Monday night our middle daughter and I saw Rush in concert at Mohegan Sun Arena in Connecticut (see my earlier post on this subject). For all the years I have been listening to Rush, I had never seen them in person and was really looking forward to it. I mean really looking forward to it, so much that I might have been setting myself up for disappointment. I shouldn’t have worried.
The concert was largely an exercise in nostalgia, though there were a couple of new songs from their upcoming album, and no little amount of poking fun at themselves and their fans. For some, poking fun at your fans might be dangerous, but Rush has been around long enough, established enough of a relationship with their fans, and gained enough respect (grudging, in some corners, like the Rock ‘n Roll Hall of Fame, for example) that they can not only get away with it, but revel in it, embracing their inner (or not so inner) nerdiness.
For those who might still go to a show on this tour (and who haven’t watched YouTube) I won’t spoil it. The time machine is a recurring vehicle for getting from one end of Rush’s career to another, the films at the beginning, intermission, and end of the show are a hoot, and there is still a Neil Peart drum solo complete with retro-futuristic robotic big band finish.
The complete performance of “Moving Pictures” is a treat reminding me of Pink Floyd’s performance of “Dark Side of the Moon” on their “Pulse” concerts in 1994, but which I only know by CD and video. Since I had never been to a Rush concert before Monday night, hearing them play anything was a long-awaited thrill, but “Moving Pictures” is the album even casual fans know front to back. Every Rush fan has their own idea of the ideal set list, but I can’t quibble too much, even if “Stick It Out” isn’t one of my favorites.
Contrary to the opinion of one reviewer, the quality of the performance was what I expected; precise, and faithful to their recorded work (a real feat considering the sequencing that has to be programmed and triggered at exactly the right moment), but done with personality, humor, and apparent joy in what they do, or at least enough showmanship to give that impression. Automatism? I think not. Perhaps the reviewer might have enjoyed the concert more if he hadn’t had his head stuck so far… well, never mind that.
As a Rush concert newbie I was struck by how visceral, as well as auditory, an experience it was. Ear-splitting is not much of an exaggeration. We seemed to be sitting right in the path of the house PA system carrying Geddy’s vocals. I swear I could actually feel some of his words go right through my head. In his younger days when able to hit even higher, more piercing notes, I can only imagine what it would have been like. Still, while Geddy’s voice is not as stratospheric as it once was, now more -ahem- mature and expressive, it still carries the distinctive Rush sound.
The crowd was a diverse mix of age ranges, from middle-aged guys older than me, kids with their parents, 20- and 30-somethings, all responding to the music, and many singing along, especially to “Freewill” and “Closer to the Heart” and holding up their lit cell phones instead of lighters. As a retrospective tour performance, “Time Machine” was what it should have been – a little much with the antique radio amps and steam-driven sausage machine, maybe, but still good fun.
Not sorry I went. Nope. Not one bit.