Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Rush at The United Center 9.15.2012

Rush is the only band I know that takes an intermission, but as my friend Doug M. said on Saturday night, when a band plays with such precision and skill, you can give them fifteen minutes.

Rush has nothing to prove to anyone, ever again. The band is still going strong after thirty-eight years, since their first album in 1974 (longer if you go from their formation), has only had 5 members (one for only one performance), and has had an unchanging lineup since drummer Neil Peart joined bassist Geddy Lee and guitarist Alex Lifeson in the band (also in 1974). There is a consistency of skill, direction and vision in this band that few artists can match. Which isn't to say stagnant, far from it.

Three things were surprising on Saturday night.

The first being that for the first time in recent memory, there are significant changes to the setlist from night to night. On the past few tours, it was almost a given that the setlist that came out on the internet the night of the first show is, more or less, the exact setlist you'd see when the band reached your town. I see this as neither good nor bad, it's simply how Rush operates (operated?). With the extensive lighting and video effects that are part and parcel of their stage show, planning and synchronization are important. Much like a play performed by talented actors, the script doesn't change, but the commitment and the energy of each night would differ.

Second, I was surprised to see the band mine so much of the "synthesizer era" that encompassed most of the 80's. The first set relied heavily on this period, with synth-heavy numbers like Territories, The Big Money, and Grand Designs. While admittedly, not my "favorite" era of the band (I do love all facets of their career), it was very cool to see this period represented so strongly. Doug was in heaven, this being is favorite era of the band.

Third, for the first time, ever, Rush had additional musicians, in the fore of a string section, mainly for material from their latest (and excellent) album, Clockwork Angels, which comprised most of the second set. Being a fan of the new record, I was excited that they did nine of the albums twelve tracks. In order, as befits a concept album. I could see a few people getting the "thousand-yard stare" that sometimes accompanies new material at a "classic rock" show. Screw 'em. The band sounded terrific, the fans know this stuff, and it's at the same level of quality as every album they put out is....High.

Other changes were evident. Instead of one long drum solo, Peart took three shorter ones, incorporated into the numbers being played. It was interesting to see, instead of moving through various styles in a ten to fifteen minute solos, to attack one style aggressively, then slide back into the song. I am a fan of Peart's drum solos (and I don't, traditionally, like drum solos), but I thought this was a very, very cool variation on what the "expected" Rush show tropes are.

All-in-all, a great night. The band gave us our money's worth, and more. As long as they stay on the road, I will be making the time to see this band of consummate professionals play like few others can.

Set One
1. Subdivisions
2. The Big Money
3. Force Ten
4. Grand Designs
5. The Body Electric

6. Territories
7. The Analog Kid
8. Bravado
9. Where's My Thing? (with Drum Solo)
10. Far Cry

Set Two (with string section)
11. Caravan
12. Clockwork Angels
13. The Anarchist
14. Carnies
15. The Wreckers
16. Headlong Flight (with Drum Solo)
17. Halo Effect
18. Seven Cities of Gold
19. The Garden
20. Manhattan Project
21. Drum Solo (The Percussor)
22. Red Sector A
23. YYZ
24. The Spirit of Radio (no strings)

25. Tom Sawyer
26. 2112 Part I: Overture
27. 2112 Part II: The Temples of Syrinx
28. 2112 Part VII: Grand Finale

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