Part 8: Changes Aren’t Permanent, But Change Is
Rush is a pure Canadian group out of Toronto, where they live and work to this day. But their true break though to reach an American (and then worldwide) audience was in Cleveland, Ohio where, just like the story of rock-n-roll itself, an influential disc jockey got hold of their earliest material and revealed it to a much wider audience. This ironic fact makes it all the more shameful that Rush has not been inducted in the Rock n Roll Hall of Fame right there in, Cleveland. When I first visited the Hall five years ago, this was an absolute shock to me, especially when I learned of the volume of marginal talent that actually IS in the H.O.F. Over time, I have come to accept that this monument is little more than an elaborate sham than arbitrarily excludes any act that hints of progressive rock or virtuosity. In other words, when it comes to induction credentials, music itself is not only considered unimportant but its mastery may actually serve to disqualify a group. Couple this with the narrow political and elitist agenda of the prime movers, and the HOF has in many ways become the antithesis of the true spirit of rock n roll. So I have come fully around to actually hoping that Rush never enters the Rock n Roll Hall of Fame because it is no longer a question of whether Rush deserves the honor, but whether the Hall deserves Rush.
After a comical bit featuring the animated stars of South Park, Rush launched into their most popular song ever “Tom Sawyer”. This was the first Rush song I ever heard and I thoroughly enjoyed its original structure and theme when I was thirteen. Due to my innate bias against overly commercialized pop songs, I sort of dismissed this song as sub-par to its counterparts for most of my subsequent tenure as a Rush fan. Tonight I rediscovered “Tom Sawyer” as for about four and a half minutes; I experienced this song like I did when I was a kid. Onstage, with Lee seamlessly switching from keys to bass, Pert pounding with a purpose, and Life son blissfully grooving, arms up in the air, there was an energy and enjoyment onstage that I hadn’t associated with “Tom Sawyer” before.
So it was that the band said goodnight. Although they did return for their (per-fabricated) encore which featured the decent but forgettable “One Little Victory”, “A Passage to Bangkok”, and “YYZ” (sans drum solo), the “Tom Sawyer” performance completes the circle nicely for me.
Over the past 33 years have these masters molded their song craft by the frozen lakes of the great white north, and then visited our cities to perform the true master craft with great precision and euphoria. Three years ago the celebrated their 30th anniversary with concise renderings that spanned each diverse jewel, tonight, not so much. They showed just the slightest hints of age and confusion, something unheard of in the shows of yesteryear.
In ’04 they were still gods, untouched by the ravages of time, tight and in tune. This show was badly produced (Veggie suggested they should can the sound man on the spot), especially when compared to ’04. There was a sense then of continuity and connection with the past. The humor was strategically placed and the sequence was robust. Tonight, the sound was lacking.
All this being said, this was still one of the most enjoyable concert experiences I’ve ever had. At 9, it was Rooski’s first, and he lost his bet with me that he would be the youngest one there. The Meister filled his PSP with all Rush mp3s and in chronological order, so he could scholarly explore every song in preparation. Veggie, who has all but abandoned rock-n-roll in favor of hardcore blues, also got to bring his sons to see this enduring phenomenon known as Rush.
As for the band itself, they are a unique entity in entertainment history; consistent in lineup, yet ever-evolving in musical direction, all the while sustaining a mutual loyalty with their fans and never capitulating to the bluffers and posers in the Rolling Stone magazine-approved mainstream. They are musician’s musicians whose body of work transcends time will be studied, listened to, and enjoyed by generations to come. As they slide towards senior-citizenship, it might be tempting to say that they are in twilight of their career, but I wouldn’t bet on it.
Ric Albano, 06/28/07