Part I: A Long Awaited Friend
Leading up to my first Rush concert in 1992, I was assured by Veggie that I would be disappointed because they play all “new” stuff. This being defined as anything released post Moving Pictures (1981) when Rush’s music changed from classic rock to new wave and beyond. But for their second song rang the familiar riff of “Limelight”, from that very benchmark album. I remember the charge it sent into the air as well as the relief I felt that Veggie had actually been wrong about the lack of classic material.
Coming into this show, I knew “Limelight” would be the first song, and Mr. Rooski was especially excited because this was his favorite. So it was, the anticipation built as the last intense rays of summer sun flooded our eyes with white hot light. The tension built as the roadies climbed the rope ladders to the overhead lights and someone hit an errant chord through the system.
Then during the introductory movie, two separate clips featuring our heroes in comedy routines, I spotted Alex Lifeson stage right awaiting his sequenced appearance and that familiar riff of “Limelight”. As the fever built to a crescendo, the heroes fully emerge on the stage but the sound – fell both off time and flat, first due to the late arrival of Geddy Lee but then to the phasing of Alex’s low end on the axe. Although the crowd, standing and shouting, responded with enthusiasm, there was no doubt something was just a little “off”, which may be expected from your run-of-the-mill rock bands but never from the masters known as Rush.
The crescendo had collapsed into a tinge of bewilderment and disappointment although, not a totally unpleasant experience. Sort of like bad sex where you know it should be much better, but you can’t bring yourself to stop anyway. Even though the impressive effect of the three large overhead digital screens each focused on a member of the band, there seemed to be a pained flight against the jet stream that I had not witnessed from these guys before. These guys are usually the architects of the jet stream itself. Nevertheless, “Limelight” concluded to thunderous applause through the calm dusk by the most loyal fans in rock n roll.
After the short pause (segues would be absent tonight), Neil Peart rolled into “Digital Man”, a more obscure track from 1982’s Signals, the most new wave flavored of the band’s 18 original studio albums and one that I have been gaining more respect for as I mature in my audio tastes. The song itself works well to counter-balance the disappointment of the opening number. Equal parts funk, reggae, and rock, the performance introduces a fresh arrangement of an already obscure song. Also, I personally like the injection of exotic locations Avalon, Babylon, and Zion into the lyric (who has ever done that before or since?)
Perhaps it’s because of our unfamiliarity or because our expectation are lower, but the sound quality appears to improve ever-so-slightly during this number. Maybe it was just the lack of an opening act or the sound man caught sleeping after all.