On Monday (August 9, 2010) I saw Rush perform at the Shoreline Amphitheatre in Mountain View, CA. While the show was by no means perfect, the good – the great – far outweighed the bad. Rush fans of any generation should make every effort to catch the band this time out.
They seem to be calling the tour variously “The Time Machine Tour” or “An Evening with Rush.” These shows include performances of the entire Moving Pictures album from 1981. Previously Rush have never performed the entire album live in sequence – and I don’t think they’ve ever played “The Camera Eye” on stage.
I didn’t take detailed notes on the setlist, but I believe the Mountain View show’s was identical to others so far on the tour.
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The Spirit of Radio
Time Stand Still
Stick It Out
Workin’ Them Angels
Leave That Thing Alone
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The Camera Eye
Closer To The Heart
2112 Part I: Overture
2112 Part II: The Temples Of Syrinx
La Villa Strangiato
Let’s get the bad out of the way: each set was preceded by excruciatingly long and unfunny sketch comedy-style videos parodying what the band might have been like had things gone differently (oom-pah style dinner show performances, shots of babies playing Rush’s instruments, others with Neil playing guitar and Geddy on drums). The main character, I believe played by Alex, was a gigantic manager apparently modeled on Mr. Creosote from Monthy Python’s The Meaning of Life. The worst aspect of these videos was that they included album versions of the songs that started each set, so there was a sort of pre-climactic kickoff that minimized the excitement when the band actually came on stage.
The stage show itself was also pretty minimal, even half-assed. Equipment cases were left strewn about the actual set, and the load-in door backstage left open – like the guys had just set up and didn’t care to make the stage presentable. The screen was small with only intermittently amusing animations.
And the first set was very rocky. The mix was muddy – hard to discern instrumental lines, especially the triggered synthesizers from the ’80s tracks. Several synth lines seem to have been missed altogether – or at least not included in mix – mistakes that were especially obvious in “Time Stand Still” and “Marathon.” And the already-boring “Workin’ Them Angels” was an outright disaster – it sounded like Alex and Geddy were in different keys, perhaps having something to do with the Alex’ alternating between acoustic and electric sounds on his Les Paul (why not just play the acoustic portions on an acoustic?).
Nothing really caught fire until the instrumental breakdown of “Freewill,” which alone couldn’t make up for such lackadaisical presentation over the previous hour.
Fortunately all was forgiven and forgotten with the opening synth chord of “Tom Sawyer,” which kicked off a downright jaw-dropping second set. The mix was clear, the synthesizers integrated nicely (especially on the interesting and unusual “The Camera Eye”), and Geddy and Alex beautifully in sync. After “Red Barchetta” all three band members even took a moment out to smile at each other, as if to acknowledge that the concert had kicked into gear. There was hardly a misstep for the rest of the evening – even the new song “Caravan” and recent “Far Cry” rocked hard, standing up nicely next to the classics they shared the stage with.
Guitar-wise, Alex played Gibson Les Pauls throughout the evening, usually Axcess-style versions with with whammy bars. He brought out a Fender Telecaster for “Closer to the Heart” and the famous white Gibson ES-335 for “La Villa Strangiato” (my friend and I think there was also a PRS for one tune, but we might be misremembering).
Geddy played his usual well-worn black Fender Jazz with the pearl pickguard, though for this tour he has replaced his trademark ’70s-style black-inlay neck with a neck with split pearloid inlays. He occasionally brought out an all-black Jazz bass, and once or twice played the bright red Jazz bass (no pickguard) with his the black inlays. Wonderful Geddy tone – tons of growl, lots of low and high-end both. I do really wish he would break out the old Rickenbacker 4001 again, even just for “2112,” but it’s hard to argue with the sound he gets from the Fender basses. And even though Rush is hardly known for improvisation, I was delighted to hear Geddy let loose with several extended bass licks.
It’s hard to overstate what Moving Pictures means to a certain generation of a certain type of music lover – I missed it at the time, but have grabbed on entirely since. Hearing it played live, in sequence, is a special treat. When Rush clicks with a good mix and good material, they still create a wonderful magic, as they did during the second part of their Mountain View earlier this week.