Note for those who haven’t seen the show yet: Spoilers!
Rush have been going for over forty years but yet they are still pretty much a cult band, albeit a cult band that sells out arenas. Despite their huge and loyal following, they’re outsiders, and easily one of the greatest rock bands not in the Rock n Roll Hall of Fame.
I’ve been a Rush fan since I was twelve years old, and I’ve seen then perform live a few times. Each time was an impressive show where three musicians expertly took their fans through a musical and multimedia journey. I went to see Rush play at the Metro Radio Arena in Newcastle last night as part of their Time Machine tour, which is essentially a ‘best of’ tour. I went in jaded and weary, and came out re-energised and awe-struck.
The show opened with a short film exploring a comic alternative history of Rush, featuring a sausage cafe, a teenage accordion band called Rash, and an extremely rotund ‘rock scientist’ with a music time machine. The rock scientist, played by Alex Lifeson, employs his music time machine to turn Rash’s accordion rendition of The Spirit of Radio into a crashing rock anthem. And this is where the show started, with The Spirit of Radio.
Time Stand Still from Hold your Fire came next followed by a range of old and new Rush classics. After an hour the band went off stage for a half hour break, admitting that at their age that they need to catch their breath.
After the break they went into the full Moving Pictures album in track order, followed by Rush standards like 2112, Closer to The Heart and many other classics. Halfway through the the second act Lifeson and Lee went offstage and left Neil Peart to deliver one of his spectacular ten minute drum solos, which received a standing ovation from the full arena.
Tracks Caravan and BU2B from the (seemingly forever) forthcoming album Clockwork Angels also got an airing, with Caravan in particular recieving the crowd’s approval. As ever, the light show was impressive, with a giant spider-shaped lighting rig wowing the audience. The light show was joined by a giant screen showing Rush videos and live footage of the band playing.
They delivered one encore performance, and the show ended with a short comic film featuring the characters from the movie I Love You Man.
So in a nutshell, the show was pure spectacle.
There were some minor weak spots. Geddy Lee’s voice dropped a bit at the beggining of each set, but quickly picked up to achieve those amazing high notes and impossible trademark falsettos. There were some sound issues with the guitar early on, with Alex Lifeson visibly unhappy with the results, but the problems were quickly sorted. It would have been nice to see more of Neil Peart’s performance on the big screen, hidden as he was behind his monster drum kit. There was some excitement in the second set during one of the songs when a lighting technician forty feet up in the lighting rig tried to kick a piece of equipment into place; most of the audience were blissfully unaware.
Okay, so I’m a Rush fanboy, and I’m usually the first to point out that such superlatives are overused to the point of meaninglessness, but in terms of the lightshow, breadth of styles, musical skill and sheer stamina of three guys approaching their 60s, it’s difficult to find a more accurate descriptive categorisation. My son, who experienced his first ever rock concert last night, described it perfectly.
So for those looking forward to seeing Rush live, I hope you have as much fun as I did.