Anybody who knows me well enough knows what a huge Rush fan I am. It’s the music I grew up with. The songs that are burned into my memories of growing up and learning how to play music. Moving Pictures came out when I first moved back to the US and even though I was already a big fan, that album really put the hook in me. I remember when I lived in Europe, they didn’t have any Rush at the PX, it was all Supertramp, Styx and some new band called The Police. I remember taking fairly regular trips on the olive drab military shuttle bus to a German record store way off base called The Top Pop Shop. This record store also took USD so if we didn’t have Deutschmarks, we were still able to buy stuff without having to go to the exchange first. The furthest shuttle stop out at Flak Kaserne still left me with a mile walk to get there and think about what I could buy that day. I would make decision after decision assuring myself I was definitely going to get this or that, knowing full well all that debate was out the window as soon as I set foot in the store and saw all the album artwork on full display in the new releases rack. Going to the record store was such a big deal back then, it was an event, a trip, something special with a fantastic reward to be had on many levels – often times all for much less than $7.00.
One time in particular I recall having saved up $10 from allowance and since the bus was free, I had enough to buy one record and a soda. My friend and I decided to make a special trip to The Top Pop Shop one Saturday to buy a record, which is something we often did only when we had more money so we could buy more than one record. Trips out there off base were slightly frowned upon by our parents, but they always let us go anyhow.
I knew what I wanted, it was the latest Rush album called Hemispheres – one record, a 45 min bus trip and a two mile walk - $5.99. I remember walking back to the shuttle bus stop with this weird blue and pink album with a naked man on the cover in the magenta plastic bag with The Top Pop Shop logo on one side. I remember thinking about how great it was going to be when I got home and my friend and I could spend the rest of the day filling our young minds with brand new music buy guys who were so cool they had white shag carpet on their stage! We knew that because we had studied and dissected every picture in the folds of ‘All The Worlds A Stage’ and their rare appearances in Creem Magazine. Sure we liked Zeppelin, Boston and AC/DC like all the other kids over there, but if you knew about Rush, oh man you were SO in on the real deal! Rush was our band!
I been looking forward to this show for quite sometime since I missed Snakes and Arrows the first time around. Rush always seems to play in our area on a Saturday and we play every Saturday so I had been SOL on the R30 tour and the first round of S&A. This was my first experience using StubHub and it was a positive one. I used to use a ticket broker to get something in first couple of rows, but my former contact is shall we say, involuntarily “out of the business” at the moment. I bought sixth row on Geddy’s side and received my tickets promptly about three weeks before the show. Nice. I’ll be using StubHub again just for the low hassle factor alone. I had two tix, Lisa couldn’t go and isn’t a fan, Rob couldn’t go, Jimmy couldn’t go (he has yet to see Neil play live), Dean already had tickets. I decided to invite my good friend Kelly. She was a casual Rush fan who had never seen them before. She was about to be welcomed into a really special and exclusive club like no other.
We hooked up with Dean before the show, and we talked Rush talk for a while. It’s funny how real Rush fans always refer to the band members by their first names, as if we know them – nothing could be further from the truth but it’s always first names only during Rush discussions with other known Rush fans – as Kelly noted for future reference! Dean checked out all the merch I bought giving it the stamp of approval. I think he went and got a shirt later. They had some really cool stuff, dog tags, temporary tattoos, tie dye shirts, USB drives with the Rush logo, and everything was priced very reasonable. $30 for a shirt – a cool shirt with cool artwork on both sides – $5 for temp tattoos, $10 for dog tags or a baseball hat. You got a sense that the band was really trying to make the merch affordable for all the fans. Everything seemed well worth the price, not the normal rape and pillage pricing at most concerts. And there was cool stuff for women. Even though Rush concerts are mostly a sausage fest, at least the women who do show up get nice choices for merch!
I’ve seen Rush about seventeen times, sometimes twice on the same tour. I try to never miss a tour. My first Rush concert was the Moving Pictures tour in 1981-82. I still have my concert shirt! This latest album Snakes and Arrows is the best Rush album in forever. It hearkens back to the classic Rush era, the era that made me LOVE this band. For the first time since probably the Counterparts tour, I was looking forward to hearing the new material live, there are so many good songs on the S&A. Not to say that all the in between albums weren’t good, for example, I didn’t even buy Test for Echo, which I love, until after I saw the show on the ’97 tour, but this new album is OLD good. One song in particular really had my head moving sideways. A song called ‘Workin’ Them Angels’ is a good song already, but whoever is the creative mind behind the Rush visuals hit one out of the park with the imagery on the big screen for that song.
At Rush concerts, everybody cheers when certain things are shown on the big screen, it’s a given. Everybody always goes nuts over the same images for the same songs, for the love of the familiar and the nostalgic. The Starman is always a guaranteed roar, and we as fans just can’t get enough of that one. But there might be a new classic in the works here. ‘Workin’ Them Angels’ seems to be about how people can do things on the edge over and over without killing themselves and how those people tend to work their ‘guardian angels’ overtime. Like guardian angels have to work harder for some people than they do for others who don’t take as many risks in life. During the song, the big screen cycled through false color images of people doing dangerous jobs with long flowing sepia-toned angel wings on their backs. Then an image of two soldiers in full desert battle gear popped up, one crouching with an M-16 and the other standing beside him – both had angel wings. The crowd roared so loud it drowned out the band. It sent chills up and down my spine – the emotion was just overwhelming. THIS is why we go see Rush!! THIS is why our religion is better than yours! Most times you just expect to go to any concert and hear the songs you know and love so well, but the imagery for this song was so powerful and so moving, it far eclipsed any of my old favorites (Well, maybe not ‘The Trees’) and made me love that song so much more. Talk about going the extra mile, this was absolutely out of this world for me. It was that moment when your brain is so overloaded with positive aural and visual stimulation that your cortex just gives up and collapses in a gelatinous mass of euphoria. I love being caught off guard like that. It does not get any better than that for me.
Since Vapor Trails tour, Rush has done a three hour show with a half hour intermission. Dean and I called each other during intermission to share our thoughts and impressions at the midway point. We agreed we were both right in the middle of being blown away! We spotted each others seats and waved like a couple of 12 year olds! Kelly was impressed at her first Rush concert and eager to be in the club from now on. A week later she had learned for herself all the band member’s real names and some of the story behind 2112 – off to a good start!
The seating up front was pretty informal, the security would let people walk up into the middle to take pics – nice touch. I got some pretty good pics of Geddy. One time he came right up to the edge where I was standing and I hurriedly got off a few shots. I had to admit to Kelly after I took a couple of strides back to my seat that my heart was beating like a little fanboy standing five feet from one of my heroes. One drawback to our seats, the keyboard rig blocked Neil. I could see his feet pretty good, but was resigned to seeing him up on the big screen when his turn came. The sound was fantastic as usual. Clear as a bell top to bottom.
Kelly made a few more observations on the religious aspect of being a Rush fan at a Rush concert. Things that we have taken for granted for a very long time. One thing that struck her the most I think, Rush has THE most air drummers per capita than any other band. When you turn around and look at the crowd, it’s quite a sight to see, everybody nailing every crash and every fill in almost perfect unison. Another, everybody sings the wailing part in 2112: Overture. Together. Loud. It’s just what you do! No need to be embarrassed to do it because everybody else is doing it too! It’s like there is a script for fan participation that we all just know, it ain’t written down anywhere, you just have to go to enough shows to know what to do. It’s kind of like going to church, where you know the Order of Mass, when to say ‘amen’ and ‘also with you’ – you learn by going and participating repeatedly!
I cannot wait for the next tour. I cannot wait for the DVD from this tour, and I can’t wait to ‘see’ those songs again. Maybe next year they will do ‘The Camera Eye’.