Rush Cynthia Woods Mitchell Pavilion September 25, 2010
For more images from Saturday's show, see our slideshow here.
The veteran Canadian nerd-rockers brought their Time Machine tour to The Woodlands Saturday night, with all that the name implies. The stage theme was a steampunk/circus big top mash-up, the video interludes consisted of temporal-themed comedy segments, and the band's set drew from the breadth of their catalog, reaching back to the mid-'70s as well as trying out a few new tracks from their upcoming album Clockwork Angels.
Rush's longevity (their eponymous debut album was released in 1974) and success (they trail only the Beatles and Rolling Stones in for most consecutive gold/platinum albums by a rock group) is testament not only to their work ethic and integrity, but to their rabid fans, who showed up in force to jam themselves into the Pavilion and see the band perform -- among other things -- their 1981 album Moving Pictures in its entirety.
They took the stage to "Spirit of Radio," one of their earliest radio hits, then segued into "Time Stand Still" from 1987's Hold Your Fire. The band knows their crowd, treating the audience to overhead shots of bassist/vocalist Geddy Lee's pedal array as well as drummer Neil Peart's kit, each of which were met with thunderous applause.
The next tracks were somewhat lesser known, including "Presto," "Leave That Thing Alone" (from Counterparts),
the aforementioned unreleased cuts "Workin' Them Angels" from Snakes and Arrows and the aforementioned unreleased "BU2B." And if Aftermath may be permitted some minor editorializing, while we think we understand what the band was getting at with their accompanying video to "Angels," we're not sure depicting U.S. troops simultaneously carrying machine guns and sporting wings is exactly in keeping with New Testament doctrine.
Then again, Peart reads a lot. Maybe he knows something we don't.
After "Freewill" and "Subdivisions" came Moving Pictures. The first side of that album is archetypal late era AOR: "Tom Sawyer," "Red Barchetta," ""YYZ" (even with the drum solo moved to a later portion of the concert), and you've still got "Limelight" and "Vital Signs" to come. Even that epitome of early 80s synth overload, "Camera Eye," impressed.
Of course, like that album, the band is noticeably older. Guitarist Alex Lifeson and Peart are decidedly beefier (Lifeson now looks like the offspring of our grandfather and Brock Sampson), while Lee has finally aged into his own wizened countenance, and they begged forgiveness for taking a couple breaks. Little of the onstage energy was missing, however. Lee and Lifeson obviously fed off the crowd's enthusiasm, and were as loose in attitude as they were tight technically.
It's always nice to see a band that actually seems to enjoy playing their music together and goofing around with each other. Good luck getting that kind of interaction from Aerosmith or the Stones, who stopped viewing their music in any creative context long ago, having done little more than make "product" for the last 20 years.
Sure, there were some screw-ups. Peart came in too early at one point during "Time Stand Still" and Lifeson muffed a cue in "Limelight," but given the complexity of their arrangements, we think we can cut them some slack. To paraphrase Yoda, "When 42 years old your band reaches, play as good you will not, hm?"
Yeah, we went there. Ladies, if you want your pick of occasionally attractive, probably employed, mostly shy and retiring males, get thee to a Rush concert. Aftermath would conservatively estimate the male to female ration at 25:1. And lest you think we're being overly harsh, the band themselves joked about the disparity in the post-concert film clip ("Seven girls? That's a record for a Rush show.").
After MP, Peart's drum solo (which might be referred to as "self-indulgent" by those who've never seen what a motherfucker the guys is with a pair of sticks), and Rush show staple "Closer to the Heart," we were treated to Parts 1 ("Overture") and 2 ("The Temples of Syrinx") of 2112, which was an especially poignant moment. For it was a young Aftermath that swapped out Duran Duran's Rio with 2112 in the cassette player at a junior high party, thereby cementing our "dateless wonder" status well into our late teen years.
By the end of the encore ("La Villa Strangiato" and "Working Man"...RIP John Rutsey) Rush has played almost three hours, and given the depth of their catalog could easily have played three more. Who doesn't want to hear all 18 minutes of "Cygnus X-1: Book 2" live? Or a two-fer of "Distant Early Warning" and "Red Sector A" from Grace Under Pressure? Or "The Necromancer?" Or "The Manhattan Project?"
Or, or, or. We're just happy we got to see "Subdivisions" live. Another item crossed off Aftermath's bucket list.
Personal Bias: We whiled away many sunny summer days protected from dangerous fresh air by playing D&D to the strains of Permanent Waves and Fly By Night.
The Crowd: Aftermath's friend AB insisted we mention the "sausagefest" nature of the shows. Our wife put it more succinctly: "Surprisingly, there was no line for the ladies' room."
Overheard In The Crowd: "Who are those guys?", referring to Jason Segel and Paul Rudd, who reprised their I Love You, Man roles in the post-concert clip.
Random Notebook Dump: "Lifeson has changed shirts four times."
Spirit of Radio Time Stand Still Presto Stick It Out Workin' Them Angels Leave That Thing Alone Faithless BU2B Freewill Marathon Subdivisions
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Tom Sawyer Red Barchetta YYZ Limelight Camera Eye Witch Hunt Vital Signs Caravan [drum solo] Love 4 Sale Closer to the Heart 2112 Part 1: Overture 2112 Part 2: The Temples of Syrinx Far Cry
La Villa Strangiato Working Man