Rush defies age with vitality and verve

At G.M. Place on Thursday, May 29

When you’ve been around as long as Rush has, you can pretty well do as you please. If you don’t feel like doing any interviews to support your tour—even though you have a relatively new studio album, 2007’s Snakes & Arrows, to talk about—you don’t have to. And if you want to play a ton of songs off that album—even though most Rush fans could care less about them—you can do that as well. Hell, when you’re Rush, you can cook chickens on-stage in a giant rotisserie if you feel like it!

Apparently, the rotating chickens—which a roadie in a chef’s hat would periodically baste—are devoured by the band, crew, and guests after shows. Rush singer-bassist Geddy Lee, guitarist Alex Lifeson, and drummer Neil Peart are no doubt ravenous when they get off-stage, because their current set is nearly three-and-a-half hours long—including a half-hour intermission—and there’s no screwing around between tunes. The Canadian prog-rock veterans cranked out song after song, with no hesitation, as if aware that—no matter what Mick Jagger says—time is no longer on their side.

The night kicked off with “Limelight”, from 1981’s Moving Pictures, an album Rush would return to later for “Red Barchetta” and the much-loved “Tom Sawyer”. Three large video screens were set up at the rear of the stage (one for each member) so you could clearly see how much they’d aged since the last time they were here, on the Vapor Trails tour of 2002. The thing about Rush, though, is that it doesn’t matter what they look like; it’s always been about the music. And today that music is, incredibly, as vibrant as ever.

How can Peart, at an age when he should be enjoying the benefits of Freedom 55, still display such vitality and verve? He’s one of the only rock drummers who can play a 10-minute solo that keeps you transfixed the entire time. Lifeson is no less a guitar god than he was the first time he blasted out the metallic roar of “Working Man”, back in ’74. And Lee’s vocal cords are easily as deserving of scientific study as Keith Richards’s internal organs.

Though serious players all, Rush also has a humorous side, which was revealed when SCTV characters Bob and Doug McKenzie appeared via video to introduce a new song, “The Larger Bowl”, and when the cartoon kids from South Park were shown making up their own verse for “Tom Sawyer”, but getting sidetracked by the plot of Adventures of Huckleberry Finn.

Right after the intermission five more new songs from Snakes & Arrows were rolled out, and though there was nothing wrong with the quality of the material, the crowd wasn’t too interested. The faithful wanted the big ’80s hits, and soon got them in the form of “Subdivisions” and “The Spirit of Radio”. I was actually hoping for some vintage Rush material, like maybe a track or two off the band’s self-titled debut, but it never happened. Sadly, there was no “In the Mood” on this night, perhaps because Peart has spent so many years emulating Buddy Rich that the cowbell mastery of Rush’s long-forgotten first drummer, John Rutsey, has proved impossible to top.

Comments

9 Comments

Gooboodoo

May 31, 2008 at 9:19pm

Rush have great skill but mediocre creative talent. They have always struck me as very pale imitations of the British and European masters of progressive rock. Rush doesn't even bear comparison to Genesis, Gentle Giant, UK, King Crimson, Yes,Pink Floyd.

If you took all the best of Rush - sound of the bass, guitar, rythm section, composing skills, etc., Yes beats them ENTIRELY and with only one recording alone, Roundabout, and that isn't near their best. Nothing Rush has created comes close to Close to the Edge, Long Distance Runaround, Starship Trooper - and that's only Yes!

Rush is music for people who wear Leafs shirts, drink too much crap beer and seem to have no end of patience for unison guitar and bass lines.

Yuck.

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kilmarley

Jun 1, 2008 at 9:02pm

Great article. I thought the chickens were rubber and Geddy's voice is not exactly as described though...a little rough at times, but still good...not good enough for "In The Mood," if they want to continue this tour anyway.

As a prog rock fan and Rush being my favorite, I have NEVER compared them to my other favorite group, Yes. (here goes) I love that Rush has the ability at this stage in their careers to do a show with a set list that promotes new music, as opposed to Yes. I have seen both groups many times live and would love to hear many "oldies" from Rush...(Yes plays very little new material...and doesn't have to) but love Rush's new music also. Yes: Great musicians that get somewhat "show-offey" to the point that Squire, Wakeman, Howe and White are almost playing different songs together and hoping it all comes off (which it does more times than not) as a song. Rush: Lots of unisom Bass/Guitar, but more of an edge with Geddy's voice as compared to Jon Anderson's "angelic" sound.

Genesis...King Crimson...pretentous wanna-bee spacey "Court of the Crimson King," "Home by the Sea" pop stars compared to Yes and Rush.

Yuck

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Mack

Jun 2, 2008 at 12:35pm

Wow! Prog Fight!

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Steve Newton

Jun 2, 2008 at 1:13pm

Bitch-slap him with your Mini-Moog!

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John Lucas

Jun 2, 2008 at 2:40pm

Can I just toss in the notion that all prog-rock stinks?

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Steve Newton

Jun 2, 2008 at 2:50pm

Forget the Mini-Moog, bitch-slap this anti-prog nitwit with that spinning grand piano Keith Emerson used to have!

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John Lucas

Jun 3, 2008 at 8:13pm

I'm heartened to see that no one (with the possible exception of Steve) disagrees with me.

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Steve Newton

Jun 4, 2008 at 10:07am

The Prog-Rock Nation is strong! It's just too busy bitch-slapping non-believers with Mini-Moogs to respond.

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ade

Jun 5, 2008 at 2:49pm

I'm so happy to see a review of Rush' show in Vancouver. As a long time fan of this band, I have noticed in the past that the reception of their music in this city, and by the local media, has never been as good as it should be. As a band, Rush has demonstrated huge respect for their music and their fans for almost four decades. They have also managed to keep doing music on their own terms and to keep attracting new fans. I noticed they were a lot a young people in the audience, which made me very happy. I though that one of the best numbers of the night was The Larger Bowl, a song from the new album. But I loved all the older songs as well, and I’m amazed as how they can still execute all the intricacies of songs like Freewill, 2112 or Witch Hunt with full energy and emotion and just keep going and going. Thank you for an accurate and good account of the atmosphere of their show. I hope they come back soon

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