Following in the wake of an epic May snowstorm, high winds, flooding, and tornados, my two oldest kids—Nathaniel (16) and Gretchen (14)—and I began our nearly eight-hour journey across the Great Plains about 8:45 yesterday morning. We arrived in Lincoln around 5, checked into our hotel room, and I immediately had an hour-long radio interview with two wonderful women out of Denver.
Scrambling as Kronos devoured the minutes, we headed across town in search of our pilgrimage site, The Pinnacle Arena.
We found it, and we were in our seats by 7:10. The show was supposed to start at 7:30, but it ran about 15 minutes late.
A nearly packed arena revealed a far more gender-balanced Rush audience then I’d ever seen before. Almost certainly because of Beyond the Lighted Stage, wives and girlfriends (it was pretty obvious that most of them were newbies) made up a significant part of the crowd. I’m sure there were women there on their own as well, of course, but most packs I saw were men only. Still, probably ¼ to a 1/3 of the audience was female. Impressive, to be sure.
1970s classic prog from Kansas, ELP, Jethro Tull, and Yes blared from the speakers as we awaited the Canadians.
A typically bizarre video introduced the band, detailing its journey from 1974 to the present, actually having Rush arrive in Lincoln, Nebraska. Alex even showed up on stage in a wheelchair, rather hilariously.
From the opening note to the last, three hours in all, Rush performed without flaws, as tight as ever, and as humorous as ever. I’ve never seen Neil smile so much. Throughout much of the evening, he kept making strange faces at Alex, Alex egging him on. Alex also said several things to the audience, but I couldn’t catch them all. The highlight of his hilarity, though, came toward the end of the evening, when he and Geddy traded places on stage, Alex mocking Geddy’s 1975 Zeppelin-esque screams.
I can honestly write: this was the single finest rock concert I’ve seen in my life. It was the absolute dream of a Rush fan and a prog fan. Everything, simply put, was perfect.
The music, the song selection, the videos, the lights, the lasers. . . . Every. Single. Thing.
***Here, there be spoilers!***
If you’re not interested in what the band plays, please stop reading here. There be spoilers below! You have been warned.
I made sure NOT to find out what Rush was playing. A close friend had posted the name of one song online, but, otherwise, I refrained from reading anything about the tour. I’m really glad I did. So, again, if you want to be stunned—and you will be—don’t read below.
The entire show went exactly backwards. Rush started with three blistering songs from CLOCKWORK ANGELS and then progressively (regressively?) worked back to 1974. They played songs from every album except Test for Echo, Presto, Hold Your Fire, and Power Windows. Ten songs long, the first set included the three songs from CA, Far Cry, Main Monkey Business, How it Is, Animate, Roll the Bones, Between the Wheels, and Subdivisions. Amazingly enough, the Rush guys turned the rather geeky rap section from Roll the Bones into one of the best parts of the evening. Even I won’t spoil what they did, but it had all three Birzers in stitches.
As excellent as set one was, it was set two that floored me. Tom Sawyer; The Camera Eye; Spirit of Radio; Jacob’s Ladder; Cygnus X-1(!); Closer to the Heart; Xanadu; and the nearly-complete 2112 made up this glorious set. I actually cried during the middle of Xanadu I was so moved.
Rush departed the stage for probably less than a minute. For the encore, the band came back as though it were 1975, complete with a set from the gymnasium of Rod Serling High School. Geddy even introduced the band as though Caress of Steel had just come out. The encore: Lakeside Park; Anthem; What You’re Doing; and, of course, Working Man.
I’m getting chills just thinking about it all. . . .
I’ll post more photos later. At the moment, I’m on a terribly slow connection.–BB
[Brad is one of the three founders of Progarchy. He’s rather goofy, and he has a book, NEIL PEART: CULTURAL REPERCUSSIONS, coming out this fall from WordFire Press]