Part V: Pariah Dogs & Wandering Madmen
About a year after seeing their 30th reunion tour, I was pleasantly surprised when Mr. Rooski, then about 7, started to boost that his favorite band was Rush. He soon secured a promise from me that we would go see them and he could tag along. So in early 2006 we began to investigate, via Internet, just what future plans Rush were making to which we found a post that announced they were taking the entire year of 2006 (they’re fifty-something and taking an entire year! WOW!) to record a new album and would probably be back on the road in ’07. So it was that we waited, is Rooski’s favorite song shifted from “Time Stand Still” to “Limelight” and he regularly bugged me to burn him another Rush CD with this song or that song included.
Throughout the early part of this year there was buzz that the album was in fact finished and that it was a masterpiece. Then on May 1 the new album, Snakes and Arrows, was finally released, the first (and likely only) non-Camelot-centric CD that I purchased this year. After a few listens I was convinced that this would rank among the best Rush albums ever (there are 18). With 13 tracks, some of considerable length, this may have been a double album back in the day (although Rush never released a double studio album) but it quality throughout. No track, including the three instrumentals, can be considered “filler” or “throw away” and the richness of original phrases and themes is astonishing (including my favorite, the title of this article from the great song “Armor and Sword”). For two months this has been spinning in my car’s deck and still, with each listen, new lyrical and musical nuggets are mined. I was excited to find out that they would be performing nine of these tracks on this tour (yet, amazingly, disappointed in the four that were omitted – that’s how good this album is).
So it was that the heart of the concert, which concentrated most on Snakes and Arrows, was the beginning of the second set. After a weird and comical short film starring Lifeson, the band exploded into the album’s first song, “Far Cry”, which included e an excellent audio performance and excellent stage effects, between the video and the coordinated fireworks that launched immediately after the lyric “you can almost feel the circuits blowing”. Being released as a “single” in early March, this is the most recognizable of the new songs, which was reflected by the enthusiasm of the crowd. Also, the sound problems that were evident in the first set seemed to have dissipated during these first few songs of the second (though it would reemerge later).
This was followed by Rooski’s favorite new song, “Workin’ Them Angels”, which in turn was followed by the Meister’s new favorite “Armor and Sword”. The former is a companion to Peart’s latest literary effort, which tells of him driving cross-country and listening to “the soundtrack of his life”, and is unique musically in featuring a mandolin solo by Lifeson. The latter blended Lee’s animated bass line behind Lifeson’s acoustic reminiscent of the classic “The Trees”, although this new one seemed to go to a bittersweet plane never before reached.
The quintet of Snakes songs was wrapped up by two more fine songs, “Spindrift”, which is almost a classic heavy metal style song, with its dark mood and repetitive drilling, and “The Way the Wind Blows”, which features some of the finest melodic vocals by Lee. Although the inclusion of these was certainly appreciated by those of us who own (and are well-versed in) the album, it was becoming apparent that many in the crowd did not and the vibe hit a lull. Perhaps five new songs in a row, fresh off a 20-minute break, was not the best sequencing (and later there would be worse).