Monday, June 30, 2008

Rush - Snakes & Arrows Tour

Saturday night I had the opportunity to go see Rush, one of my favorite all time rock bands, perform live at the Riverport Amphitheater. I know, it is now called the "Verizon Wireless Amphitheater", just as it was previously known as the UMB Bank Pavilion before . . But I am getting old and very slow to change so back off a bit . . . ;-)

It was my first time back to the outdoor facility to see a rock concert since the infamous Guns & Roses show I attended with my brother in July of 1992. That show was cut short, resulting in thousands of angry fanatics rioting and tearing up the place. My brother and I did the safe and smart thing . .we headed for the parking lot as fast as we could, got in the car and drove home.

Thankfully, the crowd on Saturday was not destructive and we fed on the energy from the trio of Canadian rockers as they performed the show in two sets, without a warm up band or opening act. Each half of the show could have been a standalone set. Thirty years of recording albums is a lot of material to choose from and the band chose to work extra hard on this tour to avoid cutting to much out of the show.

It was a special show because I was able to take my family with me to share the experience. My wife was a real trooper too! Her first love, when it comes to music, is country. Her previous "rock" experiences were with the likes of Elton John or Billy Joel so a hard progressive rock band like Rush was definitely a stretch outside of her comfort zone. Her only knowledge of Rush songs are from my own attempts to follow the bass patterns of the half a dozen Rush songs that I have learned to play on my own bass guitar. I had given my youngest son his own copy of "Moving Pictures" a couple of years ago (so I could get mine back) after he became fascinated with "YYZ" (after an internet video he watched with me a 100 times - My oldest son just loves being with his dad so much it did not matter who we were seeing as long as we were together.

I can remember hearing my first Rush song. I was in junior high when I heard "Fly By Night". I will never forget that classic power chord guitar intro! John Walker, Co Host and Associate Editor of Dinosaur Rock Guitar wrote “when Alex (Lifeson) comes in with his guitar it screams RUSH! every bit as characteristic as Geddy Lee's voice or Neil Peart's hyperkinetic drumming”. I would later come to love other Rush songs like "Closer to the Heart", "Lakeshore Drive", "The Trees", "Working Man" and of course, the +20 minute "2112" overture.

By the time I was a junior in high school, I was listening to both sides of the entire Rush catalogue finding the deep cuts the most interesting and thought provoking. The band seemed to just keep getting better and better every year too! The first album, "Fly By Night" & "Caress of Steel" were hard rocking albums for sure but I really enjoyed the mystical "A Farewell to Kings" and "Hemispheres". Every listen was a new experience and could be enhanced with the use of headphones. Each Rush album released up through, and including "Moving Pictures" had a long playing conception song. "2112" is perhaps the most well known piece taking the entire first side of the vinyl album with the same title.

The band seemed to really hit their stride with "Permanent Waves". I did not think it possible for that album to be improved on but to my pleasant surprise a year later they released "Moving Pictures". I saw Rush perform at the "Checkerdome" in 1981 on their "Moving Pictures" tour. The Checkerdome was also known as the "old arena" or "the barn" but It does not really matter anymore because it was torn down in February of 1999.

"Signals" (released 9/82) and "Grace Under Pressure" (released 4/84) would follow. While some Rush fans lamented the decline of the guitar dominating sound, the keyboards and synthesizers brought more musical textures to enrich the complex rhythms and lyrical thought of the social conscience issues that were being presented. I am not sure why, maybe it was just MTV, or perhaps it was the inability to deal with the reality of the subject matter, but after "Power Windows" (released 10/85), I reached terminal velocity and escaped the gravitational pull of Rush myself. . Or so I thought . . . but it seems I was like a comet that drew near and than was slung out into deep space only to reach my apogee to return.

Like the music of Rush, my life has changed so many ways in the last 30 years. Perhaps I am showing signs of 'midlife' crisis and only desire to achieve a feeling of youthfulness or to recapture a bit of my past. It is possible, however, that I have grown up and matured so I can appreciate the progressive nature of this band. Either way, I have found new joy in the old, the very old, the new and the not so new music of Rush. Thank you Geddy, Alex and Neal for the "Emotional feedback on timeless wavelength" . . . For the "gift beyond price, almost free" . . . . Almost . . ;-)

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