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Rush Tour 2002 - Vindication never tasted so sweet...

Six Years.

Six long years. That's how long it had been since Rush toured the U.S. (or any other part of the globe) behind one of their albums. And now, after the May 14th, 2002 release of 'Vapor Trails', Rush was back on the road supporting their incredible new effort.

Six Years.

And where was I one hour before the show at the PNC Arts Center in Holmdel NJ? Stuck in a horrendous traffic jam on Route 287 South - cursing the fact that I stopped to get a bite to eat before heading to the show.

Accompanied by my Rush-fan cohorts (my brother and an old college buddy) the cabin of my car was eerily silent.

Collectively we had one eye on the traffic before us and one eye on the clock. Time was escaping faster than the Rocinante down the black hole of Cygnus X-1.

Having witnessed Rush live on every tour since 1982 - and having never been late to any of the shows, the thought that I would miss the inception of this one weighed heavily on me. On all of us.

Slight opening to the right. Immediate lane change initiated.

45 minutes to go. Still 20 miles outside the Arts center.

"Think they'll start late?" my friend queried, knowing full well of the answer.

"Have they ever before?" was my rhetorical reply.

"Not going to make it, are we?" was the phrase that escaped my brother from the back seat. The phrase taken from a line from Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan when all seemed hopelessly lost. That is, before a miracle happened.

Tonight, another miracle was to happen - and I would be the engineer of it.

Another lane change to the far right lane. And then, it happened. In front of us was a highway tow-truck who was also stuck in the unrelenting traffic jam. His flashing lights suddenly turned on as he bolted on to the highway shoulder - making his way down the road - escaping the traffic.

What seemed like an eternity of weighted decision making was actually only a mere 3 seconds.

With a whispered curse, I pulled on to the shoulder myself and accelerated. Not a word was uttered as both passengers immediately took the roles of navigator and trooper-spotter.

As we approached exit after exit, we began weaving in and out of the shoulder - all the while pursuing the tow truck - and our destiny.

The blur of cars we were passing made us feel like we, too, were stuck in the pull of Cygnus X-1 - yet we knew that at the end of our journey, we would be treated to a performance by legendary rockers who had finally returned to New Jersey after far too long a hiatus.

"Debris Ahead!" came the warning from my navigator.

"Roger that. Compensating..." came my reply. We were enjoying our dangerous journey now as the miles ticked away and the time to the show was fast approaching... But, where 10 minutes earlier we were facing the inevitable result of missing part of the show, now we saw the light at the end of the tunnel.

"Exit for the Parkway Approaching" came the announcement. We were getting close. 10 miles to go, and Parkway traffic should be lighter than 287 traffic (it certainly couldn't be worse).

Moments later, we were deposited on the Garden State Parkway - and the lack of traffic was cheerfully greeted by all of us.

"Warp Speed Now Mr. Scott!" came the command. Who was I to argue?

We traversed the final 10 miles on the Parkway in record time... weaving in and out of slower traffic (all of it was slower compared to our speed). Signs for the Arts Center were fast approaching - as was the enormous line of traffic moving over to also take in the show.

I ignored the line and shot forward - no questions asked by my co-pilots.

Screaming down the Parkway, I came right to the exit before slamming on the breaks and maneuvering right into a small gap afforded me by a pick up truck who was blasting 2112 and a car in front of him whose rear window was adorned with a hand-written sign that read "The Way Out is The Way In".

We had made it - almost. With only 10 minutes to go before the show would begin, we were at the promised land.

Yet one sizeable task remained. Parking.

For those of you who have ever taken in a show at the PNC Arts Center, you know the parking situation is horrendous - especially if you get to the facility late (or anywhere near the beginning of the show).

A few minutes into the parking process, we finally maneuvered on to the lawn and secured our vehicle. Exiting, I was congratulated for somehow beating the odds and getting us to the show close-to on time.

We bolted for the gates - keeping an ear open for any signs of the show's commencement.

Security was set up - as expected - but we made our way past it. Then, suddenly, it began.

The first echoing chords of Tom Sawyer sliced through the cool New Jersey night as the show began. Two minutes later, we were at our seats, air drumming to the finale of Tom Sawyer - screaming at the top of our lungs.

Every move we made on our journey, every risk we took, every car we cut off (with a wave and a smile) helped to get us here right on time.

A miracle, indeed.

And we were not disappointed.

True to Rush form, these three low-key Canadians, all fast approaching 50 years of age, and having performed for millions of fans over their 30-year career, exploded on to the stage as if time had never touched them.

Billed as an "Evening with Rush", we were about to be treated to 3 plus hours of non-stop music, perfectly executed, blazingly loud, monstrously full of energy - and all Rush.

I took a moment to reflect upon all of my Rush-related reviews I had written for Epinions. All of the positive feedback I've received from all of you. And the few of you I've actually turned into Rush fans. And I thought about some of the songs I would love to hear during a concert - yet knowing full well that, as they are obscure, I'd probably never hear them.

"I have to be dreaming." was the only phrase that remained in my mind after that.

Rush didn't just put on a stellar show. They put on a show packed with those songs that I had longed to hear live.

Bravado, their powerful tune about reaching lofty goals was somewhat reflective of our journey this evening, making the show against all odds.

Then there was New World Man one of their biggest radio hits that never seemed to get played live.

But hold the phone - now they were masterfully executing "Between Sun and Moon" from their Counterparts album to a jaw-hung audience. An obscure, but totally entertaining song that we longed to hear years ago and were now being treated to.

The night was full of surprises such as these. Rush was on fire - literally at points - as they blazed through song after song from their incredible 17-album catalog. All the while mixing in some humorous visuals, incredible lighting, and God-like performances.

And when the opening triangle notes of "YYZ" tingled through the air, there was such an explosion from the crowd that it was almost difficult to hear the music. Rush's rendition of their popular instrumental was flawless - as was the vast majority of the rest of the night.

Renditions from their later album, 'Vapor Trails', were incredible - elevating the studio tracks to new heights. And renditions of the 'quieter, gentler' side of Rush via a moving acoustic version of "Resist" was something no Rush fan had ever witnessed - and no Rush fan will ever forget.

After a mere 20 minute intermission, the boys from the Great White North were back on the stage, playing at the same warp speed that propelled the three of us to this show.

And after six years, none of the members seemed to have lost a step. Geddy Lee's virtuoso execution of the bass and synths has never been tighter, and I have never heard his voice sound better - ever.

Alex Lifeson, who left out his patented solos from the 'Vapor Trails' album, was in the spot light most of the night with solo after mind-blowing solo. He is truly one of rock's premiere guitarists.

And then, there was Neil Peart. Ingenious lyricist of the band and percussionist extraordinaire. No need to revisit the tragedy of his life over the past 6 years. Tonight belonged to him - and we, the fans, let him know it.

His drum solo was simply amazing. Simply astounding. Simply impossible. How one man can maneuver so effortlessly around a ring of drums with all limbs moving at speeds that would make you dizzy, and still be able to produce some incredible, melodic, percussionary magic is simply awe-inspiring.

Unquestionably, Neil Peart rose to the occasion on this fine night. Unquestionably, he is still the world's best rock drummer. Period.

The night was a spectacle - the fans were elated. And then, when I thought it couldn't get any better, the dream continued. The opening chords of Cygnus X-1: Book I: The Voyage were initiated behind a computer generated image of a swirling black hole - and the crowd went wild - with me leading the way.

Just about every song I wanted to hear - never expecting to hear live - was played.

All of the energy of the past shows seem to culminate into this one evening.

All of the passion that Rush fans have for their beloved band was fueled and directed to center stage.

And these three humble men responded with a show no one will soon forget.

A show no one should miss.

A show for the ages.

A show of hands.


Thank you all, as always, for reading.

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