Rush at Target Center, 9/24/12
Photo by Steve Cohen
Target Center, Minneapolis
Monday, September 24, 2012
When the Toronto prog trio last visited us at the Minnesota State Fair a couple years ago, if they were hinting that the rest of their touring career's set lists would involve bouncing around their back catalog, then last night's three-hour performance at the Target Center really drove the point home. Their random shuffle time machine of 43 years of music took unpredictable twists and turns during the particularly synth-laden first half of the night. The band's '80s music provided a vintage impression of sounds that once came across as futuristic.
Sparking thing off with a Rush staple "Subdivisions" -- with its heavy keyboards and prog jazz-like changes -- the band introduced a theme that's common in drummer Neil Peart's lyrics. They typically focus on individualism and aspects of society, nature and culture -- ideas that wove through songs that were intermixed from the band's underrated Hold Your Fire from 1987, Power Windows and Grace Under Pressure from '85 and '84 respectively.
Photos by Steve Cohen
Visual production met new levels, as they always have been an important part of the show. This time, while the same Rush cornball wit was ever-present, there was a much more concentrated and serious tone as the band fleshed out music they hadn't played in years.
With "The Big Money" and "Force Ten," which is steeped in keyboards but driven by Geddy's relentless bass progression, Rush dusted off a new appreciation for the band's technology driven era. What once was pioneering now sounded dated in a sense. Though with the different samplings being reintroduced, since we hadn't heard these songs peformed live in a long time actually inspired a reexamination of the material.
"Hard to Believe Signals is 30 years old now," Geddy sighed introducing "Analog Kid" which really bridges the band's original progressive rock roots with enveloping keyboard washes that were echoed visually by the amazing light display and stage setting which looked like an old science fiction mad professor's laboratory stocked with a large brain encased in bubbling glass and a gigantic popcorn machine, labeled "Corny."
With a couple tracks from 1991's Roll the Bones, Rush dug up the powerful "Bravado" and the instrumental "Where's My Thing?" but not before the Professor Peart would take the first of three drum solos of the night, this time a subtle jazz inspired meditation on hand rudiments. Ending the first half of the performance with "Far Cry" from 2007's Snake and Arrows things were brought more up to date before Rush took a much needed break.
After an intermission, which allowed for 90 percent of the audience a chance to go to the little boy's room, Rush returned to the stage performing a good portion of the band's latest release, Clockwork Angels. For the first time ever Rush has invited "The Clockwork Angels String Section" which accompanied the band for their newest music which dramatically brought out the sound of the new record. A concept album the new tracks delivered and sounded best together as a group through to the latest chugging single, "Headlong Flight" and the laid back hippie flower-people vibe of "The Garden" all of which were partnered with wonderful steampunk-esque visuals that accented the album's story.
Photos by Steve Cohen
For casual fans coming to hear the hits, they would have to wait. But the audience seemed un-phased and as true die-hard lovers more than appreciative of deeper cuts like "Manhattan Project," featuring a brand new drum solo that involved Peart's electronic drum set that sounded more like ambient drum and bass rhythms that eventually flowed into a rather serious take on "Red Sector A."
Finally diving into the band's signature instrumental, "YYZ", Geddy and his partners traded fours and whipped the crowd into an air drumming frenzy. With "Spirit of the Radio" as Rush's ultimate sing-along the fans raised fists in appreciation for the 1980 classic.
The encore would carry on in standard Rush tradition with "Tom Sawyer" and a generous portion from 2112 that once again had the crowd enraptured. For a band that has perservered for so long and with such complicated music it's a rewarding experience to share with fellow fans. Exiting the Target Center I heard a mix of reviews from people who were completely confounded by the song selections and the new tracks to those who believe the band can do no wrong. Whatever the case it was more the evident Rush are in many ways at the top of their game in age and at a creative level like none other in their careers. It's a rare thing for a band to bolster a catalog that remains relevant and are able to pick and choose, maintaining a freshness to their entire body of work.
Critic's Bias: My 7th time seeing Rush since 1988. Though I hadn't listened to Clockwork Angels much yet as a super fan I was more than willing to oblige their continued creativity and masterful work, new and old.
The Crowd: Nerds!
Overheard in the Crowd: "Get ready for a whole bunch of air drumming!"
Random Notebook Dump: Believe I'm one of just a few dudes here with a woman, not to mention one that cooked dinner for Olivia Newton-John before joining me for the show. Good times!
The Big Money
The Body Electric
The Analog Kid
Where's My Thing?
Seven Cities of Gold
Red Sector A
The Spirit of Radio
2112 Overture-Temples of Syrinx-Grand Finale
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