7/15: A REVIEW OF RUSH IN DENVER, ALEX LIFESON EXCLUSIVE THIS WEEKEND
Finally getting a chance to sit down and write some thoughts about seeing Rush on the R40 tour this past weekend in Denver. I missed the band due to my travel and didn’t want to let this tour pass without catching them. I heard nothing but great things about the set and the production and all the cool old stuff they were playing. If this is the last Rush tour as a lifelong fan I had to see it! So I flew to Denver for the sole purpose of seeing a band I grew up with on what appears to be a well deserved victory lap tour celebrating 40 years of amazing music. It’s important to note that like most fans of any band I certainly would not say I love every era of Rush. But I have massive respect for all of it and how they did things on their own terms and essentially built one of the biggest cult bands in music history. A cult that somehow FINALLY got the mainstream recognition in recent years with the Rolling Stone cover, HOF, etc. But if you are a true Rush fan these things are nice, but really we knew what everyone else is just discovering all along; Rush rules! And the reasons why they rule are many. Who else keeps the same band together 41 years? Who else makes music that fans embrace fully, played brilliantly, and never compromised for radio. What other trio can generate that much music, all real and extremely honest? Few bands have the connection to their fans like Rush. Why? Because they are three amazing musicians who are also real relatable people. Never putting themselves above the fans and never resorting to the trends of the business that make fans feel like they are being fleeced. Rush isn’t playing the Farewell Tour card. Why? Because its just not a Rush thing to do, and they don’t know what they are going to do next. And they are pretty much one of the most honest and transparent bands out there at their level. They also have an amazing sense of humor, which if you follow closely (just watch any of the recent concert videos!) resonates throughout. It is beyond special what these guys have been able to achieve. How many headliners do you go see where there are 2 openers and the main band does 65 minutes? Rush has no opener, still packs an arena, and plays 3 hours! If this is the final tour I have never seen a band go out as strong.
Rush are performing a set which I’m sure you have heard by now goes backward in time. Now that sounds cool but it has to be seen to be believed. When I say goes backwards I mean EVERYTHING goes backwards! The set changes after each era while the band is playing to reflect what the stage looked like at that time. Right down to the instruments, amps, amp heads, lighting. It is an amazing work of production art. By the time it ends with encores from the first albums the set resembles a high school gym with the amps on chairs. The sound and lighting are perfect. The playing as perfect as you would imagine from Rush. No need to state the brilliance of Neil, that’s well documented and obvious. Alex on the other hand may be one of musics most underrated players. He is a master that often gets overlooked I feel in the discussion of all time greats. But the real revelation for me was Geddy. He will be the first to tell you in recent years singing some of the high pitched stuff has been a struggle. But what I saw Saturday in Denver was stunning. In a show that turns back the clock, Geddy appeared to turn his own clock back 30 years! And I’m not talking about some freaky plastic surgery! He is in amazing shape and bouncing around the stage like a man half his age during a 3 hour set. But what really stunned me was his voice. I have not heard him sing this well live in decades. Even the ultra high “Lakeside Park” sung perfect in it’s original key. And that song is 41 years old! The more recent “Headlong Flight” featured vocal acrobatics I couldn’t believe I was hearing. It was that good and put the entire thing way over the top. The songs touched on every era. For me highlights were “Headlong Flight”, “Far Cry”, “Animate”, “Distant Early Warning”, “Xanadu”, “Natural Science”, “Jacobs Ladder”, “Cygnus”, and a cool arrangement of “2112”, and pretty much everything else earlier. The video segments were hysterical as always and very clever. My favorite was the very end where the band is shown trying to get into it’s dressing room after the show but it’s occupied by the characters from the covers of their albums, including the puppet from the Farewell To Kings album who opens the door. If you catch a show do NOT leave early and watch this. It is great classic Rush!
I had the very special opportunity to watch the band soundcheck and also hung with Geddy and Alex (Neil does his usual run out right when the show ends) after the show. Geddy told me changes to his diet has really helped his voice as well as 36 hours of rest (as in not talking at all) before show days. It shows big time! I also interviewed Alex for about 20 minutes before the show. I think you guys will enjoy this and Alex does address the potential future of the band. This will premiere in my syndicated FM show this weekend (starting on Q104.3 NYC and WAAF Boston 11PM ET this Friday, both stations stream) and on all affiliates over the weekend. The complete audio will then be in my podcast posting 7/23, free to all as usual on Itunes or at www.podcastone.com . I’ve been lucky to have done lots of stuff with Rush over the last 20 years. I’ve interviewed all of them many times even before That Metal Show for VH1 Classic, including an hour once with Neil. Geddy has been on TMS twice, Alex once. Countless radio stuff too. Always the nicest most regular people you could meet. I can’t tell you how many bands we all love that don’t actually like each other. We all hear of the politics, ego, in fighting, money and credit battles, battles over name ownership, merch. It is everywhere and has become the norm. None of this you ever hear about Rush ever. Another reason why Rush rules. I want to stress that what I am writing would be the same exact review I would write if I paid for a ticket and sat in the rafters. Anyone who follows my history knows I don’t ever pull punches. Hell I heard all about it from the Rush faithful when I said I didn’t like the 80’s synth period (which Alex agreed with by the way haha, watch the doc!). I don’t know if this is the last tour, Rush doesn’t really know yet. But as you will hear in the Alex interview there are still more projects and maybe shows to come. But do yourself a favor, see this show at all costs if you were ever a fan. I flew almost halfway across the country to catch it and I am so happy I did! Hell I’m almost considering a quick trip to Vegas for one more it was so good. And if it is the end I have never seen a band go out in better form, with a cooler show, and with the amazing level of class and dignity that has been a hallmark of their entire career. Thank you Geddy, Alex and Neil and congratulations on 40 amazing years and counting. Simply stated Rush rules!
PS: Special thanks to Meg, Andy, Donovan and all at SRO as well for the hospitality.