Welcome back to The Rock Show, where it’s all about the music. Rush played tonight at the Giant Center in Hershey, and I was lucky enough to be there for my fourth Rush show. I swear, every show I go to is better than the last, even when there’s no way it could get any better. Here’s the set from tonight’s show:
- The Spirit of Radio
- Time Stand Still
- Stick It Out
- Workin’ Them Angels
- Leave That Thing Alone
- Tom Sawyer
- Red Barchetta
- The Camera Eye
- Witch Hunt
- Vital Signs
- Drum Solo
- Closer to the Heart
- 2112 (Overture/The Temples of Syrinx)
- Far Cry
- La Villa Strangiato
- Working Man
Now, I saw Rush do the Time Machine show back in July at the Susquehanna Bank Center, and tonight’s show was the same – same set list, same videos, etc. However, there was something different about tonight; I don’t know if it was the unobstructed view I had of the stage or the fact that I wasn’t dying of heat exhaustion (anyone who was at the Camden show last summer knows what I mean), but this show was definitely the best I’ve ever seen. The band was airtight – there wasn’t a single noticeable mistake all night (unlike the “La Villa” trainwreck at the Camden show), and the energy was unbelievable. Rush fans are the friendliest people in the world – if you’re at a Rush show, it’s a guarantee that you’ll be talking to the people around you a lot, hearing stories, sharing experiences. And the number of kids at the show was wild – Rush really is a band being passed down from one generation to the next.
After a few spontaneous “let’s cheer at nothing in the hopes that the band will come out sooner” moments, the house lights went down and the introductory video came on the big screen. You could feel the tension building as “Spirit” was teasingly played over and over, the anticipation of the first song of the night at its maximum. Then the video ends and Alex Lifeson tears into the mind-numbing riff that is the intro to “The Spirit of Radio,” and the show begins. The band played through the first three songs in typical Rush fashion – Geddy and Alex goofing off during the instrumental sections and Neil absolutely destroying the drums. As the last chorus of “Presto” came to a close I was shocked to see Alex play the ending guitar solo – a solo that, to the best of my knowledge, was left out last year. After the song ended Geddy addressed the Hershey audience and made his usual promise of having millions of songs to play, and sincerely hoped we wouldn’t mind. Yeah, right.
The rest of the first set went by in a blur – a very awesome blur, to be precise. “Leave That Thing Alone” rocked hard, but the highlight was easily Geddy’s bass solo at the very end – I can’t comprehend how it’s even possible to play that fast. Another similar moment was “Freewill,” during the guitar solo/all-out jam in the middle of the song. It’s clear that Alex is shredding that guitar like nobody’s business, but what’s not as clear is that Geddy is shredding the bass just as much. It might as well have been two guitar solos. “BU2B” was once again a show highlight – it’s amazing how full and tight that song sounds when they play it live. Not to mention, the steam jets in the stage setup totally make that song. After a solid performance of “Subdivisions” Geddy took the spotlight once again to address the crowd. Clearly he gave it his all during that first set, because as he was announcing the upcoming intermission his voice cracked quite obtrusively. Proof that he was singing his heart out.
Next came the main event: Moving Pictures in its entirety. “Tom Sawyer” got things started and was over so fast I barely noticed it. “Red Barchetta” followed with killer bass improvisation and amazing atmosphere. It was about here that I noticed that the spider-like lighting setup took on a life of its own, moving as if it were alive and creating the perfect mixture of lights and colors to suit every nuance of every song. “YYZ” was one of the best performances of the night, with all of the playing spot-on. The real treat, however, was “The Camera Eye.” The fact that they were even playing was one thing (aside from the first leg of the tour, the song hadn’t been played since the Signals tour in the early 80’s), but as that low, rumbling synth pattern began to play, you could feel it rumbling in you, so much so that it felt as if the entire venue was shaking. It may have been! I would pick “The Camera Eye” as the best performance of the show – the entire experience was breathtaking, and the band played it with such a passion that it felt like they had reacquainted with a long-lost friend. “Witch Hunt” and “Vital Signs” brought the Moving Pictures segment to a close (“Vital Signs” being another spectacular performance), and Geddy thanked the audience, referring to the past seven songs as songs they like to play a lot. No kidding! He also introduced the next song, one from their upcoming album called Clockwork Angels.
“Caravan” opened very subtly, with the stage setup puffing out steam here and there and making me feel as if I was on an amusement park ride. Then the song broke into the main riff and just exploded. “Caravan” is proof that Rush still have the musical creativity that they’re known for, because they destroyed that bridge section. Neil’s solo came next. While it’s clear that the days of wailing on the drums Keith Moon style are over, Neil still manages to create an amazing atmosphere using just the drums. The ambiance of the solo combined with the subtle background music/sounds and the colorful lighting effects made you feel like you were lost in a deep cave, or underwater, or some other mystical kind of place. Despite not doing a typical drum solo (although the fancy hand-over-hand tom work was still there as was the snare rolling section), the intricacies of the footwork and rhythms he creates show off just how creative of a drummer he really is. The solo ended with a typical swing/big band part with some very interesting CGI on the video screen. When the solo was over Alex came out with the 12-string acoustic guitar and played one of the most beautiful guitar solos I’ve ever heard – then went right into “Closer to the Heart.”
The last three songs were played with astounding energy. Rush is a band that feeds off the crowd, and the crowd tonight was giving them plenty to work with. As the last chord of “Far Cry” rang out over the audience, no one could believe the show was over already. The band left the stage, but not for long. While many bands will leave you waiting a long time for the encore, Rush doesn’t even pretend like they’re not coming back out. Within a minute or two Geddy and Alex were back on the stage throwing shirts into the crowd and starting up what sounded like a polka song. Of course, having seen the show before, I knew what was coming – the song quickly turned into the beginning of “La Villa Strangiato,” and the band gave yet another airtight performance of one of the most difficult-to-play rock songs in history. The final song of the night was “Working Man,” and they started playing it as a reggae song. As the second verse came to a close, however, the rock took over and they proceeded to play the rest of it as if demons had taken control. Alex and Geddy shredded the solo part more intensely than I’ve ever seen them play before, and Neil kept the beat going the whole time while filling it with, well, fills. Lots and lots of fills. One thing to point out, however – teasing us with the main riff of “Cygnus X-1” at the end was very, very mean. And, just like that, the show was over. The ending video came on, we watched it, and then the house lights came on and we all left.
It was the best Rush show I’ve ever been to. And I’m willing to bet that the next one will be even better, regardless of whether I think it’s impossible or not.
~The Rock Show, where it’s all about the music! Keep listening!