Sunday, September 2, 2007

Rush in concert: a rockin' compromise

By Rick Morris

It's always an interesting experience to hear a legendary band in their hometown or an adopted hometown. As with Bruce Springsteen, Rush was able to break into the mainstream of American music at least partly due to the rabid support of the then-influential radio station WMMS in Cleveland in the '70s and the Cleveland market has supported them wildly ever since. Having seen Rush three times in concert, but not since 1994, I was determined to see them on their Snakes & Arrows tour this year and gauge how some of their most devoted fans would react to them now.

As listeners of The FDH Lounge program know, I loudly decried the content of the Rush album released in May. We the loyal fans of the group waited years for the release, only to be greeted by one admittedly great song in Far Cry, a good instrumental in Malignant Narcissism, and a fetid load of filler rounding out the disc. So when I and new drag racing correspondent Jeff Weber acquired tickets for the August 30 show at Blossom Music Center in Cuyahoga Falls, Ohio, we were hoping against hope for mostly "the good old stuff."

We didn't get everything we wanted, but the compromise seemed agreeable to all.

Geddy and the boys did play just about the entire new album, but gave us several of the chestnuts we were hoping for along the way in this 26-song endeavor. The new songs received little in the way of reaction except for the aforementioned two -- and with the obligatory Neil Peart drum solo in that instrumental, the crowd did go bananas. As usual, Rush came with a state-of-the art light-and-video-screens presentation and we were treated to overhead shots of Peart with his massive drum set at many points along the way.

Here were the old songs, in the order in which they were played: Limelight, Mission (a personal favorite as Weber and I are two of the few to really enjoy the Hold Your Fire album),
Freewill, Circumstances (a surprise selection from Hemispheres), Dreamline, Subdivisions, Natural Science, Xanadu, Summertime Blues (an excellent cover which I am happy to own), Spirit of Radio and Tom Sawyer prior to the encore, which consisted of One Little Victory, A Passage to Bangkok and YYZ. Prior to Tom Sawyer, we were treated on the video screens to this South Park parody version of the song with Cartman in rare form. The crowd erupted with the delight you would have anticipated for this gem.

In fairness to Rush, even the new material which I found lacking (and judging by the indifference of the crowd, I wasn't the only one) sounded much better live than on the CD, so even that wasn't a complete waste. But the material from their unmatched catalog was the real draw of the evening and getting to hear such a great sampling of their past hits made sitting through the rest of the evening worthwhile. Judging by the comments I heard on the way out, that seemed an accurate representation of what most in the crowd thought as well. If you are a big Rush fan, and it seems that most people are either huge fans of the group or not into them at all, you will probably find their efforts on the current tour worthwhile and I urge you to check them out.

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