I am not a Rush fan. In fact over the years I actively disliked them, refusing to listen to anything. If I’m honest it was never fair or founded on anything whatsoever. I don’t know why; simply can’t explain it* – perhaps at some point in my younger years I saw a Rush album cover I didn’t like the look of and simply decided that the band weren’t for me.
I was asked about six months previous to go along to this show with a friend who really wanted to see them, and knowing my love of live music thought I’d go with him. Of course I would; I love live music and seeing a new band always intrigues me.
This is when it started. First off, the tour was called “The Time Machine Tour”, and secondly it was announced they would play their Moving Pictures album in its entirety. Well that would be a good place to start then; the Moving Pictures album. I genuinely knew nothing by Rush. My friend insisted I must know “Tom Sawyer” and “The Spirit of Radio” and also insisted in singing them to me. I didn’t know them!
Over the course of the preceding six months before the gig I started listening Rush. At first I really hated it, then Moving Pictures started to make sense to me and I was beginning to enjoy it. The rest of their material was so vast and if I’m honest – long – that it was hard to pick up on individual tracks. It all melded into one, and this started to make me worry about going to the show.
The wonderful Setlist.fm had been instrumental in helping me prepare for the show; Rush were playing for just shy of 3 hours(!) and hadn’t changed the setlist in a year. I knew which songs I was going to hear, and after a week of listening to that we were heading to the venue.
Once arrived, there was a real air of expectation; something I’ve not felt at a gig for a long time. “Rush must be something extra special live, or their fans are rabid obsessionals” I told myself. The lights dropped, a wave of excitement washed over the 9,000 fans and a giant video screen started to show a peculiar film.
Basically the film told the ‘true story of Rush’. Apparently in an alternative reality Rush were a second-rate venue band called Rash which played in a Diner (the owner played by bassist Geddy Lee). A patron of the Diner had a machine which could change the sound of the band, and after much experimentation (and hilarious changes and style interpretations of “The Spirit of Radio”) a sound (the familiar Rush sound) was agreed upon and this is where the Time Machine was started up. More video hilarity with Rush playing as Cavemen, in Space suits, as babies, etc. and then they were on stage playing “The Spirit of Radio”.
I have to say, the sound was immaculate. Boy they can play; I was so impressed with them. Everything sounded just exactly as it does on record. Alex Lifeson played amazing, quickly changing riffs. Geddy Lee’s bass was immense. I particularly loved the ‘clickety-click, crunchy-cruch’ sounds he managed to produce from the instrument. A bit Steve Harris, a little Cliff Burton, all Geddy Lee. Neil Peart behind a massive, all-encompassing wrap-around 360 degree drum kit blew my mind on more than one occasion. A real collection of phenomenal musicians, in one room, in one band, making it look effortless.
As mentioned, I was not a huge fan, I cannot talk endlessly about the songs, their live interpretations and to anybody looking to read that I am genuinely sorry. I just can’t pretend. What I will say is that I knew or recognised easily 80% of what was played (thanks again Setlist.fm), and they were played perfectly. As accurate a facsimile of the recorded track; or better courtesy of embellishments or extended riffs.
The three hours flew by, and starting from a feeling of real dislike I walk aways knowing Rush are definitely a band I will want to see again. On top of their musicianship, what also caught me out at the show was how much of a sense of humour the band have. For some reason I always thought they would be dry and pretentious, and I couldn’t be more wrong. From the ‘Rash’ video at the start, to the closing video complete with their own “Wow! Did you see those seven girls in the front row?…seven girls at a Rush show that must be some kind of record!” comment their sense of fun was evident throughout.
In truth I was wrong about this band on so many levels, and now listening to the Playlist I made of their set, the music sounds so much more. It has grown somehow having seen them live, and with a band like Rush that is an impressive feat; in many ways their songs are huge from the start.
*Actually, thinking about it more: I once saw a photo of Geddy Lee with his weird blue-tinted round glasses and protruding nose and decided I didn’t like them, even though I’d never heard a note of their music!!