Rush’s 40th Anniversary tour might ostensibly be their farewell tour; drummer Neil Peart recently admitted to suffering from chronic tendinitis, which can be pretty crippling and painful for a drummer, and Geddy Lee’s voice struggles to hit the high notes of yesterday. But if indeed this is the last go ’round for the trio, they’ll have left us on a 2.5 hour retrospective of their amazing career.
Built as a trip back through time, they opened their June 21st show at the Bell Centre with “The Anarchist” and “Clockwork Angels” from their latest album named after the latter song. They then proceeded to go backwards through their discography which worked very well. Recent favourites like “Far Cry” and “One Little Victory” soon brought the band to “Animate” from the underrated “Counterparts”, and the crowd kicked up a notch. “Roll the Bones” had a film of various celebrities miming to the rap part; Peter Dinklage looked really badass doing so! With a goosebumps-inducing version of 1984’s “Distant Early Warning”, the band seemed to reach critical mass with the crowd, as they headed into their glory years. They capped the first set with their classic “Subdivisions” before taking a short break.
The stage set was similar to their recent tours, with various funny steampunk contraptions filling the stage (Geddy Lee had a popcorn machine behind him). But throughout the show, workers would take away some of the items, sometimes bringing in new one. So the band went from their modern ampless stage, to having amplifiers behind them, to having a HUGE backline, that got downsized as they move towards their beginnings. It was a simple but effective trick, especially once they started emulating a theater setup. Video screens allowed a closer look at the musicians (apart from his voice, it looks like Geddy Lee is immortal.), and, of course, what would a Rush show be without great lighting? They even brought back the lasers that used to be their hallmark.
The second set kicked off with a bang as the band tore into a heavy version of “Tom Sawyer”, bringing out the air drummer in everyone. “Red Barchetta” and “Spirit of Radio” continued the trend before the band offered some real treats for their die hard fans. “Jacob’s Ladder” was divine (and hadn’t been played since the 1980 tour) and the “Hemisphere: Prelude” and “Cygnus X-1” combo another surprise for fans of Rush’s complicated side. The boys whipped out the old double neck guitars (Alex Lifeson has nicknamed his “Heavy Bastard”) for a majestic version of “Xanadu” before ending the set with an abbreviated of their classic 2112 suite.
For the encore, the band mined their first three records with a grand version of “Lakeside Park” followed by “Anthem”, “What You’re Doing” and “Working Man”. I think everyone in the near sold out crowd would have stayed for another trip back up in time.
In the end, almost all their albums were covered, except for “Test For Echo” (which seems criminally overlooked) and the late 80’s albums who were extensively covered in recent tours. If this is truly the last time I got to see Rush, at least I’ll know I savoured every note, word and drum fill; it truly was a farewell to kings. Thank you Geddy, Alex and Neil.
Headlong Flight (with “Drumbastica” mini drum solo)
The Main Monkey Business
One Little Victory
Roll the Bones
Distant Early Warning
The Spirit of Radio
Cygnus X-1 Book II: Hemispheres Part I: Prelude
Cygnus X-1 (The Voyage Part 1 & 3 with drum solo)
Closer to the Heart
2112 Part I: Overture
2112 Part II: The Temples of Syrinx
2112 Part IV: Presentation
2112 Part VII: Grand Finale
What You’re Doing
Jean-Frédéric Vachon runs Diary of a Music Addict.