Rush Rocks Raleigh
While Rush may not be burning up the charts with their new Vapor Trails CD, the supporting tour should benefit from some great word of mouth. Reviews from the band's first few shows have been fairly strong, and the band did nothing to detract from that trend on July 4, at the Alltel Pavilion at Walnut Creek, in Raleigh, N.C.
The Canadian trio opened the show with a song that is typically saved for later in the concert – "Tom Sawyer." This opening number brought the crowd to its feet, and for the most part, Rush kept them there. Rush did a number of things that would be considered somewhat different from what they usually do in concert. They did not place a lot of emphasis on the current release. With only three songs played from Vapor Trails, the band spent the better part of the two-set, 150-minute show delving into the back catalog.
The set list, which is sure to draw some criticisms from long-time fans, was well balanced. It featured at least one song from every album, with the exceptions of Caress of Steel and Hold Your Fire. And while not everyone's favorites could have been played, the fans were treated to some great tunes from Rush's early days, including an encore medley that featured a truncated "By-tor and the Snow Dog," an instrumental section of "Cygnus X-1" and a raucous show-ending "Working Man."
But fans didn't have to wait until the encore to hear some other great oldies. Near the end of the first set, the band served up a strong rendition of "Vital Signs" from the band's Moving Pictures release. The song selection also gave guitarist Alex Lifeson many opportunities to take the spotlight during performances of "Natural Science" and the instrumental closing track from the band's Hemispheres release, "La Villa Strangiato."
One moment that upon reflection will be among the most remembered from this tour, however, will be the acoustic rendition of Test For Echo's "Resist." With Neil Peart taking a breather after a drum solo that was somewhat reminiscent of his solo from the Test For Echo tour, vocalist/bassist Geddy Lee and Lifeson sat down on stools and in perfect MTV Unplugged fashion, delivered a version that packed more emotion in its stripped down form.
The stage itself featured a glimpse into the lighter side of Rush. Looking at the stage, to the left of Peart's drum kit was a wall of amps that powered Lifeson's guitars. However, Lee did not benefit from the same wall of sound, so in its place were three washing machines, which were set up with microphones as if they were amps. Throughout the show, the machines were "running" with seemingly no real purpose. But as the band came out for the encore medley, Lee mentioned to the audience that after two hours, the laundry should be done, and he and Lifeson retrieved shirts that were given out to the crowd.
Overall, if you take away any complaints that might have been registered against the set list itself, the show added to Rush's legacy of being one of the premier live acts in rock history. Even with the five-year layoff between tours, the band seemed very much at home and, judging by the smile that Lee and Lifeson wore for much of the show, the band seemed genuinely appreciative of the fans who came out to support them.
-- Gregory Twachtman
Copyright 2009, Brian Heaton. All Rights Reserved.