Features

Rush -- Three Concerts For The Price Of One

Moline, IL ; May 20, 2008

by Paul Hanson

As I was walking out of the Rush concert in Moline, IL, on Tuesday, May 20, 2008, I overheard a woman say, “Yeah, that was not the best Rush show I’ve ever been to, but it was pretty good.” Pretty good?? Rush provided around 6,000 fans with a grade-A, excellent rock concert. In addition to superb musicianship, a couple of loud explosions startled fans and an impressive laser light show supplemented the songs. There were also three huge screens that showed an assortment of images throughout the concert. The only way I can come close to understanding what this woman meant is to see her comment in the context of there actually being three Rush concerts contained within the one show we both saw.

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The first concert was Rush trying to catch up their longtime fans with their present material from their eighteenth studio album Snakes And Arrows, released in 2007. By my count, they started their second set with five songs from this release, and judging by the way the crowd fell mostly silent during these songs, a lot of the people in the building had not heard their latest offering. One suggestion to the band would be to put the name of these new songs on their video screen along with the album name. Rush was teaching the crowd that “these are the future of the band, so you may as well get used to hearing them, because we dig these songs enough to play them tonight.” For the most part, the material from Snakes And Arrows sounds excellent. I can envision “Far Cry” and others being a given at a Rush concert from now until the band ceases to tour.

The second part of the concert Tuesday night was Rush playing their classics. These songs rewarded Rush fans that have flocked to see the band for over 30 years, creating a love fest for rejoicing in each member’s technical proficiency. Bassist/vocalist Geddy Lee worked his fingers over his instrument during “Subdivisions” and Alex Lifeson’s guitar solo in “Limelight” featured lights from the ceiling descending closer to the stage to spotlight his playing. Meanwhile, Neil Peart’s driving percussion during “Freewill” powered the band through one of my favorite Rush songs. The band played all of the songs on “Moving Pictures,” their 1981 release (save for “The Camera Eye”), and they tapped into their past with “Subdivisions,” “The Spirit of Radio,” and “Natural Science.” The set-list also featured two tracks from 1991’s Roll The Bones ("Ghost of a Chance" and "Dreamline") to reward the fans of that underrated release.

Among and interwoven with the first and second concerts was concert three, a concert in which musicianship ruled dominantly without hesitation. It was evident in both the old and new material that drummer Neil Peart does not know how to smile. His playing is mechanical and focused, save for a few “throw a stick in the air and catch it” moments. With each shift from time signature to time signature, Peart drove the band forward, nailing the snare fills in “Limelight.” Lee locked in tempo with Peart during several songs, most notably in “Red Barchetta” and “One Little Victory,” both of which allowed Lifeson to ease and stretch out on his guitar.

So while the woman I overheard is certainly entitled to her misinformed opinion, I enjoyed the Rush concert. Not only was the set list very generous (eleven songs in the first set, thirteen in the second set, and three encores), the atmosphere was as intimate as an arena can get. There were a lot of kids in the audience as well; I know of at least one second grader that was in the audience and I saw several other children with their parents that may have been even younger. I think Rush is the perfect first concert for a child; there was no swearing from Geddy Lee, no girls lifted their shirts, nor were there any inappropriate images on the video screens. The fact that parents felt compelled to take their child to see Rush indicates the baseline appeal of this band.

Overall, I can’t complain about the songs Rush decided to play. I understand why they wanted to play the new material and I acknowledge that that material will be tomorrow’s classic tracks. I was definitely very satisfied with my concert experience and would gladly pay to see them again.




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