It was like old times at New York City's celebrated Madison Square Garden on September 17th as Rush took the stage in support of their 18th studio album of original music.
It seemed like time stood still for me last night, as I hadn't seen them perform live since 1993, which was 14 years, 3 studio albums, and 7 compilations ago. The studio album production has slowed down in the last decade, and it has every right to. From 1974 until the present, this band has taken very little if any "time off."
Read on for Steve Fleck's full show review !
Rush's fan-friendliness was in full evidence last night, providing the faithful with a Springsteen-long 2 hr & 40 min set spanning over 3 decades worth of material. Compiling the set list for these vets must be a daunting task (or a labor of love), but the result was a decidedly happy balance.
Of all 30+ year-old acts still touring today, Rush seems to get the most out of nostalgia without using it as a crutch. To their credit, they have more new material to support (their solid studio album, Snakes & Arrows), and they have found the best way to present it--sandwich it in the middle of familiar favorites and little heard album cuts from classic and lean years.
The result is, those inclined toward familiar sing-a-longs like "The Spirit Of Radio," "Tom Sawyer," "Limelight," "Circumstances" and "Passage To Bangkok" could hardly feel slighted when Rush began the 2nd set with 5 cuts from "Snakes" and stirred in 4 more throughout the night. If the new material took up 45 minutes of the show, there was still almost 2 hours worth of freedom to unearth classic gems like "Natural Science," "Entre Nous" and "Free Will," (from arguably their best album, 1980's Permanent Waves) and the unique "Subdivisions" from the underrated 1982 Signals. Sounding strangely current as well were "Distant Early Warning," and "Between The Wheels," (Grace Under Pressure, 1984) the former featuring the MTV-era video (remember the kid riding on the bomb?) as a bit of 80's kitsch on the house video screen.
"Mission" from 1987's Hold Your Fire and "Dreamline" from the forgotten but fine 1991 Roll The Bones were nice surprises, but the obscure "Witch Hunt" from Moving Pictures came out of left field; this was always a real piece of progressive music.
The boys are of course in fine form instrumentally, as always. Dorian Gray-like Geddy Lee is seemingly snubbing his 54 years, hitting melodies he sang in his early 20's. Alex Lifeson (looking noticeably slimmer in minimalist black dress), in addition to continuing to impress with his creative guitar stylings, has become quite effective at vocal harmony.
Of course, every Rush fan's obsession is still Neal Peart, the oft-impersonated/seldom equaled dark-horse lyricist and drummer. Who else could pull off a ten-minute drum solo, with CNN, text-messaging & email-fueled infinitesimal attention spans being what they are, in 2007? Neal has the edge, because in my section of MSG on Monday night, people actually put their blackberries down and became fixated on the reticent percussionists every stroke. For at least 10 minutes, there were no fly-by-night fans; minds were cleared and all attention was given to the drummer's caress of steel. It was like old times all over again.