It's rare for a band to remain actively performing to sold-out crowds after 43 years, and it's even more unusual when the group keeps getting better.
Thursday night the legendary Canadian trio, "Rush," one of the world's paramount progressive-rock bands, stopped in Phoenix's US Airways Center as part of the second leg of its "Time Machine Tour."
I last saw the group perform in the 2008 "Snakes and Arrows Tour" and the show was absolutely stellar. I was skeptical they could pull off a better one this year.
However, my skepticism was quickly vanquished, and from the beginning the three-hour show was nothing less than phenomenal.
The band's 25-song, two-set performance highlighted the entirety of "Rush's" best-selling 1981 album, "Moving Pictures," and included a variety of different works spanning four decades.
The show opened spectacularly with a time-machine themed video that transported the trio into a German restaurant where the group played the philosophical song "Spirit of Radio," and tried a variety of different tunes, such as disco and polka, until they found the band's unique sound.
Once the time-travelled "Rush" discovered the proper tone, spotlights illuminated bassist, lead vocalist and keyboardist Geddy Lee, drummer and lyricist Neil Peart, and guitarist Alex Lifeson as the trio marvelously continued the magnetic song.
After "Spirit of Radio" ended they smoothly rolled into playing "Time Stand Still" and "Presto."
Although the opening songs are over three decades old, the band played them with such vigor and enthusiasm it gave the tracks new life.
In the first half, "Rush" played other singles including "Freewill," "Subdivisions" and "Leave That Thing Alone."
Juxtaposing the group's well-known hits was the darkly toned heavy-rock song "Brought Up to Believe" from Rush's forthcoming album "Clockwork Angels."
The new song was a drastic change of tone from those previously played. With despairing lyrics, a powerful bass line, and dominating guitar riffs, "Brought up To Believe" sets an interesting tone for the upcoming album.
The band's reputation for a great sense of humor didn't falter Thursday night. Incorporated at the beginning of each string of songs was a video showing alternate compositions of "Rush;" sometimes monkeys or toddlers replaced the trio, and other times they played while racing cars made from frankfurters.
After a 15-minute intermission, the band re-seized the stage and opened the second half of the show with their best-known song, "Tom Sawyer."
They then continued to go through the entire "Moving Pictures" album.
"Moving Pictures" is one of my favorite albums, and even though I knew the lineup, the songs were delivered with such ferocious emotion and spontaneous energetic bursts from each band member, that hearing them was flabbergasting.
"Limelight" was played with such zealous passion that the audience members within my view lost composure and became entranced with the catchy tune.
After "Moving Pictures" was finished, the group played another new song, "Caravan."
Then there was Neil Peart's jaw-dropping five-minute drum solo. Encompassed in a rotating drum set, Peart masterfully played a brilliant range of tunes from classic and heavy rock, to partial swing and jazz numbers.
The biggest surprise of the night was the re-inventing of certain songs; something the band usually avoids. One re-imagining that left a big impression was "Closer to the Heart."
The song was completely different from the album version, or what I heard when "Rush" played it during the Snakes and Arrows Tour.
It opened with a beautiful acoustic guitar solo from Lifeson, and then transformed into an incredible revamped version. While the lyrics are akin to the original, the tempo, tone, and structure were altered and greatly improved upon.
Finishing off the second set was the timeless "2012" and a song from "Snakes and Arrows" called "Far Cry."
After two encore songs, "La Villa Stangiato," and a version of "Working Man" spliced with reggae, the band left the stage to a sold-out stadium and a standing ovations.
- Travis McKnight, Statepress.Com
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