Nothing can beat a good arena rock show. It is a totally different experience than seeing a concert at a small venue put on by an act that is only known by a relative few. Not better, not worse, different.
Rush has always been able to play large venues. Their first live album, that came out after their 4th studio effort (the legendary “2112”) was recorded in Massey Hall, which was probably the last time that they played a venue so small. This was the third time that I have seen Rush live, my first time being in 1997 on their “Test for Echo” tour, which I was lucky enough to end up in the front row (don’t ask me how that happened) and then I saw them last year on the “Snakes and Arrows” tour at the same venue, only in the very cheap seats, on the 4th of July. What better way to celebrate American Independence than with 3 Canadians? Those shows and this one had almost the exact same venue: a large, outdoor ampitheater with the partially covered, bowl shaped seating arrangement, pretty common. The view from the lawn seats at the Molson in Toronto is much better than the one I saw them at the first 2 times.
As usual with Geddy Lee and Co. there is no opening band. The show is nearly 3 hours of just Rush, which is enough to satisfy their rabid fans. This being a hometown show for them I was particularly excited about seeing them. It appeared that the band was having a good time too, as this was the most animated I’ve seen them. There usually isn’t too much in-between song banter, but there was a touch this time as Geddy gave us a taste of his “true Canadian accent” with the requisite “eh?” and “give’r” and what have you.
The set contained a pretty good retrospective of their entire career. From memory they played (though not in this order):
Tom Sawyer, Red Barchetta, YYZ, The Trees, the first two parts of 2112, Digital Man, Beneath the Wheels (awesome!), Where’s my Thing?, The Larger Bowl, Armor and Sword, One Little Victory, Workin’ them Angels, Ghost of a Chance, Dreamline, Witch Hunt, Limelight (I do remember this was the opener), The Spirit of Radio, and a bunch of others.
I am familiar, musically, with all of their material, but the names of some of the newer songs I don’t know. I know that they played a lot more newer material, but they did make it a point to play the classics. My friend and I discussed after the show how Rush is in a unique position from other current rock bands. They have managed to be active for 30 years and still are able to go on tour and not be viewed as “dinosaurs” or a museum type act like so many other bands that started at the same time as them. Styx is currently, as far as I’m concerned, a joke and a retrospective tribute band of themselves, as is Journey, Boston, Yes, Jethro Tull and countless others.
Rush is an arena rock band. That is what they do. They have been able to do it without selling their souls, or being overly or stereotypically “commercial”. Instead of letting the term “commercial” define them they choose, so it seems, to define the term for themselves. Throughout all their albums their sounds has evolved, significantly. They started by sounding like a bar band, developed into a prog-art rock band with songs that took up entire sides of albums, then they began creating 5 minute rock tunes that were extremely memorable in their own style. In the 80’s they delved into icy waters by taking a turn towards the realms of adult contemporary music, but then ushered themselves into the 90’s by becoming heavier, and still keeping their edgy sound they left off with 15 years prior. Throughout all this their fans remained with them, and in concert all of these songs can be played back to back seamlessly. They have always been true to themselves and I believe that that is truly shown in their music. There is a reason why they are a long lasting act as well as a top-selling act.
Unfortunately cameras were not allowed in the venue and although I had mine with me I did not remove it from my pocket from fear of it being taken away by a security guard. The videos that I present below are from the July 4, 2007 concert from Darien Lake (near Buffalo) New York.
“What about the voice of Geddy Lee? How did it get so high? I wonder if he speaks like an ordinary guy…”