May 18, 2015
American Airlines Center
Dallas, TX USA
Review by Justin Press
Photos by Fabien Castro
The (De) Evolution of RUSH
How does one dissimilate 40 years of excellence into one evening without missing the small nuances that made for such a full body of work while making sure that appeasement was within its grasp? Simple, you name your band RUSH. For three hours, the legendary Canadian power trio put its foot on the gas and only increased the speed into the turns as the night progressed (or regressed in the years) hitting upon major highpoints in their heralded career.
RUSH by now is known to most for their humor and silly antics, which makes them so endearing because if you perform the musical acrobatics as they do, you'll need a laugh to bring the whole thing back to Earth. A massive screen that covered the front of the stage lit up as the house lights went dark revealing an exceptional 2-min cartoonesque film of the band's transformative years, from their cyborg-metal prog beginnings to their experimental 80's and 90's back to their more primitive modern era.
As the film ended, the screens raised and the band launched into a trio of tracks from 2012's Clockwork Angels album; opener "The Anarchist" poured through the speakers, followed by the title track and the crushing "Headlong Flight." Flanked by an array of video screens, lasers, streaming LEDS and their usual flair for unique stage adornments (Steam Punk for this segment), the band set the template for the evening within fourteen minutes: streamlined and going right for the jugular. "Far Cry" and "The Main Monkey Business" followed, and from here on out is where the genius and creativity of the band reared its head beyond the usual.
Stagehands started appearing and dismantling the stage sets bit by bit per the era the songs were representing (no spoilers here since it needs to be seen live to fully appreciate), so the old divers helmet was replaced with the now familiar washing machine. Massive fire walls brought "One Little Victory" to a close as 6 columns of flames leapt into the air, while the visuals during "Animate" and "Roll The Bones" portrayed a late 20th Century ethos and still, the equipment was scaled back to fit the times.
By the time "Distant Early Warning" and the seeking individualism wisdom in "Subdivisions" came around, the stage was getting near threadbare, but then again what's more beautiful than a stack of Marshalls? All the while, Peart, Lee and Lifeson sounded fresh, lively and at their peak. Retirement? How can a band this locked-in even consider calling it day? The solos, the fills, the vocals and the synths were all as precise as a metronome. If timing is everything, then RUSH is a Swiss watch. As the jubilant first set came to a close, a 20-minute intermission was called for by band and capacity audience alike.
Once again, the house lights lowered and a blooper reel of sorts, called No Country for Old Hens, portrayed the band in their alter egos before ending with the familiar South Park skit leading into "Tom Sawyer." The second set is what the gathered faithful was ready to sink their teeth into. The Peart fills at the outset of the song brought thousands air-drums from the crowd as the band moved stealthily into the "ching ching ching ching" announcement that "YYZ" had arrived. Now the Dallas crowd might not be the Brazilian crowd from the Rock in Rio show, but people were just as tribal, as the groove of the infamous instrumental is so frenzied that your body spasms. And still, the stage hands pull away one cabinet at a time as the "The Spirit of Radio" tore thru the arena. Still the perfect AOR song, Lifeson's precision on the opening lick is scalpel sharp while the reggae portion reminds you just how far ahead of its peers RUSH was; it was never one to shy away from stylistic changes.
The not often played "Natural Science" was stunning and you started to now study how the band concocted such lengthy pieces so seamlessly. It was also a time to appreciate the work that each was doing with their given instruments as time signatures, tempo changes and drawn out segments required a mathematician to chart out. So your mind is being blown away while still maintaining an awe of the playing itself; you can "party" and study the band at the same time. "Jacob's Ladder," it seems, was more known off of Exit Stage Left than Permanent Waves, and brought back memories of 1981 and that contraption called the cassette.
For all the stellar modern hard rock with Prog tendencies that was on full display, next is where it got really intense: as "Cygnus X-1: Book II" and "Cygnus X-1" played in their entireties, you think to yourself, "Where were their heads when they penned these tracks?" They're weighty novels of sound and atmosphere. Dry ice, video accompaniments and the All The World's A Stage set, including Peart's massive bell chimes, brought an added element to what was becoming a Benjamin Buttons evening.
The "love song" that is "Closer To The Heart" led to "Xanadu," and by now it was all hands on deck as that progressive rock landmark had us all "dining on honeydew and drinking the milk of paradise," the playing was just not of this world, maybe more of one created by HG Wells or Jules Verne. Is interplanetary rock a thing? It is now.
How does one go about topping something like "Xanadu?" If you're RUSH, you play all 20:32 minutes of "2112." ALL 20:32 MINUTES. Let that sink in... A pure rollercoaster of measured riffs, subtle add-ons, galloping rhythms and lyrics that sought a new future free of musical persecution that just happens to rock the entire way through. I'm sure it melted people's minds in 1976 as it does today. And here brought an end to the second set, which took about 2 hours.
A forty foot Eugene Levy, in full disco regalia, told us of this little band from Canada that we should keep our ears open for. As the curtain rose to show the band flanked by minimal stage lights and a simple red curtain, "Lakeside Park" had the long-faithful welling up in their eye-holes. By the time the band tore into "Anthem" and the riff heavy, Zeppelin-friendly "What You're Doing," the set had turned into a school gymnasium and the gear was just two amps set upon cafeteria chairs. Again, the band has the flair for the creative and the familiar. A giant disco ball floated down as the opening salvo of the monstrous "Working Man" let you know that this was the end of the evening. Mixing in "Garden Road" was a nice touch, but then again the entire evening was a nice touch- nay, a magnificent touch.
Three hours of precision, humor, space, time, riffs, octaves and unequalled musical output performed by going counter-clockwise could be described as exhaustive, but in RUSH's case, it was pure exhilaration. With 40 years, numerous albums and a template attempted by many, but never equaled behind them, their fan base is by far the most dedicated in the industry. It's not fanaticism or worship; it's pure respect and the fact that, like themselves, RUSH evolved and changed with the times. Tonight it was about being nostalgic and devolving, which sometimes is a very healthy and necessary thing.