At the Credit Union Center, Saskatoon, Saskatchewan, Canada: Well, I never thought I’d ever say this, but — I finally saw Rush. Decent seats in a nearly sold out house, too: Upper floor but first row, off to the side but far enough in front to see everything clearly and close enough to see the stage well.
The pyro show was outrageous. They were shooting fireworks; and I could feel the heat of the flash pots up in the balcony. The big screen was a combination of camera shots and video special effects, and weird little stories (featuring Rush as gnomes working in a citadel in the sky, harassing a visiting tax collector). Lots of lasers and lights (of course).
The overall theme was definitely steampunk decor, including the now typical washers and driers onstage, as well as an old Victrola and popcorn machine. (There were a lot of people chowing down the white stuff at intermission; the band ought to be getting a percentage). Lots and lots of eye candy.
Oh — did I mention the band? Yes, they can still play just fine: Each of them a master of their own instrument; and as a band, telepathically tight, which you would expect after 30 or so years. I was most amazed at Alex Liefson’s hands. He would’ve been a great butcher; what big mitts, for such a light touch. As well, I thought Neil Peart shouldn’t be allowed to be considered for those “Greatest Drummer in the World” polls that pop up every so often — he’s in his own classification.
Not being a big fan, I didn’t recognize a lot of their material. They played a lot of stuff off their new album, and some of the hits for the old fans: “Spirit of the Radio,” “YYZ,” “Tom Sawyer,” something off 2112 – but no “Limelight” (my personal fave — whine whine). And apparently there were even a few obscurities: People were singing along, but I had no idea what those songs were. And they added a seven-piece string section to augment most of the second half of the show. Not sure why; I don’t think anyone would have missed the string shots and accents. Then again, I thought the mix was kind of thick and muddy in places. A lot of Geddy Lee’s nimble bass playing just got lost and buried in the murk.
Overall, they were a much heavier band than I thought they would be — almost prog-metal. I kept thinking a less dark version of Tool more than internationally respected Canadian pop stars.
I recently read an interview where Rush themselves bemoaned the passing of the album and album sales as the coin of the realm in the rock and roll business, but they basically said c’est la vie and that’s how it is. Which leads me to guess that on this album they’re touring (Clockwork Angels), they just went ahead and made something that reflected whatever was in their head since the old rules in reference to marketing, singles and airplay don’t seem to apply anymore.
Then again, maybe that’s what they’ve always done, and that’s why they have survived. Or maybe it’s just because they’ve got a steampunk-styled time travel unit hidden in that popcorn machine — keeping the band and the fans that inhabit Rushworld old enough to know better, but young enough not to worry about it.
Set list, Credit Union Center, Saskatoon, Saskatchewan, September 28, 2012:
The Big Money
The Body Electric
The Analog Kid
Where’s My Thing?
SET TWO, with string section:
Seven Cities of Gold
Drum Solo (The Percussor)
Red Sector A
The Spirit of Radio
2112 Part I: Overture
2112 Part II: The Temples of Syrinx
2112 Part VII: Grand Finale