Is it true? Is this it for my favorite band? Only time will tell but if this is the “last major tour of this magnitude” as they stated a few months ago, they are going out on a high.
Of course I should preface something before going any further.. This piece is definitely biased but hopefully entertaining especially if you’re a music fan as many of us have a similar histories with our favorite band.
The love of music was an early age discovery for me and to this day my musical tastes are very diverse but the first band I truly called my own was Kiss. It was music my family didn’t care about but at the age of five when I got Destroyer I became a Kiss fanatic and like many kids I wanted to be a member of Kiss. I loved them all but drums appealed to me so Peter Criss was the easy choice. I got my little bullshit drum kit, would crank up my Kiss albums and make a lot of noise. What I didn’t know was that it would all change on my eighth birthday when a friend of my mother’s bought me two albums, Rush Hemispheres and some Doors album that I think went right into my mother’s album collection. As a side note, to this day I am not a Doors fan, not sure if that’s Geddy, Alex and Neil’s fault but putting Hemispheres next to just about any other rock album of the era is just ridiculous in my opinion.
That’s how it all started and once I heard Rush there was no going back. I mean I still liked Kiss and after Rush came Van Halen, Iron Maiden, Metallica, Queensryche (who I initially got turned on to because of Scott Rockenfeld’s drumming style which he and I discussed years later in relation to the influence of Rush and Neil), as well as bands like U2, Alice in Chains, the Foo Fighters etc.
I discover new music all the time but none could ever have the history I have with Rush. This actually brings me to a point about the pictures. You may be saying yourself, what’s with the pictures and, well, there’s an explanation for that. I’ve been lucky over the years to meet the Rush guys (unfortunately not Neil) a few times (I had a friend that worked with them but sadly passed way too soon/young) but was refused a photo pass so I thought I’d turn my Rush brethren onto some new stuff like Crobot and The Winery Dogs. These bands are filled with amazing musicians including Jake Figueroa and Brandon Yeagley of Crobot (below), and if you haven’t heard The Winery Dog (main picture), they are basically a super group made up of Mike Portnoy, Richie Kotzen and Billy Sheehan. Trust me when I tell you both of these bands deserve your attention so use the links above to check them out.
In reality the whole no photo thing is a huge disappointment. Knowing this could be the end of the road for Rush I reached out to their management soon after the tour was announced because I wanted to cover opening night. I followed up as it got closer and since I hadn’t gotten a response which is common (until a day or so before) I took all my gear to Tulsa to be told the day before that they would not be accommodating my request.
As someone who currently covers music for a few different outlets and a bunch of others over the years I understand these things so when they were coming to the east coast I reached out to ask about NJ and NY but also mentioned I’d be in Irvine and LA. All I cared about was covering any show with a photo pass, I mean here’s a band that in some way shaped my life, as they have for many fans, and I was given an across the board no. I guess their management feels I can’t be a fan and a journalist since weeks later one of my outlets put in a request (I gave them the contact info) and was given approval.
Anyway, back to the super group known as Rush. Through the years I have been inspired by their music and also by them as people. Neil not only writes amazing lyrics but also some pretty interesting books, Geddy loves his wine and is a walking baseball encyclopedia (check out the baseballs he donated to the Negro Leagues Baseball Museum in Kansas City), and Alex is a painter, golfer, has produced recordings outside of Rush in addition to opening a cool little venue in Toronto, where you can check out live music and get some great food, called The Orbit Room.
Of course nothing is as inspiring as seeing Rush live which is what this is really about.
My first time seeing Rush was in the early 80’s and any Rush or music fan, who has witnessed them live, knows when you see these three music virtuoso’s take the stage and watch them do their thing you will be blown away. Geddy, Alex and Neil are not only impressive and precise but seeing them becomes addicting for many. Go to any Rush concert, walk up to any fan and ask them how many times they have seen the band, the numbers are staggering. So much so that I personally stopped counting after I hit 100 shows on the R30 Tour. That’s 10 years and four tours ago; I’ve seen them plenty since.
Ok so, I think it’s obvious, I am a bit of an extremist when it comes to Rush. I have seen Rush every tour opening night and closing night since Test For Echo (1996) regardless of where in the world those shows happen. It seemed like a great idea when I started it; I love to travel and love Rush so I combined two passions. It has led me to many new friendships and crazy trips like driving to every show in mainland Europe on the R30 Tour (and again on Snakes and Arrows) as well as shows in places like Brazil, Finland, Chile (with a stop on Easter Island), The Netherlands, Kansas City, Albuquerque, Nashville, Albany, and well you get the point. Although I have made it to all these places (and more) nothing and I mean NOTHING compares to seeing Rush on the East Coast.
Last week I was able to catch what could be the last three shows Rush will ever play in Philadelphia, New Jersey and New York’s Madison Square Garden. These are three amazing cities for Rush and I didn’t plan to go to all three but the stars aligned, as they often do when it comes to this band, so being the fan I am I went and was treated to three incredible nights of music.
All the show details are out there for you to read so I won’t get crazy but will say that each show is somewhat unique. To fans delight, they have done a little more set list changing then what’s ‘normal’ for them. One night you may get “The Camera Eye”, “Red Barchetta” or “YYZ” another night you might get “Distant Early Warning” or “Between The Wheels”. There are a few changes and they all take place in the first set.
Early on, before opening night, some Rush friends and I were made aware of what would be the most special change of the tour. We were told there would be a special song in three cities (Toronto, New York and Vancouver) and for the folks that made it to second night in Toronto they were the first and only people, until Newark, to ever see “Losing It.” The song had never been played live and for Rush fans to see something that the band has never done is not only special but extremely rare. Sure Toronto got to see it with Ben Mink who played the electric violin on the studio recording of Signals but the NY/NJ diehards got to see it at back to back shows with Jonathan Dinklage of the Clockwork Angels String Ensemble.
R40 Live Tour as it’s called is an astounding reverse chronological order of 41 years of Rush history; I guess R41 didn’t sound as catchy?
They miss a few years/albums in the course of their time travel and honestly no fan is ever completely satisfied with a Rush set. As they prepped for the tour and since they spoke about many songs they considered including “Fly By Night” which would be a dream come true for me but it doesn’t matter what they play because if you asked every diehard their “dream come true” song or set chances are it would all be different. Regardless of that I believe this is the best set played in their 41 years because it truly spans their entire career.
A Rush show isn’t just about the music because its accompanied by amazing lights, funny videos (with many special guests) and in this case stage set changes. All Rush fans think Rush is cool even if their friends, girlfriends, parents, and wives (ex-wives in most cases, lol) don’t agree but one thing all would agree is cool is the R40 Live stage. As the show opens we see what looks like the Clock Work Angles tour and as the band continue to go back in time through their musical catalog the crew changes their amps, guitars and entire feel of the stage to go along with the era of each song. As they bring the show to its final notes there they stand, in a high school gym, some amps on chairs and a disco ball above them.
All three shows were distinctive as I watched each from a different perspective. One night I sat straight back, one night in the 4th row and one night just to the side of Alex. MSG is a special place for artists but it was my least favorite as I think the sound there is below par and Newark’s Prudential Center shined as the best overall with Philadelphia having the unsurpassable pre-show tailgate.
So is this the end? Are Rush done? Your guess is as good as mine. In all honesty I can’t imagine this being the end and feel like they will do small tours with a couple of nights in a handful of cities or maybe, as un-Rush like as it seems, they will do a residency in Las Vegas like many bands in recent years. On the other hand we keep hearing about Neil’s Chronic Tendonitis, how he doesn’t want to miss his daughter growing up (who can blame him) and Alex’s arthritis. Let’s face it people, these guys still rock but they are old and is it better to go out when you’re still on top of your game; I guess only Geddy, Alex, and Neil know for sure but as all Rush fans know “Anything can happen…”
I know one thing’s for sure (I say it every tour) this could be it so there is no question you’ll find me at the Forum on August 1st to witness what might be the end. Who knows maybe Neil will call me and offer me that photo pass, maybe it will be a dream come true and I’ll get to see “Fly By Night”, maybe they will have some special new crazy video (I have a few ideas) or maybe Geddy will just end as he typically does waving as he says something like hope to see you again sometime.
However it ends I’m going to be there and if between now and then you can catch one of these remaining 11 tour dates I highly suggest you do.
Sat 07/11/15 Denver, CO Pepsi Center
Mon 07/13/15 Salt Lake City, UT Maverik Center
Wed 07/15/15 Calgary, AB Scotiabank Saddledome
Fri 07/17/15 Vancouver, BC Rogers Arena
Sun 07/19/15 Seattle, WA KeyArena At Seattle Center
Tue 07/21/15 Portland, OR Moda Center
Thu 07/23/15 San Jose, CA SAP Center At San Jose
Sat 07/25/15 Las Vegas, NV MGM Grand Garden Arena
Mon 07/27/15 Phoenix, AZ US Airways Center
Thu 07/30/15 Irvine, CA Irvine Meadows Amphitheatre
Sat 08/01/15 Inglewood, CA Forum
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