Matt Blackett: All the World's a Setlist—Rush in Concord, 6/26/11


It’s hard to fathom, but Rush are still at it. Still recording, still touring, and still sounding like the word’s greatest eight-piece power trio. They brought their trip to Concord, CA last night, one of the last stops on their Time Machine world tour. In a few days’ time they’ll wrap up this leg and soon enough head back into the studio to finish recording Clockwork Angels, which will be out in 2012. Someone should tell these guys that they’re legends, they’re millionaires, and they’ve been working their butts off for decades—it would be okay if they took a little vacation.

But no, no rest for these hard-working working men. Geddy and Alex were on hand for the meet and greet just before 7:00. It’s really cool to watch a couple dozen Rush die-hards get to meet their heroes. Alex is incredibly gracious and warm, treating each stranger as a long-awaited friend. Geddy comes across slightly grumpier, shaking hands and acknowledging compliments, but not much more. No one seemed to care though, because he’s Geddy Freaking Lee and being in his presence is full-on bucket-list material for all Rush fans.

The guys hit the stage some time after sundown and opened with “Spirit of Radio.” Despite some of what Geddy referred to as “technological gremlins,” they killed it. Then they went into “Time Stand Still” (with Alex rocking a PRS with Narrow Field humbuckers) and then “Presto,” which foreshadowed the main hang I have with this gig: They just played too damn many new songs, and by “new” I mean anything after Signals. I know, I know—there are lots of Grace Under Pressure/Power Windows/Roll the Bones/Snakes & Vapors [sic] fans out there and I don’t mean to offend them, but come on. Here’s the song list from the first set:

Video Intro (Rash: The Real History of Rush Act 1)
The Spirit of Radio
Time Stand Still
Stick It Out
Workin' Them Angels
Leave That Thing Alone

That’s a long time to wait between “Spirit” and “Freewill.” To be fair, though, when they got to it, “Freewill” was off the hook, with Alex taking one of his best solos of the night. They closed the set with “Subdivisions,” which is still one of the best showcases of the awesome talents of each guy.

The second set featured the unique selling feature of this tour, Rush’s classic album Moving Pictures played in its entirety. There’s pretty much not a bad second on that record and the boys nailed it start to finish. We’ve all heard “Red Barchetta” live a million times, but that’s not the case with “The Camera Eye” and that tune flat-out ruled. Lifeson’s solo in that song was a real gem, which is saying something considering the fact that he had just kicked major ass with his leads on “Tom Sawyer,” “YYZ,” and “Limelight,” which is widely considered one of the all-time great rock solos. This set also served to remind us all of a time when albums were albums. You didn’t spin just one tune off Moving Pictures and there was no shuffle play. You played side one, you flipped it over and played side two—which was a totally different entity—and you read the liner notes or jammed along as the songs played. You repeated this formula as necessary, which for me was approximately 1.5 million times. After last night 1.5 million and one times. It’s a masterpiece, guys, and for that, we thank you.

The second set:

Video Intro (Rash: The Real History of Rush Act 2)
Tom Sawyer
Red Barchetta
The Camera Eye
Witch Hunt
Vital Signs
Drum Solo (Love 4 Sale)
Closer to the Heart (with Alex acoustic intro)
2112 Overture/Temples of Syrinx
Far Cry


La Villa Strangiato
Working Man

In closing, a word to temper my vitriol about the song choices, lest the Rush fanatics out there come to my office and beat me up (in a week or so, because they’re probably going to each of the last gigs on this tour). I love these guys and I have always loved these guys. I first saw them on the Permanent Waves tour (where they played two then-unreleased tunes called “Tom Sawyer” and “Limelight”). I had the first nine albums on vinyl. I played in a Rush tribute band called 2112. When I got my gig at GP, one of the coolest things I ever did was go to Toronto to interview Alex and have him show me his 355 and doubleneck. I won’t deny that last night I wish they had applied the McCartney rule about new material—three, maybe four new songs and then back to the classics that make people weep—because it would have been awesome to hear “Fly By Night,” “Xanadu,” “The Trees,” or “I Think I’m Going Bald.” But these guys have earned the right to do whatever the hell they want. And that’s yet another thing I love about them.