Rush's 30th Anniversary Tour
Reviewed by David Lynch, Fri., July 2, 2004
Rush's 30th Anniversary TourVerizon Wireless Amphitheater, Selma, Texas, June 25/C.W. Mitchell Pavilion, the Woodlands, Houston, Texas, June 26
"There are two ways to be successful. One is to have a hit single or a string of them. The other is to be around so much, to always be touring, that you'll have to be noticed." So opined Rush's lyricist and drummer Neil Peart in 1976, when the Canadian trio hit its stride with 2112, their thematic opus. Given that Rush's three long decades have been forged with creativity, consistency, and, yes, monumental success rather than a string of hits, Peart's words have proved prophetic. Sure, a number of their coming-of-age anthems "Closer to the Heart," "Spirit of the Radio," Tom Sawyer," and "Subdivisions" have crackled the invisible airways, but Rush's reputation is based on 30 years of touring. Yet unlike other institutions whose currency is ticket stubs, every one of Rush's two dozen live and studio albums have gone gold or platinum. With 2002/03's extensive Vapor Trails tour barely cold, however, Peart, guitarist Alex Lifeson and bass/vocal/keyboardist Geddy Lee didn't have time to record an album before hitting the road, instead putting out Feedback, an EP of covers the band played during its genesis. Typical of music business timing, a dozen tour dates came and went while the EP awaited release this Tuesday. Regardless, why should folks fork over their hard-earned lucre to see the loudest Order of Canada recipients perform classics theirs and other people's yet again? Is Rush still relevant? Yes, for three reasons. One, Rush has remained loyal to the ideal of art before commerce. This is notable in any field, but particularly salient in the topsy-turvy world of rock & roll. Second, as a beacon of creative and commercial success, Rush is a major influence for modern metalheads; groups like Metallica, Dream Theater, and Tool wouldn't be themselves without Rush. And finally, even though all three members recently passed the half-century mark, they still play circles around others half their age, making 12/8 time signatures look as easy as jumping into a pool. Lifeson and Peart show their age more than Lee, but they have good reasons, jail and the loss of family, respectively. So, how were the two Texas dates on this special tour? Like an atomic clock, Rush performed seamlessly. Endurance wasn't an issue either, the show running over three hours as the band crammed 30-plus songs into two sets and an encore. And with more than 150 songs in their catalog, there was no shortage of set list options. Still, like other seasoned touring acts Kiss and the Rolling Stones come to mind Rush treads a fine line between giving fans what the band thinks they want, and becoming a jukebox of well-trodden hits. Clearly nobody told the band that one gives pearls for 30th anniversaries, because they were few and far between on this leg of the tour. Grace Under Pressure closer "Between the Wheels" was a treat, while "Red Barchetta" remains ageless, but this supposedly special set list came across more as a retooled version of the Vapor Trails trek than what it should have been: a pull-out-the-stops, surprise-the-shit-out-of-the-regulars affair. Great White North renderings of Feedback's covers didn't always work, but hearing Rush lay down Cream's arrangement of Robert Johnson's über-seminal "Crossroads" was sweet. Otherwise, where were the buried gems for which fans pined ("Circumstances," "Different Strings," "Jacob's Ladder"); classics not recently heard ("Fly By Night," "In the End"); and brave outings (Caress of Steel's entire flip side). And for the love of Pete, how about something tongue-in-cheek ("I Think I'm Going Bald")? Instead of the Vapor Trails set lists being used as a point of departure, those songs should've been struck from the possible pool. Instead of using the Big Birthday to pull proverbial rabbits out of the catalog hat, Rush played it too safe. And still, it was the best three hours around.
The Set List
R30 Medley: "Finding My Way"/"Anthem"/"Bastille Day"/"A Passage to Bangkok"/"Cygnus X-1"/ "Hemispheres"
"The Spirit of Radio"
"Roll the Bones"
"One Little Victory"
"Between the Wheels"
"Red Sector A"
"Heart Full of Soul"
"2112 (Overture/Temples of Syrinx/Grand Finale)" "La Villa Strangiato"
"By-Tor and the Snow Dog"