by Keith Koenig
If I were to do an Anthropological study at the Sprint Center during what will likely be RUSH’s last KC appearance, it would find that the band attracts mostly middle-aged white males. I should know, as I added to that demographic theory. In fact, we made up 90% of the crowd for Rush’s R40 tour (there were some children in tow and even a small smattering of women).
I first listened to RUSH in 1977, when an 8-track tape of “A Farewell To Kings” warped my spongy pubescent mind, only a year or so before PUNK came along and scrambled it…but in a good way. But Rush were unlike any other band I had experienced at the time. This band KNEW things. I had never heard of Kubla Khan or Ayn Rand before listening to the music of Rush. Still not sure I care for either, but nonetheless, this band had brains and could Rock!
Rush’s fans are devout and a bit nerdy (I include myself in that category) and they turned up in droves at the Sprint Center for this show, which was full, with the exception of the Upper Level on the sides, which were closed off. Not a sellout, but quite a few fans to be sure. As this may be Rush’s final tour (they aren’t even sure at this point), the band is playing songs from throughout their career, starting with the later material and winding things down with their earliest work.
Rush’s first set, which lasted 65 minutes, was touch and go, as I am personally not a huge fan of the band’s later work. In fact, I’d say that 1982’s “Signals” was their last great album, which would inspire cries of “Blasphemy!!” from their hardcore fans. So, the first set bored me in parts.
I did enjoy “Far Cry” which is a late period song I dig and of course, the brilliant “Subdivisions” which closed the first set, but was not so keen on them opening the show with three songs from their latest album, “Clockwork Angels” which I didn’t care for at all. “Roll The Bones” was also a highlight from the first set and included a trippy backing video, that included accompaniment from local boy done good, Paul Rudd, as well as actors Jason Segel, Peter Dinklage, and Tom Morello, from Rage Against The Machine. It was OK, but for most Rush fans, any little thing this band does is great. They could do a concept album of Norwegian whaling songs and the fanboy messageboards would light up with praise.
The second set, however, is where I was able to relive my misspent youth.
The 75-minute second set was very cool. It started off with hits like “Tom Sawyer” and “Spirit Of The Radio” and then veered into their classic conceptual work. The Prelude to “Hemispheres” was played, as well as the whole “2112” suite, but the highlight of set two, for me, was getting to hear my favorite Rush song, “Xanadu” from the aforementioned “A Farewell To Kings” record, which I nodded off to during my junior High years, headphones almost glued to my ears. That lasers and dry ice were involved made the song that much more special, as did Geddy Lee’s use of a double-neck Bass and Alex Lifeson wielding a double-neck guitar, as they did when I first saw them on the “Moving Pictures” tour back in ’81. (Ah, where doe the time go??).
The band itself is still in pretty fine form into their sixties. Neal Peart is still one of the most amazing Rock drummers to ever pick up a pair of sticks. His use of other percussion bells, whistles, and gadgets is always brilliant to behold. Alex Lifeson is a truly underrated guitarist, as I have rarely seen his name show up in polls for the best Rock guitarists and Geddy Lee is still one of the more inventive Bassists and does some fine keyboard work, as well. He can also still hit the high notes vocally, but I did notice that he struggled at a few points on the mike.
The band doesn’t ever say a whole lot to the audience, preferring to let their music do the talking. They came back out for a four song encore lasting about 15 minutes. They played songs from their first three albums, ending with “Working Man.” For the encore, their stage setting was minimal, as uniformed stage hands came on stage and added and discarded of much of the ‘props’ we saw on stage, including a large set of Marshall stacks that dwindled to a single small amp by the end of the show. But again, for the uber-fans of this band, the night was glorious.
Many people paid the way too lofty price for tour tee shirts and I saw many in the Restroom peeling off shirts and throwing their new gear on. I didn’t buy a shirt (I already have a couple of Rush tees from past shows that are still in fine form).
All in all, not the best Rock show I’ve ever seen, or even the best RUSH concert for that matter, but the show proved that this band truly knew how to reach the ‘outsider’ Rock fans, who didn’t mind experimentation and Neil Peart’s lofty and at times, even pretentious lyrics. I always dug these guys, although I wasn’t really interested in their later stuff. But Rush remains, for however long they are together, a formidable and Rocking band.