My First Series- The Tragically Hip Fully Completely

As the Hip fans that have followed this series can tell you, there was a shift in the order of the albums from start to finish. The Woodstock  ’99 was out of place, and then there were a few days of no submissions. Again, there is a method to my madness. All will be revealed tomorrow. As for today, we are back in the proper order. The next album that should have followed up Road Apples is Fully Completely. If you asked 100 Hip fans what their favourite Hip album is, I can bet that Fully Completely would hold the largest amount of votes, perhaps winning by a small percentage, but coming on top.

This album had a new producer, Chris Tsangrides. He was most famous at the time for producing great metal albums, so perhaps The Hip were looking for a heavier sound on this album. A few things about the artwork and packaging on this album. I love it and hate it. I hate the song order(or lack thereof) on the back cover. To find out what song is next you have to scan all of the songs in a half moon shape and look for the next number. They are not in number. Often the song has started before you know the title. I know them all by heart now, but still frustrating. The lyrics are possibly even worse. The songs are listed on one side of the inside sleeve, but in no order, and often the lyrics blend into other songs. Again, I know the lyrics off by heart, but it took a while to figure them out the first number of listens. The part I love is the artwork. It is an artist rendition of women dancing with breasts hanging out of their tops. It took me quite a while to figure out the band members were in there as well.

Courage(for Hugh Maclennan). This song was inspired by Hugh MacLennan, and namely for his novel The Watch That Ends The Night. In his novel, Maclennan was relaying that our life is a series of opportunities gained or lost through chance. Also related to the song is how Maclennan was often seen by the press and the public in his home country, Canada. He felt that the public wanted him to write what they felt was familiar, and not attempt anything new. Gord Downie read The Watch That Ends The Night on the Road Apples tour, and the novel and McLennan himself struck a chord. Downie could relate to this when fans only wanted to hear familiar songs, and how he, like Maclennan, felt homesick, even at home. The song itself musically and vocally is excellent. Another Gord Downie history lesson, and also the lesson, like in the novel to carry on, no matter what curveballs life throws at you.

Looking For a Place To Happen. “I’ve got a job, I explore.” and “Jaques Cartier. Right this way. Hey man you’ve got a real bums eye for clothes.” Another history lesson about a famous explorer, and possibly about being a free spirit, travelling the world. Great guitar, rhythmic drums and singing about burning bags of shit. What is not to like.

At the Hundredth Meridian. Switching from history to geography, telling us about “where the Great Plains begin”. Awesome guitar effects, great vocal harmonies. Then the instruments go quiet and Gord Downie rhymes off his poetic license. When the sound again pick up Gord asks us to “Get Ry Cooder to sing my eulogy” I must admit, I did not know who Ry Cooder was before this song, but any song that can introduce people to this magical musician is awesome in my books.

Pigeon Camera. I had never heard of this type of camera before. An actual camera that was strapped to a pigeon to take aerial photographs. However, this song seems to have nothing to do with the camera itself. It may be about a pigeon the Downie family trained, or about some family matters that he doesn’t want to elaborate. A slower song with a very pulsing beat, and great vocal harmonies.

Lionized. ” I can’t draw but I can trace” I can totally relate Gord. “Cold wind blowing over your private parts.” My guess is the song is about drawing a naked model. Unfortunately, I can’t relate to that, as I never took any art classes. Incessant, fast pulsing drum beat, and a guitar riff just a hair slower make for a good beat.

Locked in the Trunk of a Car. Now we’re getting to the meat of the album. This song is f*cking brilliant. I could put the entire song in quotes instead of small bits and pieces to show you how awesome it is. I suggest to pick up the album and read the lyrics as you listen, and enjoy. The song is another history lesson in a way. The song was inspired by the real life kidnapping and murder of Pierre Laporte during the 1970 October Crisis in Quebec.

We’ll Go Too. Great riffing from Langlois and Baker. Not a great song, but very good.

Full Completely. One of the best Hip riffs ever, stretching from 1:26 in to around the 3:00 mark.  The drums continue to pick up the pace until they are at a rapid pace near the end of the song. All the while Gord is using his best ability, his voice to perfection.

Fifty Mission Cap. Any song that has the words ” The last goal he ever scored, won the Leafs the Cup.” will win me over anytime. As a long suffering Leaf fan, it has been over 45 years since they last won. This song is about one of their better players from the heyday, and how he was lost in a float plane accident. The 50 mission cap refers to a wartime bomber pilots hat. After 50 missions he was allowed “work it in to look like that” Like many Hip songs this tells more than one story, and the music and vocals are all top notch. Great song.

Wheat Kings. Quite possibly the best song to play on acoustic while sitting around a fire. Just an awesome song. My wife’s friend had a buddy perform this at her wedding, and I was so jealous. A story about a 16 year old David Milgaard being wrongfully concicted for murder. The term wheat kings represents the grain elevators so present in western Canada, where the story takes place.

The Wherewithal. Another really good, but not great song. Great guitar. Great drumming, just overall one slight step behind many of the others on this album.

Eldorado. A lot of rhyming and repeating on this song, but it all works. “Tired of thinking about drinking, for thinking of drinking, while thinking about drinking, and thinking about drinking.” just seems to make sense, and not seem repetitive. I’m not sure how, but I assume it is the awesome presentation.

Overall an awesome album. 2 lesser-than songs that were a mere sliver away from perfect. I am not sure why Chris Tsangrides was not able to squeeze at least a metal-like song out of the band. Robbie Baker actually did some more sludge metal type riffing on the last album than on this one. Not that the production is not awesome, and the album did well on the charts, and sold well. Many of the songs are on regular FM radio play rotation to this day, so that can’t be all bad.



My First Series-The Tragically Hip-Woodstock 99 Bootleg

This is part of my first series and it is the first bootleg I purchased, and the first I reviewed. The quality of the sound is top rate, however being recorded by an amateur, there are some recording issues. It is almost like it was recorded by one the sound guys at the show, and we unfortunately get to hear the headphone chatter between the sound guys and engineers. Since there was no official release by The Hip, this is as good as it gets.

For those that know The Hip discography, we skipped some, but there is a method to my madness. All will be revealed by the end of this series.

Woodstock 99 was a huge black eye on music back in the day. It will always be remembered as one of the worst festivals of all time. Most of the music was good, but the greed, deplorable conditions, and lack of security made for a nightmare of epic proportions. Imagine 250,000 pissed off people re-enacting Lord of the Flies complete with looting, rapes, assaults, destruction and fires. Lots and lots of fires.

I remember watching the MuchMusic coverage of the event. Ed the sock and Sook-Yin Lee broadcast live at the event.

The Tragically Hip performed on the morning of Saturday July 24th 1999. The crowd had a large Canadian contingent, as most Americans do not know who The Hip are. All of the reports I read from the event described the Hip performance that day as one of the better acts at Woodstock 99. My bootleg copy only lists 11 songs, even though it was a 12 song set. The cd fails to list song 5, Springtime in Vienna.

Grace Too. It seems like something is missing as soon as this song starts. Ok, there is no bass. Part way through the song it kicks in. It must have been a technical glitch. Gord Downie makes up numerous rants, “I’m getting a message from beyond. we crossed when the lake was frozen. Like exiles. From the Canada’s of your soul.”

Fully Completely. This sounds so much better with bass. This is a great bass song too. No rant needed in this song. When you have lyrics like ” I ponder the endlessness of the stars. Ignoring said same of my father. Either it’ll move me. Or it’ll move right through me. Fully. Completely.”

Fire Works. Listening to this and watching the video clip I got a flashback to Stompin’ Tom. Gord Downie grabs a guitar for this one, and the way his stance is, the pitch of his voice, the way his face looks, and the pronunciation of some of his words in a down east accent. They were all Stompin’ Tom trademarks for me. All he needed were cowboys boots and an old board.

Gift Shop. The rant about going down the Grand Canyon and having to gut the burrows to stay warm happens before the song even starts. Usually Gord doesn’t go off on a tangent until halfway though a song. Great guitar work, but the only thing is the background vocals are a little off.

Springtime In Vienna. Starts with Gord doing some goofy dancing. Great musicianship on this one. Firing on all cylinders. I was happy to find out the labelling was wrong and this highly underrated song was actually on the set.

Bobcaygeon. I love the line “Coulda been the Willie Nelson. Coulda been the wine” Slower tune that just oozes Canadiana. It makes me think of sitting around a campfire, having a few beers and then someone shows up with a guitar and starts playing this. A really feel good song.

Nautical Disaster. Gord starts off by saying “This is a Gordon Lightfoot song(it isn`t). And then“I will remain motionless, if you need a target.“ I laughed when I heard him say that. I had read that some assholes were throwing stuff on the stage all weekend. This song is about the sinking of the Bismarck in WW2, and the sailors deadly fate. Another Hip history lesson.

Poets. Robby Baker has the guitar tuned a little different at the start of this song. It sounds more Angus Young like, but I like the subtle difference. It slowly morphs back into the normal sound of this song. Great song. A little ad lib lyrics, a lot of awesome music.

Courage. Again the guitar sounds a little different. I had read the Robby Baker changed from Les Paul to a Reverend guitar in the 90’s. Maybe that is the subtle sound I am hearing. Part way through the song Gord Downie lays down along the tracks at the front of the stage where the mobile camera rides on. He says `Tie me up. It`s adds to the drama.“ I laughed again. Then he was riding the microphone stand like a chopper. He is quite possibly the goofiest, and funniest lead singer I have had the pleasure of seeing many times.

Ahead by a Century. Unique song in which Gord Downie and Robbie Baker play acoustic, and Paul Langlois kicks in near the end of the song with his electric. The background lyrics are a little off on this one as well.

New Orleans is Sinking. This is the Hip fans wait for during a live performance because we know Gord will go off on a rant of epic proportions. Different guitar tone again. Gord throws in some stuff from his solo stuff. “It`s not the end of the world of course. It`s just a Vancouver divorce.“ This version was good, but not nearly as awesome as the Killer Whale Tank version, so I will include that here instead.

Fire in The Hole. Gord kept repeating It`s the song I hate at the start of this song, then went into full on rambling. He reminded me of Murdoch on the A team. Gord needed B.A. to come on stage and say “What you talkin` `bout fool“

This bootleg suffers from poor quality that would have been edited out, and some background singing that was a little off. But overall The Hip put on a great show. The rants, lyrics, and the sound were all awesome.

For the performance itself I would rate as 9/10 but for the bootleg cd


My First Series-The Tragically Hip-Road Apples

I grabbed this cd off the shelf and opened it up. “OK. WHO DIDN’T PUT THE CD BACK IN THE CASE” I yelled. No answer. I knew who she was though. There is almost nothing I hate worse in this world than cd’s put back in the wrong case. Oh well. I guess it will be a couple of firsts. My first series combined with my first cassette review.

When I first bought this album I mainly played the first 2 songs and played them over and over. I’m not sure why. Maybe because they were so damn good, or perhaps because the last album was so good there was no way this one would be nearly as awesome. Back in those days, I had a really bad habit of buying albums for the hits and only playing those songs. The first 2 songs on this albums were the popular singles. I would have missed out on a hell of a lot if I had only listened to those songs.

Little Bones. “The long days of Shockley are gone. So is football Kennedy style. Famous last words taken all wrong. Wind up on the very same pile.” Shockley was responsible for starting Silicon Valley among other numerous accomplishments, and football Kennedy style is a simpler time with no padding or helmets. Great driving beat. The song lyrics mix history lessons with happy hour and eating chicken slow. Nice opener.

Twist My Arm. If anyone thought the band did not have a bass player since he may have been foreshadowed on previous songs, Gord Sinclair perks up and lets us know he can be slappin’ da bass with the best of ’em, mon. Also, great guitar work as usual.

Cordelia. Great song. I’m still not sure why this was not a single, but very glad I finally decided to give it and the rest of the album a fair shake.

The Luxury. There is that bass again. Maybe the rest of the band unplugged the bass on the previous albums so that Gord did not make them look bad. Now that the cat is out of the bag, he wants to let it shine. Gord Downie also has that growl that makes you sit up and take notice.

Born In The Water. Great guitar work. Kind of a Southern Rock diddy.

Long Time Running. Amazing guitar echo. One note echoes numerous times as if this was recorded in a cave. A slower song with a little bit of rockabilly goodness “I’ll drop a caribou. I’ll tell on you.” This lyric confused me for years. I’m still not sure I know the meaning. The best I can figure is like dropping a dime on someone, or putting a dime in a payphone to tell the cops. The Canadian quarter has a caribou, and payphones were a quarter, so that is my guess. The Hip lyrics are definitely thinking mans lyrics.

Bring it All Back. A slower groove with great drumming and guitar work. Fuzzy guitar, wah pedal, groovy goodness.

Three Pistols. Another history lesson about one of the Group of Seven. Every time I see one of his paintings, I think of this song. I also think of this song when I want a f*cking awesome groove with some wah pedal wocka wocka wocka wocka(that’s how it sounds to me).

Fight. Did someone introduce Rob Baker to the guitar effects half way though this album? Before the last 3 songs he was more straight up guitar goodness, but with the effects mixed in he is the complete package. Clapton, Bonamassa or Trucks would all be proud to call this one of their songs. The bass is groovy, the lyrics are growly, and the drums are spot on.

On the Verge. Great lead mixed with background vocals. Pulsing drums and bass. Great lead and rhythm.

Fiddler’s Green. Nice acoustic change. Kind of reminds me of music from the East coast of Canada. Lyrics quiet but powerful in a Gordon Lightfoot kind of way. When the electric guitar chimes in it has a twangy feel to it that suits the song.

The Last of the Unplucked gems. Gord Downie is very subdued on this song. This is a good song to end the album with. Not a bad song, but not awesome either.

Don Smith did another great job on production. Great musicianship, great lyrics, great vocals. Just a slight notch below the album before it.


My First Series-The Tragically Hip-Up To Here

The second album came with a new producer and a new attitude. I honestly am not sure how a young band from a small town in Ontario could lure Don Smith into producing this album. I mean he had just worked on albums by Travelling Wilburys, U2, Tom Petty, Bob Dylan, Stevie Nicks in the last year alone, and had 25 years experience. Perhaps because the Hip gave him free reign. He was the audio engineer, audio producer, engineer, mixer and album producer. In other words, he was the shit. This influx of great talent was what made this album be all it could be. Coming from a sound engineer background, Smith was able to increase the volume on the bass and drums, taking them from elevator music to pure rock. He let the rhythm guitar have a sound of it’s own. He let Robby Baker do what he does best, and that is shred masterfully. I would say he is one of, if not the most underrated guitarists in music today. Quite possibly, in the top 5 or 10 best Canadian guitarists of all time. Finally we have Gord Downie. He showed glimpses in the first EP where the beast was trying to get out, but on this album he is allowed not only to get out, but to thrive. So we have a better producer, better sound, amazing instruments at proper volume, better writing, an unleashed beast, and a boatload of confidence. Sounds like a recipe for a great album.

This album was my first cd purchase ever, so it has a real soft spot in my heart, but all credit is earned

Blow at High Dough. Starts off kind of quiet with a mix of cymbals, rhythm, and Gord singing in the lower octaves. For 40 seconds of this album, some may have felt it was going to be a repeat of the first EP. At the 40 second mark, the blaring Fender Strat and the growl prove this record will be different, and awesome.

I’ll Believe in You(Or I’ll be leaving you tonight) is a clever well written song about a wife that has had enough of her cheating husband. It has a part in the middle that would foreshadow Gord’s penchant for telling a story during the middle of the song during a live set.

New Orleans is Sinking. Awesome lyrics. “Bourbon blues on the street, loose and complete. Under skies all smoky blue green. I can’t forsake a Dixie dead shake. So we danced the sidewalk clean. My memory is muddy, what’s this river that I’m in. New Orleans is sinkin’ man, and I don’t wanna swim.” It brings me right back to New Orleans, every time. Shortly after Hurricane Katrina, radio stations in Canada stopped playing the song out of respect for the victims, but it slowly found its way back into regular airplay, and has been a staple in rock radio since it came out.

38 Years Old. A gripping story told by Gord Downie in the first person about his sister being raped, his brother killing the rapist and being in prison. “He’s 38 years old, never kissed a girl.” The song hit a little too close to home as Gord does actually have a brother named Mike, and many fans believed the events to be actual. They left condolences at the family home, and said they were sorry at concerts. The Hip stopped playing the song live for a ling time due to this, which is a shame as it is a really great song.

She Didn’t Know. Great harmony between lead and background vocals.

Boots or Hearts. Has a bit of a country twang to mix it up a bit. Not an annoying twang, more of a 70’s country rock feel.

Every Time You Go. More great vocal harmonies. More great guitar work. “My girl don’t just walk. She unfurls.”

When the Weight Comes Down. This song is kind of haunting and I can’t get it’s meaning. I am not sure if it is a child that has died, a woman he can never have, or the story of Adam and Eve. “In my dreams a candy coated train comes to my door. With a little girl…..I can’t have anymore. You know a letter washes up to the shore. That I cannot read and I should probably ignore.

Trickle Down. Great song. I assume the trickle down is beer coming out of the tap. “Lining up. Waiting on the trickle down.”

Another Midnight. Has a bit of Blue Rodeo-54/40 sound to it. Story of a dying coal miner wanting to see another midnight, dreaming of youth. The song is focused on the happy parts of the miner’s life, so is not a downer.

Opiated. A song about huffing gas and not caring if you live or die.

Overall, not one filler on this album. I have no problems with any part from writing, recording or production. Such a drastic jump between the first EP and the first album.


My First Series-The Tragically Hip-Self Titled EP

Over the next week or so I will be reviewing The Tragically Hip albums, with a live one and a bootleg thrown in for good measure.

Growing up in a small town in Southern Ontario in the 80’s involved a lot of bush parties. Usually I knew every song that was played at the party. Often metal and hard rock. Often the host of the party had the same 50 or so albums as the host of the next party. One party I still vividly recall walking by a group of people with my girlfriend at the time, and I stopped in my tracks. I hung out with a group of strangers soaking the music in. My girlfriend wanted to leave, but I wasn’t going anywhere. This music was awesome. Who in the Hell was this. I was stumped. Everyone I asked didn’t know either. I finally found the owner. He brought this tape by a band called The Tragically Hip. He said he saw them and they put on an awesome show. I vowed that I must get everything I can from this band.

The Hip released their Self Titled EP. It was a 7 SONG EP. It wasn`t until years later that I found out they had 8 songs on the cd, so I had to have this as well. This review will be for the 8 song cd. The EP was produced by Ken Greer, the keyboardist/steel pedal player from Red Rider.

Small Town Bringdown. Great early Hip. Catchy tune. Drums and bass are not loud enough for my liking, and the guitar work is tuned a little high for me. But great vocals and backgreound vocals.

Last American Exit. Another catchy tune. Great background vocals. Simple lyrics. It kind of reminds me of a 54-40/Hip song. Check out the hair on Gord Downie in the video below.

Killing Time. Early glimpse of the Gord Downie we will soon come to realize. He has a growl and angst that were missing from the first two catchy songs. Basic drum and bass. In fact I had the bass cranked and could hardly hear it. Subdued guitar that gets better as the song progresses.

Evelyn. Sort of a throw back song. Reminds me of a song that would have been playing on a jukebox back in the 50`s or early 60`s. Basic lyrics but good harmony.

Cemetery Sideroad. Better guitar. More substance to the lyrics. Good beat. Good harmony. Gord starts to raise his voice a little show us the start of what is to come.

I`m a Werewolf, Baby. Fuzzy guitar. Great harmonizing. Drumming finally starting to sound good. After Werewolves of London, this is the second best Werewolf song ever, and it is really good.

Highway Girl. Great Guitar work. Great drumming(about time Johnny Fay). Gord in his wheelhouse growling, yelling, telling a story. The clip below is of the ultra rare Highway Girl live version only available to radio stations. It is commonly known by Hip fans as Double Suicide. I love when singers take liberties and tell a story during a live performance. Therefore I LOVE Gord Downie.

All Canadian Surf Club. Back to the early 60`s. Sort of a little harder version of a Beach Boys tune, sung with a slight snarl, and a scream or two.

This album suffers from poor sound. Poor mixing, mainly not enough drum and bass, simple lyrics, and simple drum beats. I wonder if since a keyboardist was the producer, he was used to asking the drummer and bassist to dial it down. I`m not sure. It was their first recording, so perhaps they had not found their groove yet, but from the report I was hearing they were already a great live band. The vocals and guitar were also dialed down, only showing glimpses of what was to come.

Overall a very good first record from a young band, showing glimpses of better things to come.


Rush R40 Concert Review-Toronto June 17 2015

Before I give my review, I will explain how I came to get the tickets. My local radio station had a contest in which 3 callers would square off against each other in a “mouth drumming” contest. The dj’s would play a clip of a Rush song and the 3 callers had to do their best Neil Peart mouth drumming rendition. The phone line was ringing. I got through. Yes. I was a shoe in to win. I can mouth drum Rush with the best of them. I even sat down and got the air drumsticks going along with the mouth drumming. I was pitted up against a lady and another dude. I went first. I went off on a tangent. I think I used all the drum parts. Bass drum, snare, hi hat, toms, cymbal, octobans, even cowbell. Then more cowbell. The dj’s loved it. The next was the female caller. When asked if she liked Rush, she said “they were ok”, and that “she may give the tickets away”. She tried her best, and instead of mouthing a cowbell sound, she said “cowbell”. NEXT. The last dude did ok. I was sure it would be between him and I, and I would prevail. Wrong. Apparently the lady who thought Rush were OK made the dj’s laugh, so she won the Rush tickets. WTF. There is nothing I hate more than people winning tickets to bands they do not love, let alone like.

The next day I was still dejected but thought I would try and call in again. I got through again. This was beginning to remind me of an episode of Trailer Park Boys. Bubbles air mouthing Rush, and Randy winning the Rush tickets.

I again was the first to go. I did an even better job today, and I threw in a Christopher Walken “More cowbell” for good luck. The second guy was good. The lady at the end said she couldn’t hear the song, they told her to try something but she didn’t. They went to a vote. 1 for me. 1 for the other dude. They would draw names. I was on hold for what seemed like forever until they let me know I won. Yessssss. When I picked up the tickets, the guy at the desk said he was going as well. He loves Rush. We talked Rush for quite some time, and wished each other a good concert. Talking Rush to me is like talking sports. Even if you don`t know someone, if they love Rush, you can talk for hours. I am sort of glad the win did not include a band meet and greet, or else there probably would have been a repeat of I Love You, Man.

I got to my wife’s work over 3 hours before the concert to pick her up. On a good day, Toronto is a little over 1 hour from her work, but I do not want to miss one second of the band. Rush announced this tour will be their last big concert tour ever, so I might never get to see them again. We fought the 401 traffic on the way to Toronto, parked at the subway station, and got on board the subway. We sat 10 rows away from a father and daughter wearing Rush t shirts. Buddy and I gave each other the head nod that acknowledged we were both part of the special group of people that love Rush. As we exited we both said nice shirt. He asked me how many Rush shirts I had. He has 11. “I have 1“, I said in a kind of embarrassed tone. After my wife and I ate some “street meat”, we asked a passer by to take our picture in front of the screen in front of the Air Canada Centre showing Rush. My wife posted it to her Facebook page, and she got more response to that post than almost any before. There was a special treat for the fans at the Canadian leg of the tour. Neil Peart`s drum set from the Hockey Hall of Fame was set up and people could pay to sit behind the kit. I just snapped a picture of some random dude and the kit, and moved on.

One of the radio personalities I listen to always makes fun of the fact that no women like Rush. He always talks about the ladies washroom line being empty at a Rush concert. In the washroom line sense he was right, but he is dead wrong that women do not like Rush. In fact, some love Rush, including my wife. That was the first concert we ever went to together, so it is a special bond we share. This was only the second time seeing Rush together, and we knew it might be our last, so we had to go.

We got to our seats and the concert had not started yet, so I was going over the setlist, and looking for any news about Rush in Toronto. I read something online about upcoming events in Toronto. One of the things was the Rush R40 concerts. The author said it would be full of dads losing their hair and wearing concert shirts from 1977. This author has no clue. Ok, I’m a dad. But, I have my A Farewell To Kings concert shirt on. Ok, wait, that was from 1977. But I am not balding. My forehead is just growing as I get older. You don`t know anything about Rush fans buddy.

Then the moment we all had been waiting for. After a short video, the curtain rises and the screams of middle aged man joy are intense. The band starts off The Anarchist and Clockwork Angels from their most recent studio album Clock Work Angels. Decent songs to get the crowd into it. Headlong Flight is next, with a drum solo in the middle. One of two in the night. Not overly long, just enough to get a taste of Neil Peart awesomeness. If anyone were thinking Neil is getting older, maybe he has lost a step, think again. He is at least as good as when I saw him over 20 years ago, maybe even better.

The next four songs continue the theme of newest studio albums down to oldest. Far Cry, The Main Monkey Business, One Little Victory, Animate. They are all good songs, but they were a lead up to what I felt would be where the best part of the show would start. From the albums Roll The Bones and previous would be the Rush I loved, especially the 1974-1982 years.

Roll the Bones was next, and it included a special video clip with rotating shots of The Trailer Park Boys, Tom Morello, Les Claypool, Peter Dinklage, Jason Segel and Paul Rudd. The audience howled and yelled approval during each shot, but none more than for the TPB.

Distant Early Warning and Subdivisions were some of the few synth era Rush songs played, and they were played to perfection. There is a short break. Time to get in the men’s toilet line again. Wait a minute. What do I see here. Family Washroom you say. One person in line. Hmmm. Do I stand behind 50 dudes or one lady. My luck I would get 1 from the front and Rush would come back on stage. Family washroom it is. C’mon. I have a family right.

The second set looked to be as close to an eargasm as I think I will ever get. Moving Pictures down to 2112. I believe Garth said it best. “Schwing”. The set started with a funny video featuring the members in various costumes, Jerry Stiller(best know as Frank Costanza), and the South Park characters in a band called Lil’ Rush, which leads to the curtain opening and Rush starting Tom Sawyer. Next is one of my favourites, Red Barchetta. This song replaced YYZ on the setlist tonight, which I was surprised at since YYZ is airport speak for Toronto, and we are in Toronto. I can almost bet they will play it on their second night show. I love cars, and any song with a racing red Italian sports car, gleaming alloy air cars, and performed by Rush will have me every time. The only thing about this song that annoyed me is the echo that they threw in after many of Geddy’s lyrics. To run the deadly race, race … another joins the chase, chase. I’m not sure why this was done, but I am glad it was only done on this song. The same thing happened at Fleetwood Mac when they ruined Second Hand News, except this is worse. Rush fans expect military like precision for every note sang and played and will cringe at any deviation. Rush, in my opinion is perhaps the tightest live band ever. No backup singers. No 3 or 4 extra musicians to hide any mistakes. These guys play like it is right off the album. And trust me, Geddy can still hit those high notes pretty well. No lowering the song a few octaves needed.

The Spirit of Radio was awesome as always, and then a song I had never heard live, Jacob’s Ladder. This is a song the band has not played in years, but it did not show. It was tight and it sounded right. Next were 2 parts to Cygnus X-1, which included the aforementioned drum solo. This drum solo was awesome, however, from where I was sitting there was an intensely bright coloured light beside the drum kit that totally obstructed my view. Kind of like the LED cop flashers on the side of a dark highway. It is all your eyes can focus on even though it is blinding. Next we have Closer To The Heart. The only thing that would have made it better for me, would have been to include the clip at the end of the TPB episode above where Bubbles learns how to play that song. I love when Bubbles sticks his face near the guitar to watch Alex play the notes. This would have been a perfect intro to the song, and the crowd would have loved it. Next was Xanadu. What a great song. Only made more great by the double neck guitar and double neck bass/guitar. These throwback instruments were only used for this song, and it was the only time I did not focus on Neil Peart at all. I was mesmerized by the awesomeness of those axes.

The last 4 songs of the second set were all parts of 2112. When the music started I felt an elation like I had never, ever felt before at a concert. I had goose bumps the size of pimples covering my entire body. I felt like I had just done a Polar Bear Plunge and this lasted for the entire 2112 four song set. It got the most intense during 2112 part II: The Temples of Syrinx, another one of my favourite songs ever. It is so awesome how music has that affect on us. The best part was the entire crowd yelling “Hey” along with Geddy at the opportune time in the song.

Another break before the encore. Hello Family Washroom. I went right in, no line, while again a line 50 dudes deep in the men’s washroom. Next was a video featuring Eugene Levy talking about how Rush opened twice for Kiss. How cool would that show have been? This video leads into the curtain opening to Lakeside Park. Great song. Always reminds me when I lived in St. Catharines for a short time in the early 90’s. Lakeside Park, so many memories. Next is Anthem. Such a great version of early Rush. Second last song is What You’re Doing, from the first s/t album. This album always reminds me of my cool uncle. He always had flashy cars, and flashy girls. He had long hair, cool bell bottoms, and the first thing I saw when I went into his room was the first Rush album. From that point on I felt that all of the cool guys listen to Rush. No matter what the doubters say, I still do. Lastly we have the song Working Man. Like the saying goes, all good things must come to an end. The guitar, bass and drum work in this song is great, and if that is perhaps the last song I ever see performed by Rush, I can die a content man. I read that the Toronto shows will be featured in an upcoming dvd(blu ray), and since I am regretting not buying the tour booklet( I am almost considering driving back to Toronto on Friday just for the booklet now), I hope they package it together. Can you say instant purchase.

This brings me to the one and only issue I had with the band itself all night. They played for 3 hours. Had an awesome setlist(which I would have revised to include even 1 more 80’s synth song, at least a few more 70’s songs, and a song or 2 less from Snakes and Arrows and Clockwork Angels, but I digress), played multiple instruments and were almost perfect. Geddy Lee was perfect. Bass, double neck bass/guitar, keyboards, singing. All perfect. Neil Peart was Neil Peart. As in, the best drummer the world has ever seen. Yes I went there. If you want to dispute feel free. John Bonham, Keith Moon, Alex Van Halen, Phil Collins, Ginger Baker, Mick Fleetwood, Buddy Rich, Dave Grohl. Sounds like the good makings of a top ten. But Neil Peart is THE best. Dave Grohl cried when he met him. I probably would too. He is that big of a drumming God. Not only did he play drums masterfully, he does a pretty good impression of a blacksmith when he hits his hammer on the chimes. Lastly we have Alex Lifeson. All I can say is that since being a Rush fan is all about perfection in music, that he was not perfect. I did notice he changed guitars a lot. I noticed that with the maple body Les Paul he was perfect. When using the double neck EDS-1275, he was perfect. But when using the other guitar(s) he was just a slight bit off. So I will chalk this up to gear, roadies, techs, or perhaps using older guitars to suit the songs he had not played in years. So Geddy Lee was 100%, Neil Peart 100%, Alex Lifeson was 99.2112%.

As for rating the show, I will knock off a 1/4 point each for slight guitar miscues, annoying echoes, song selection, and blinding light drum solos. So a total of 1 point off. But since this was probably one of, if not the best show I have ever seen, and was going to give it 11/10, I will score it a perfect 10/10.

I wrote in a previous post about regretting not going to see Dio live. If you love Rush, and have never seen them live(or even if you have), this tour might be it. It might be expensive, but I guarantee worth every penny. If I would not have won the tickets I would have went anyway, and gladly paid. I got to sing along with the band, clap along with the band, cheer, scream, whistle, play air guitar, air bass, and air drums. You can too. Do it.

2 of my favourite things

I was in the Beer Store last night and Man On The Silver Mountain came on. I can not explain the feeling of elation I felt while completely surrounded by beer, and hearing Ronnie James Dio. I was getting a few odd looks as I was singing along with the rock God.

I missed my opportunity to post about the 5 year anniversary of my favourite singer, but I will raise a beer in his honour, and include a few of my favourite songs of his.

His voice was easily in the top ten vocalists of all time, and at least on par with Bruce Dickinson or Rob Halford.

I never got the opportunity to see RJD perform live. I was invited to see him with Heaven & Hell when they came to Toronto. But I remember saying “Next Time“. Of course there was no next time as he died shortly thereafter. That is easily my biggest music related regret I have. I have since done whatever I can to see a band I enjoy live, especially aging rockers. I suggest to all to do what you can to see your rock heroes.

As I leave, I want some music to represent my love of beer. It is not near as strong as my love of all things Ronnie James Dio, but I love it just the same.