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 …..as 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.