This is a review for my college newspaper:
"Over the summer, I had the utmost privilege of seeing Rush at the Saratoga Performing Arts Center in New York. Never heard of Rush? That’s a travesty, considering the trio of Geddy Lee, Alex Lifeson, and Neil Peart has been active since 1974, are fifth place (behind The Beatles, The Rolling Stones, Kiss, and Aerosmith) in most consecutive gold and platinum albums by a rock band, and are widely considered to be the best musicians in their field, as each member has accumulated at least three honors of “Best ______ in the World” since their origins.
The day (June 30th, 2007) couldn’t have been anymore perfect. The weather was beautiful (a sunny, cloudless sky with a temperature of 75-80°) and it was the beginning of summer – no better time to be alive, in my opinion. After hanging around on the lawn (no stadium seating for us), listening to other progressive rock music like King Crimson and Jethro Tull, play over the speakers, we stormed the barriers dividing the stadium from the lawn to catch a glimpse of the stage. My group of friends was only a microcosm of the thousands of Rush fans there – from old dudes who have been fans from the band’s start to their newly-exposed-to-the-group children to teenagers, devotees of Coheed & Cambria and Dream Theater, who quickly learned just where and how the newbies of prog rock got their style.
The concert kicked off with a short movie clip of a Scottish “roadie” (in actuality, the bassist/vocalist Geddy Lee in costume) yelling at the members of the band to get on the stage, as the show was about to start. (I missed this part, as I picked a terrible time to run to the bathroom.) The familiar riff of “Limelight,” off of Rush’s seminal 1981 album Moving Pictures, echoed throughout the park and the crowd roared with pleasure. Immediately after, a blast of light hit the stage and illuminated the band – Alex Lifeson on guitar on stage right, Neil Peart almost completely obscured by his gigantic drum set, Geddy Lee on bass and keys on stage left, and, as a whimsical touch, three fully operating rotisseries. (When Geddy switched to less stage-filling amplifiers, he found some clever ways of using the empty space: past tours have included washing and vending machines.)
They blasted through song after song (all the more amazing considering they never tour with an opening act, playing for almost four hours straight save for a brief intermission), from the new wave “Digital Man” to the driving rock of “Secret Touch” to the incredibly witty “Freewill,” as well as many selections from their new album Snakes & Arrows. The crowd sang along to every word and, in some cases, air-strummed and –drummed their hearts out. I had the pleasure of standing on my tiptoes in back of two old mustachioed men who seemed to be, uh, chemically altered. Whenever I would join in on the singing (particularly on “Mission”) they would turn around and scream their approval in my ear.
I finally retreated, as the arches of my feet were vehemently protesting my stance. I made my way back up the sloping lawn and tried to take some photos of the neon-lit stage until security swooped down on me. Luckily, I escaped with a few good pictures and my unscathed camera. The intermission was mercifully short. Afterwards, Rush plowed into the new material, starting with their new single “Far Cry.” Highlights of the second set were the epic, nine-minute-long “Natural Science,” off of Permanent Waves, another video clip showing Bob and Doug McKenzie of SCTV (as an introduction to “The Larger Bowl”), Neil Peart’s amazing drum solo (wherein he almost lost a drumstick), and watching Alex Lifeson switching between several different guitars.
The end of the show came with a short animated video of “Lil’ Rush”: the band members animated by the creators of South Park. Geddy Lee was Cartman (sans knit cap, but with long brown hair), Alex Lifeson was Kyle, and Neil Peart was Kenny. (Poor Stan was an unnamed member.) Lil’ Rush began playing “Tom Sawyer,” arguably Rush’s most famous song, with Cartman-as-Geddy singing, “Modern day warrior named Tom Sawyer! He floated down a river on a raft with a black guy!” Kyle-as-Alex interrupts him, saying it was actually Huckleberry Finn, prompting Cartman-as-Geddy to yell, “My name is Geddy Lee, and I can sing whatever lyrics I want!” The actual “Tom Sawyer” intro began soon after and elicited a huge cheer of approval.
The encores were plentiful: the bombastic “One Little Victory,” the unexpected choice of “A Passage to Bangkok” (from 1976’s 2112) that caused many a doobie to be sparked, and “YYZ,” the instrumental whose riff is based on the letters “YYZ” rendered in Morse code: (-.--/-.--/--..) People familiar with Guitar Hero II rocked their air guitars with zest.
All in all it was a perfect night – my only complaint was that it had to end. In the words of my boyfriend Greg, who has seen them more times than he can count, “The three wise men from Toronto didn’t bring frankincense or myrrh; they just brought the kick-ass!”