Vital Signs

Live review of Rush at the Frank Erwin Center

“We’re old,” proclaimed Rush's Geddy Lee to the Erwin Center last night for the group’s now standard half-time. Screech, 57, hasn’t hit nitrous notes since early last decade, while guitar beast Alex Lifeson, also 57, has trimmed down, and pug-nosed poet/drummer Neil Peart, 58, looks more and more like Sluggo. There’s life in the old ladies nonetheless.

Delivering the same set-list at the AT&T Center in San Antonio last September, the Canadian power trio couldn’t match the expert cross section of songs performed at the Erwin Center in 2008, but past the wobbly, curiously-curated first set, the three-headed classic rock monster matched its own arena pyrotechnics.

“Presto” came as a pleasant surprise, and a triptych of “Freewill,” “Marathon,” and “Subdivisions” closing out the first set went from lope to sprint to victory lap with the surety and thrill of an Olympic champion. Even then, next LP preview “BU2B” proved the heaviest hitter of the evening, its Vapor Trails/Snakes & Arrows runoff due every geyser of steam blasting from the stage.

Playing Moving Pictures as most of the second set still equals something of a cheat given that all but one of its seven tracks has cycled in and out of the threesome’s sets since 1981. “Tom Sawyer” and “Limelight” never left, in fact, with kinetic instrumental “YYZ” and even “Witch Hunt” close behind. And yet where the threesome put its shoulder to the LP in the Alamo City last fall, here it caught fire.

“Red Barchetta” motored more hot-rod hybrid than oil and gas oldie, and when Peart missed his lofted drumstick the arena commiserated at full volume. True rarity “The Camera Eye” again proved perhaps the ultimate highlight, its New Wave flounce and progressive lurch raw and fast, and, at 10 minutes, as expertly edited as its video backdrop images of Manhattan. Lifeson’s sleek solo rose like a steel and glass skyline, while closing sleeper “Vital Signs,” DOA last year, blipped the guitarist’s lo-fi Telecaster chank.

Preview two, “Caravan,” proved compositionally premature, sky rockets, et al, one of Peart’s ever-liquefying drum solos shaking out a thoughtful meditation on bash as the immediate antidote. Perennial singalong “Closer to the Heart” and first encore “La Villa Strangiato,” last of four pure instrumentals – Lee’s bass on “Leave That Thing Alone” thick as suspension bridge cables – peaking the show like the late-1970s. Having grown intro dreadlocks, walk-off “Working Man” went ballistic before and after Lifeson’s every-note solo, he who’d given great guitar face all night.

Acid rock’s got nothing on Rush.

Frank Erwin Center set-list, 6/12/11

Spirit of the Radio
Time Stand Still
Stick It Out
Working Them Angels
Leave That Thing Alone


Moving Pictures:
Tom Sawyer
Red Barchetta
The Camera Eye
Witch Hunt
Vital Signs
Closer to the Heart
2112 Overture/The Temples of Syrinx
Far Cry

Encore: La Villa Strangiato, Working Man

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Rush, Geddy Lee, Alex Lifeson, Neil Peart, Moving Pictures

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