Part III: A Ready Guide in Some Celestial Voice
I remember being just a bit hesitant when Veggie originally invited me to see Rush’s 30th Anniversary Tour in 2004. I was in the middle of selling a house and relocating and really had no time or energy to pay homage to old rock n roll. Besides I had done the Rush “thing” back in ’92 and hadn’t been totally impressed by the material they had put out since. Still, Veggie persisted along the lines of this being a “special” anniversary tour in which they would play music from all their albums, including the great classics from the seventies. Further, this was about the time that the then-13-year-old Meister was starting appreciate a lot of great classic rock including Rush and I saw a great bonding experience in going. So the three of us, Veggie, The Meister, and me, went to a rock concert in August ’04, then came the show
The band members, just on the far side of 50, put on a spectacular 3-hour gala with some unbelievable selections (By-Tor and the Snow Dog!). The performance spanned their 30-year career nicely (with the exception of Presto being omitted) and was absolutely flawless in tone, texture, and execution. They did not reach that level of performance tonight until their fifth number, “Freewill”.
The second selection from Permanent Waves, “Freewill” is the quintessential Rush song from their classic era. It has an odd-yet-melodic riff and chord structure with an easily accessible chorus line yet with deeply philosophical lyrics that read as much like an analysis as an argument. Then there is the jam – the bass-lead mid section that takes this song to the next level. Rush played a lot of great songs tonight and most of them well, but none as well as “Freewill”. This was the best performance of the night, and this was the song when I fully realized how far reaching these musical geniuses grasp. To the left of me, standing on his chair was Mr. Rooski, to the right Veggie. The divergent yet equal enthusiasm of the 9-year-old child and the 42-year-old old man, one was trying to learn while the other remembering how to conduct oneself at a rock concert. And Rush is the true rock concert.
On stage, Pert went nuts and the crowd erupted and Rooski played his “air” drums as the mid section flawlessly descended back into final verse. Lee’s voice, a bit questionable earlier, was in full throttle for the soaring final verse. As the song concluded to thunderous applause, Lee addressed the crowd for the first time by introducing “The Main Monkey Business”, an instrumental and the first selection from their latest album Snakes and Arrows.
Although not in the league of classic Rush instrumentals such as “La Villa Strangiato” or the “2112 Overture” from their classic seventies era, this is still a good jam crafted by the 50-somethings of today. A comic and surreal video collage of posturing, dancing, and copulating primates adds a touch of levity to the experience. Comedy always being a staple of the Rush performance, they up the ante with a short film by those classic Canadians The McKenzie Brothers that introduces another Snakes and Arrows number “The Larger Bowl”.
“Secret Touch”, a gem from 2002’s Vapor Trails followed with yet another stunning performance of a song made for the stage. The show as a whole had seemed to find its groove as the crowd echoed the dynamic lyrics of the verse, “…the way out is the way in…” and moved and shook to the earth bouncing groove. Even the three teens in our party, Mr. Meister and The Green Veggies, while simultaneously trying to act too cool for school, could not help but to outwardly express their delight.