[live review] Rush at the TD Garden 09.14.10

Rush, live at TD Garden. (Photos by Brad Mindich.)

“Nowhere is the dreamer or the misfit so alone” sang Rush mouthpiece Geddy Lee in the midst of “Subdivisions”, from 1982’s Signals. Ostensibly a diatribe against the numbing isolation and tribalism of then-modern day suburbia, in some ways it sums up the life of your average Rush fanatic: going through your day, going to the office, hanging out with people, all the while hiding your secret shame that when you put on your headphones you still keep dialing up records with pentagrams on the cover by the dorkiest (and yet most awesome) rock band of all time.

The thing about Rush fandom, though, is that all it takes is a ticket to one of the band’s shows to realize that not only are you not alone, but there are secret fanatics everywhere. Your company’s IT guy, your neighbor, the dude behind the counter at the packy: buried deep in their cerebellum is ingrained knowledge of several decades of Rush deep cuts. Why, I’ll bet right now that I could stroll into the nearest Dunkies and find someone with whom to discuss whether the current Rush tour sees them trotting out Fly By Night centerpiece “By-Tor and the Snowdog” (answer: No, unfortunately.) Which means that, unbeknownst to quote-unquote normal music fans, Rush sweeps through town every year or so, sells out the Enormodome of their choosing, and keeps their massive rock feifdom going for going-on-four-decades. Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, be damned! Rush is probably rock’s biggest cult act of all time.

Tuesday night’s gig, billed as “And Evening With Rush”, was a leviathan set with, as its centerpiece, a complete run-through of 1981’s Moving Pictures. An album that most consider the band’s finest, MP contains a few of the band’s most well-known tunes (the monolithic “Tom Sawyer”, sleek and moody rockers like “Red Barchetta” and “Limelight”), as well as some of the band’s most atmospheric material. Of particular note was a breathtaking runthrough of the over-ten-minute “The Camera Eye”: my moment of zen of the show came at around the 7 minute mark when the echoed insistence built up into a dam-bursting riff war. It was pure transcendence.

And yet, to paraphrase Sir Geddy in MP’s “Vital Signs”, I had some mixed feelings about the function and the form of the show. Meaning that to get to the aforementioned transcendence, one had to paddle through a setlist that catered to rarity freaks who would probably know within a few notes that “Presto” (from the 1989 album of the same title) had never played on tour before. The stage decor was in a vaguely steampunk style, with Alex Lifeson’s guitar rig and Neil Peart’s fearsome cymbal collection all made to look like 50’s futurist televisions and Victorian-era wheel-cog contraptions. It was all part of the tour’s “Time Machine” uber-concept -- as if every tour for a band like Rush isn’t already a time machine tour, right?

The most humanizing part of the show came when a monkeywrench found its way into the gears near the end of set-closer “Far Cry” -- Lifeson’s guitar cut out, and an army of guitar techs attempted to deal with it amidst the dry ice and onstage mayhem. The band walked offstage without a guitar signal to join Lee and Peart’s parting fanfare -- and when they came out again to fete us with a circus-y intro to Hemispheres warhorse “La Villa Strangiato”, there was still no axe in the sound. As Lifeson chanted “Still no guitar!” in an increasingly agitated tone, tension mounted amongst Rush-heads: were the mortal gods of Rush going to be thwarted by a faulty rig? Seconds turned to minutes of anxious dicking around onstage, as the band’s carefully orchestrated show seemed in danger of veering off the rails. Then, huzzah: a techie plugged Lifeson into an unseen amp, bypassing his Byzantine wireless system, and his signature laser-guided rumble began spiralling into the beginning of “Villa”. An army of fists and cellphones were hoisted in the air, and the faithful were able to luxuriate in the warm bath of Lifeson’s genius volume-pedal solo, and then a breakneck runthrough of 1st album powerhouse “Working Man”, before being forced to leave the arena and assimilate with normal society again.

Set 1:
The Spirit of Radio
Time Stands Still
Stick It Out
Workin’ Them Angels
Leave That Thing Alone

Set 2:
Tom Sawyer
Red Barchetta
The Camera’s Eye
Witch Hunt
Vital Signs
drum solo
Closer To The Heart
2112: Overture/The Temple of Syrinx
Far Cry

La Villa Strangiato
Working Man

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