always see a band in their native environment. The people who have been exposed the longest, and have the closest cultural association to the music always experience it the best. I'll always remember an evening on Parliament Hill back years ago, when the entire assembled crowd broke out into a rendition of Cinnamon Girl by Neil Young. The energy in that moment, in that share connection, is great then any claims of patriotism I've ever felt. I had that feeling once again Monday evening, as Rush stepped on stage for their encore at quarter after ten, and the first notes of Tom Sawyer blasted out of the speakers. Everyone knew the words, and for the first time in the night, the crowd sang along. I don't know the attendance, but I might guess close to 40,000 in the crowd (the band's previous time at Bluesfest drew 30-35,000). And we all felt the music, and through the music, a connection.

I should make clear, I was not then, nor am I now, high.

When I say you could feel the music, I mean literally. The volume was turned up on the speakers so high, I could feel my lungs vibrating. It's two days later, and I'm still fighting off a lingering headache caused not from the noise, but from the vacuum of noise after the concert ended. It's no wonder the folks who live in the nearby apartments complain about the festival every year, the sound was echoing back off of the buildings, creating a reverb. I can only imagine what it sounded like across the river.

My opportunities to see Rush have been limited by geography and chance over the years, and I wasn't going to let them pass me by again. Technically, this appearance falls into their Clockwork Angels tour, to promote their newest album, and their first since 2007's Snakes & Arrows. As such, the show was easily divided into two acts, the first a mix of classic material, and the second mostly stuff from the new album, before finishing with some more classics. The second act also contained a few more recent songs, including my personal favourite of their tunes, Far Cry, which despite its relative recentness, I've found great personal attachment to. To see it performed live was worth the admission, and the tall fellow in the over sized hat who could successfully block my view of half the stage at a time, depending on which way he was leaning (I was fortunate enough, and got their earlier enough, to stake out a place in the front third of the crowd, which to be fair, the crowd extended practically to the exits by the end of the evening).

The second act legged considerably, partly because the crowd was more unfamiliar with the new tunes. Partly because the new tunes were a bit self indulgent. And partly because the show got off to a cracker of a start, with Subdivisions, Big Money and Limelight all within the first half hour, as well as a three minute at least drum solo from Neil Peart. The band would do well to find a way to strike a better balance in the show, and spread the various instrumentals out over the entire course. The second act did feature what Geddy Lee called the Clockwork Angels String Ensemble, and what I'll call a collection of rock fiddles (and writing that sentence makes me very happy). I did properly enjoy the new tune The Wreckers, and the Garden had its charms. But an over reliance on fireworks and fire pillars suggests that the band too recognised a dip in audience excitement around this time, and resorted to gimmicks rather then fine tuning the playlist.

The two acts were broken up by a funny short film starring the band as a trio of mischievous gnomes, torturing Jay Baruchel as a tax man, in what I can only describe as Monty Python meets the Three Stooges, by way of the Hudsucker Proxy. I'll admit that, come the end of the show, I was still expecting further adventures form Baruchel's doomed Federal employee, and the film fan in me overpowered the Rush fan, and demanded resolution to the plot.

Never once did the band seem to relent, and considering they've been doing this for nearly forty years, that along is an accomplishment. Despite the fact that Geddy's face looked like it might blow off when he hit the high notes, and Alex Lifeson was drenched in sweat after every song, the band never relented for the entire two hour+ show. And considering that every bit of sound came from just these three guys, and just these four instruments (Geddy does double duty on bass and keyboards), even if you're not feeling the music, and even if the music has drifted a bit off topic, you still have to stand back and be amazed at the accomplishment (expect, apparently, the one completely unimpressed lady I saw sitting near the exit, reading a book).

Having seen this show, I'm at a loss as to how something this huge could be contained within an arena, and am glad that when time finally allowed me to see them, that I saw them outside. Had the energy been contained within wall, I suspect I might have ended up deaf and blind by the evenings end.
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About MR. Clark

Adopting the descriptor of "successfully unpublished author", MR. Clark began writing things on the internet in 2012, which he believed to be an entirely reputable and civilized place to find and deliver information. He regrets much.


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