It was my first time in the Mohegan Sun arena, there to witness a capacity crowd of RUSH fanatics, mostly male and all completely reverent, bowing to everyone's favorite cerebral prog-pop power trio. With a strong new album "Snakes and Ladders" in tow, the band showcased an astonishing 9 of the 13 tracks from the new CD; the most new songs RUSH has ever performed live. A brave move, and numbers such as "Far Cry" and "Workin' Them Angels" should be well on their way to becoming fan favorites.
The set list for this tour is a bit more varied than in recent years, and included several songs not often heard on past RUSH outings. Opening with "Limelight", Geddy's voice appeared a bit haggard over the state of the art sound system. But by the second tune, he must have been properly warmed up, and sounded fine throughout the rest of the three-hour show. "Digital Man" followed, making its long overdue re-appearance. For those keeping score, this is the first time it's been played since the "Grace Under Pressure" warm-up shows. There are several seldom-played tracks this year, the rarest being "Entre Nous." Actually, this is the first tour in which the band has performed it live - quite a treat, and flawlessly executed, as expected. Other pre-intermission notables included "The Mission" (its first airing since 1990's "Presto" tour) and the consensus favorite "Circumstances," not heard since "Hemispheres" debuted in 1978!
To those paying attention, the song selection seemed consciously chosen to convey some strong political themes, ones that ring truer now then when first written decades ago.
From "Grace Under Pressure"'s deep album track "Between The Wheels":
We can go from boom to bust From dreams to a bowl of dust We can fall from rockets' red glare Down to 'brother can you spare'
Another war, another wasteland - and another lost generation
From "Witch Hunt":
Quick to judge, quick to anger Slow to understand Ignorance and prejudice and fear walk hand in hand
And from Peart's newest eloquent relevance "The Way The Wind Blows":
Now it's come to this Hollow speeches of mass deception From the Middle East to the Middle West Like crusaders in an unholy alliance
The band's presenting some seriously heavy material, but they're not without humor. In previous tours, Geddy was set up in front of washing machines. This time out, it's a row of rotisserie chicken ovens! Even funnier, they had Canadian comedy duo Bob & Doug McKenzie introduce new song "The Larger Bowl", and the gang from South Park lead us into "Tom Sawyer".
And what RUSH show would be complete without the drum solo? Honestly, theirs are the only concerts I've ever been to in which the crowd actually gets LOUDER when the solo starts! Neil Peart again proves why he's the world's most worshipped drummer. His solo was sexy and genuinely entertaining, employing triggered and electronic percussion as well as his main acoustic kit. And it ended with him swinging over a big-band triggered sample of "Cotton Tail", which Neil originally performed with the Buddy Rich Band on " Burning For Buddy Vol.1"
Closing in on 35 years together, RUSH was definitely in the mood to dazzle. Between the pyro in "Witch Hunt" and the lasers in "Dreamline," they managed to marry the visual bombast with their virtuosic playing. Now, since our maestros loaded their 27-song set list with deep album cuts, three-plus hours would be a lot for a casual RUSH fan. But honestly, how many of those truly remain? So, it's basically left to the die-hards. And that's almost how it should be. Who else can fully appreciate the dense political allegory mixed with complex yet catchy musicianship?
And yes, they played "Bangkok".
Photos by Jennifer Bartram-Schmitt
See more photos in our gallery HERE
Geddy Lee - Vocals, Bass, Keyboards
Alex Lifeson - Guitars
Neil Peart - Drums, Percussion
The Main Monkey Business
The Larger Bowl (with McKenzie Brothers intro)
Between the Wheels
(Intermission / video intro)
Workin' Them Angels
Armor and Sword
The Way the Wind Blows
Distant Early Warning
The Spirit of Radio
Tom Sawyer (with South Park intro)
One Less Victory
A Passage to Bangkok