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–RUSH: Live at Van Andel Arena, Grand Rapids, Mich., 06-30-13

Rush 2013 tour

–RUSH: Live at Van Andel Arena, Grand Rapids, Mich., 06-30-13

We have all heard the pithy cliche: the only things one can count on in life are death, taxes and cockroaches. And Lemmy will outlast them all, permanently planted on his favorite stool at the Rainbow Bar And Grill while drinking whiskey and playing his computer slots game, or whatever it is. Mr. Kilmister is the man, indeed. But there is another timeless, invincible entity that cannot be thwarted or killed, and that is Rush. The band, that is.

Yes, the inimitable Canadian power trio is still drinking from that proverbial fountain of youth four decades into their career. While they have been labeled everything from “hard rock” to “prog rock” to “metal” to the Tooth Fairy (alright, may NOT the Tooth Fairy), Rush is one of that rare bands whose music is truly beyond classification. The fact that drummer Neil Peart, guitarist Alex Lifeson and bassist/vocalist Geddy Lee are still delivering their music to their rabid fan base at an extremely high level is nothing short of awe-inspiring. Last month’s Rush show right here in Grand Rapids was no exception, though they introduced some changes this time around that may have left some heads a-scratching.

First off, Rush’s 2013 “Clockwork Angels Tour” was billed as a showcase for their most recent 2012 release, to the point that they would be playing most of the new album live. On hand for that live performance was the “Clockwork Angels String Ensemble,” as well as a whole slew of turn-of-the-century, steampunk-style video images and stage props (such as the infinite popcorn machine) that were as colorful and artful as they were bizarre. As usual, the show consisted of two full hour-plus sets, and “This Evening With Rush” concept always provides the fans with more than our money’s worth.

Secondly, the setlist, aside from the Clockwork Angels portion of the show, of course, was as diverse and unpredictable as that any of the classic touring acts. This stands in direct contrast to say, Iron Maiden, who generally play the same five “old” songs every tour. Sure, the early obligatory ‘80s hits such as “Limelight,” “The Spirit of Radio,” “YYZ” and encore opener “Tom Sawyer” were on grand display, much to the joy of the jam-packed Van Andel Arena crowd. Additionally, during “YYZ” victorious Grand Rapids Griffins hockey players brought their Calder Cup championship trophy out onto the stage to riotous applause from the hometown fans.

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But the set eschewed nearly all of Rush’s 1970s albums in favor of the synth-heavy ‘80s cuts and more obscure tracks from the early ‘90s. For example, Rush opened the show with the iconic synthesizer riff to “Subdivisions,” and this infectious crowd-pleaser was followed with more of the light-weight ’80s songs such as “Big Money,” “Force Ten,” and “Grand Designs,” among others. This is not to imply that these songs were in any way inferior or performed badly; it’s just a matter of personal taste in terms of their catalog. It seems that Rush is focusing almost exclusively on a certain era of their history with this first set of their show, and the head-banging fans, like myself, are missing out on hearing songs such as “Working Man,” “Fly By Night,” “Bastille Day,” “Passage to Bangkok,” “Xanadu,” “Farewell to Kings,” “Hemispheres,” “The Trees,” “La Villa Strangiato,” etc. Yes, I realize Rush has many albums to draw from and only so much time to play, and choosing a fair setlist must be an unenviable and daunting task. Fans of their heavier and more progressive older material would just prefer a more balanced setlist, that’s all.

That being said, Rush is still Rush, and their performance was flawless and professional. Reports of Lee’s voice having lost its range and luster are greatly exaggerated, as his vocals were right on point all night long. His bass playing is still technically staggering yet impassioned, while Lifeson effortlessly plied the guitar riffs and solos with a three-mile smile permanently implanted on his face. And Peart, the veritable Shakespeare of rock drumming and lyric-writing, dazzled the audience with no less than three (yes, three) drum jaw-dropping drum solos. As for the Clockwork Angels portion of the second set, Rush perhaps scored the most brownie points here for song choices. Although many fans lament it when classic bands feature a whole slew of new material in concerts, in this case Rush had the last laugh. These heavy, riff-driven and uplifting songs invoked plaintive reflection and high energy from the audience, and I applaud the band for taking such a bold step in their show. The Clockwork Angels String Ensemble, in turn, added a lush symphonic touch that melded these fantastic songs with the dazzling video imagery on screen.

As for that missing-in-action 1970s material? Rush closed the show with Parts I, II and VII of “2112,” which got the fists pumping and blood raging hard. All nitpicking aside, how should this 2013 live incarnation of Rush be remembered? To quote the timeless words of Randall “Pink” Floyd in Dazed and Confused, this Rush concert was “the top priority of the summer.”–Jonathan Kollnot

–Approximate Setlist: 1.) Subdivisions 2.) The Big Money 3.) Force Ten 4.) Grand Designs 5.) Limelight 6.) Territories 7.) The Analog Kid 8.) Bravado 9.) Where’s My Thing (including drum solo) 10.) Far Cry

(Set 2, with Clockwork Angels String Ensemble) 11.) Caravan 12.) Clockwork Angels 13.) The Anarchist 14.) Carnies 15.) The Wreckers 16.) Headlong Flight (including drum solo) 17.) Halo Effect (w/ guitar solo intro) 18.) Seven Cities of Gold 19.) The Garden 20.) Manhattan Project 21.) Drum Solo (The Percussor) 22.) Red Sector A 23.) YYZ 24.) The Spirit of Radio. Encore: 25.) Tom Sawyer 26.) 2112 Part I: Overture 27.) 2112 Part II: The Temples of Syrinx 28.) 2112 Part VII: Grand Finale

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~ by jonnyboyrocker on July 30, 2013.

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