Friends of mine will know that I have a small admiration for Canada’s finest power trio and, coming on the back of a magical three day visit to Venice, this was the perfect end to a spectacular few days. When Rush announced their UK dates almost a year ago, the cost of the ticket made me think twice if not three times before committing. However, as always, when the house lights dimmed and the anticipation rose, that dithering about whether or not to buy a ticket was dispelled immediately.
As the band headed on stage to a huge ovation (let’s face it they could fart Spirit of Radio and we’d love it) I realised once again that despite all their critics, this is one band who rarely play it safe. Opening with Subdivisions from Signals, the first part of the set was heavily based on the synthesiser era of the 1980s. Four tracks from Power Windows including the brilliant Grand Designs and Territories, two from Signals (Subdivisions and The Analog Kid) and another from Hold Your Fire (Force Ten) indicated that this was not going to be a greatest hits show (that was on the 30th Anniversary tour). The first drum solo crashed in during the instrumental Where’s My Thing and the first set wrapped up nicely with Far Cry from the previous album Snakes and Arrows. As usual, there was plenty to keep you occupied; constant video backdrop changes, cartoons and close ups of the band in action, overhead shots of the Professor at work and random popcorn machines at the edge of the stage. These guys don’t lack humour, as demonstrated in the intro video and also at the start and end of the second half. Anyone who has seen the quite brilliant Beyond the Lighted Stage will appreciate that for all their professionalism, Rush really don’t take themselves too seriously. However, in terms of the quality of their music, they really are the most consummate professionals. Thunderous bass lines and ear splitting lead breaks make Rush a much heavier proposition live.
The second set started with the arrival of the Clockwork Angels String Ensemble, who proceeded to enhance nine songs from the 2012 album Clockwork Angels with an orchestral style. Remember what I said about playing it safe? Not this band. Not only did they play nine songs from a new album, but they rearranged Dreamline, Red Sector A and unbelievably YYZ to incorporate the violins, violas and cellos. That’s right, YYZ, the air drummer’s dream. Played with strings!! This time I only counted three full air drummers and no-one throwing and catching the imaginary stick which happened on the last tour, I kid you not. Rush closed with The Spirit of Radio which tore the roof off the LG, everyone singing alone with Geddy whose voice remains incredibly strong and able to hit all the notes (unlike a certain Snake). (Now, now! M) To complete the evening, we were treated to Tom Sawyer and then 2112, Parts I, II and VII. Three hours of the highest quality music, lighting, sound and overall entertainment. The comments made by Geddy at the end of the gig suggested strongly that nights like these will become much rarer in the future and once again I felt extremely privileged to have seen them again. Fingers crossed that they do cross the water again one day. It may well be the last chance and if so, I’ll finally realise my ambition to follow them around the UK. 10/10 (Sorry Matt, no surprise there!!)