Concert: Rush in Universal City, CA
Rush's show at the Gibson Amphitheatre Wednesday (8/11) was everything a Rush fan could possibly desire -- masterful musicianship, humorous videos and curious set pieces, energetically performed hits and nearly three hours of music.
Few bands are as good as Rush at assembling a single setlist and then delivering that same show night after night. Not only are there no signs of wear and tear after being on the road since June, but their Gibson Amphitheatre gig felt like it had an extra jolt of energy behind it, especially in Geddy Lee's bass playing and in Alex Lifeson's guitar solos on "YYZ" and "La Villa Strangiato." The number of guys AND women air-drumming told you all you needed to know about Neil Peart's chops.
The first set of 11 songs felt grouped to allow the band to open up their sound and give Lee sufficient space for his bass. The instrumental "Leave That Thing Alone" and "Marathon" were particularly bracing, reminders that few other rock bands allow a fair number of songs to develop cohesively before allowing each musician to go in different directions before regrouping, but in a different place from where they left off.
The new songs:"BU2B," which stands for "Brought Up to Believe," and "Caravan" are hard-edged and forceful, a world away from the raison d'etre of the tour, the 30th anniversary of "Moving Pictures" that they performed in its entirety to start the second half of the show. After "Vital Signs," Lee matter-of-factly said "30 years ago" with no air of nostalgia. How many other classic rock bands can devote nearly an hour to career high point and and then bring their other material up to that level through performance? That's a short list.
A few random thoughts: "Free Will" received the performance of the night; their increased use of reggae elements to alter recorded versions of songs is a welcome touch; and "Faithless," a song from "Snakes & Arrows" that was not played on previous tours, was a pleasant addition to the show.
The stage set: Crazy antiquated machinery -- resembling old-time floor radios combined with washing machines -- sits behind Lee and Lifeson. The units behind Lee sit on a riser that has the words "real time," "half time," "bass time" and "sausage time" in lights across the bottom. They go on and off at various times, but the logic is difficult to figure.
The videos are vivid and compelling. A fast-forward trip through a black-and-white New York is as gripping as the odd fantasy animation involving butterflies on "Faithless" and the artful combination of an Underwood typewriter and random lyrics that back "BU2B." Then there are Lee's videos, unified by the themes of sausage consumption and time machines.
Why it's important to stay to the end: The finale is a video that drives home the point of the recent documentary on the band. They're ordinary guys who happen to be musicians looking for a little peace and quite after an evening onstage. It closes the evening on a nice note of sincerity.
13 - Irvine, CA - Verizon Wireless Amphitheater
14 - Las Vegas, NV - MGM Grand Garden Arena
16 - Morrison, CO - Red Rocks Amphitheatre
20 - Wichita, KS - INTRUST Bank Arena
22 - Maryland Heights, MO - Verizon Wireless Amphitheater
25 - Omaha, NE - Qwest Center
27 - St. Paul, MN - Minnesota State Fair
29 - Columbus, OH - Nationwide Arena
31 - Allentown, PA - Allentown Fair
2 -- Syracuse, NY - New York State Fair
3 - Holmdel, NJ - PNC Bank Arts Center
14 - Boston, MA - TD Garden
16 - Pittsburgh, PA - Consol Energy Center
18 - Washington, DC - Jiffy Lube Live Amphitheater
21 - Tulsa, OK - BOK Center
23 - San Antonio, TX - AT&T Center
25 - The Woodlands, TX - Cynthia Woods Mitchell Pavilion
26 - Dallas, TX - Superpages.com Center
29 - Atlanta, GA - Verizon Wireless Amphitheatre @ Encore Park
1 - Tampa, FL - Ford Amphitheatre
2 - West Palm Beach, FL - Cruzan Amphitheatre