Concert Review: Rush Caravans Through Canada

Rush brought their Clockwork Angels show to Vancouver, BC Friday night at Rogers Arena, the final stop of the tour in their home country, and put on a stellar concert for their fellow Canucks and a bunch of Americans too.

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Rush guitarist Alex Lifeson doing three things at once

The Toronto-based trio sounded as strong as ever in their 26-song, nearly three hour set, proving their mettle after nearly 40 years and 20 albums together. The band, fresh off a brief interlude that began Wednesday in Red Deer, AB (a show the band gave all the proceeds to Alberta flood relief), concludes the two-year Clockwork Angels tour next week in Missouri.

The 2013 leg of the tour which began in April and included a 10-date stint in Europe was no different than the 2012 tour. The band uses several setlists but only changing in and out a handful of songs for variety.

Rush opened with an ensemble of songs showcasing the 1980s. Fan favorite “Subdivisions” started the night then “Big Money” and “Force Ten.” The band dug further into their catalog dusting off “Grand Designs,” which felt out of sync for the intro and the song just never really caught on, the wonderfully affective “Middletown Dreams” and “Territories” all off 1985’s Power Windows.

Singer and bassist Geddy Lee, who turns 60 on Monday, was pitch perfect the entire evening and his falsetto was solid. He seemed stronger as the evening wore on with the second half of the performance show-casing nine songs from the Clockwork Angels album which includes vocal ranges singers half Lee’s age can only wish to reach.

Guitarist Alex Lifeson anchored stage right and his virtuosity at the guitar is unmatched by anyone playing today. Watching him blaze through a flawless and worth-the-price-of-admission solo on “Analog Kid” defies the imagination when considering the man battles psoriatic arthritis. Rush also seemed to find their groove after that song – seventh up on the night – diving into a moving “The Pass” and ending the first half of the concert with “Where’s My Thing” and the simply awesome “Far Cry.”

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Rush bassist Geddy Lee

The Clockwork Angels tour brought a first for drummer Neil Peart – showcasing his deft skills with three drum solos. Mr. Peart often comes across as a wizard who effortlessly instructs his drum sticks to perform at his command. The customary 360 degree drum set kept him busy all night and, a few times, rotated so Peart never had to turn his back on the audience.

Rush saved all the material from Clockwork Angels after a brief intermission and began with “Caravan.” The album’s title track came second which is a tremendously arranged song with complex time changes and multiple tempos throughout. The string-ensemble, also a first for Rush, played from a raised platform behind Peart. They muddled “Caravan” a bit but proved to be a solid addition to the tour. The ensemble was down one player from last year but the seven players added an interesting dimension that freed Lee, Lifeson and Peart from triggering even more sounds and effects than normally required.

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Drummer Neil Peart

“Headlong Flight” is one of the best songs on the album and the live performance takes it to another level. Peart dove into his second solo of the night during the middle of the song and all three eventually jammed together an exhilarating hard-rock performance that brought cheers from the crowd and a reminder of why Rush is the best in the business.

After the Clockwork songs, Rush jumped back in time with “Dreamline” and then came Peart’s “official” drum solo, a shorter version than past tours. Peart lost his grip on one of the sticks during the middle of it which kept him offline for about two seconds though to him it probably felt like two minutes. The solo which had an almost odd new age sounding music accompaniment proved to be the low point of the evening. Perhaps the minor flub removed Peart’s dedication for the remainder of the solo but overall it was stale and flat.

Rush ended the second set with “Red Sector A,” “YYZ” and crowd favorite “The Spirit of Radio.” They encored with “Tom Sawyer” and “2112” – Overture, Temples of Syrinx and Grand Finale.

Rush’s musicianship is well-renowned which explains much of their fans’ frustration for the 14-year snub by the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame committee. Rush celebrates 40 years next year and watching the band play at such a high level for a nearly three-hour show only endears them more to their legion of devotees. Rush brings a rare talent and professionalism that precludes anyone from saying “You should have seen them back in the day.”

For Rush, right now, it is “back in the day.”

Rush Vancouver Setlist (Rogers Arena):

  1. Subdivisions
  2. The Big Money
  3. Force Ten
  4. Grand Designs
  5. Middletown Dreams
  6. Territories
  7. Analog Kid
  8. The Pass
  9. Where’s My Thing (Featuring drum solo)
  10. Far Cry
  11. Caravan
  12. Clockwork Angels
  13. The Anarchist
  14. Carnies
  15. The Wreckers
  16. Headlong Flight (featuring drum solo)
  17. Halo Effect (guitar solo intro)
  18. Wish Them Well
  19. The Garden
  20. Dreamline
  21. Drum Solo
  22. Red Sector A
  23. YYZ
  24. Spirit of Radio
  25. Tom Sawyer
  26. 2112
    1. Overture
    2. The Temples of Syrinx
    3. Grand Finale

Rush Portland Setlist (Sleep Country Amphitheater):

  1. Subdivisions
  2. The Big Money
  3. Force Ten
  4. Grand Designs
  5. The Body Electric
  6. Territories
  7. Analog Kid
  8. Bravado
  9. Where’s My Thing (Featuring drum solo)
  10. Far Cry
  11. Caravan
  12. Clockwork Angels
  13. The Anarchist
  14. Carnies
  15. The Wreckers
  16. Headlong Flight
  17. Halo Effect (guitar solo intro)
  18. Seven Cities of Gold
  19. The Garden
  20. Manhatten Project
  21. Drum Solo
  22. Red Sector A
  23. YYZ
  24. Spirit of Radio
  25. Tom Sawyer
  26. 2112
    1. Overture
    2. The Temples of Syrinx
    3. Grand Finale

Written By: AndrewT

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