Rush Vapor Trails tour impressions [spoilers]
post-171557
Thread Starter
Post #1 of 4

kelly

Herr Babelfish der Übersetzer, he wore a whipped-cream-covered tutu for this title.
Joined
Jan 1, 2002
Messages
5,435
Reaction score
11
Joined
Jan 1, 2002
Posts
5,435
Likes
11
Last night, I saw Rush in Dallas, Texas at Smirnoff Amphitheater. My impressions follow.

the audience
I'm told Rush in there more popular days attracted the drunk redneck type. These days, in Dallas anyway, the audience is pretty normal. Couples and families mostly--people who you can tell were real fans of the band. Despite that, one of the few drunk rednecks there managed to be standing right behind me with his buddy yelling his "WOO!"s and "Play it, Geddy!"s. It's enough to make you wonder how much better a place the world would be if only Budweiser caused sterility. At the end of the first part of the set he kicked his beer cup on the ground and the remainder of its contents sprayed my date and I across the back. He was apologetic but his vocal annoyance was enough for me to relocate during the intermission. The rest of the audience was pretty tame except for the couple to my left who couldn't seem to contain their enthusiasm for each other long enough to find a back seat or something. I wouldn't think of Rush as being the kind of band to inspire that.

the venue
Smirnoff Amphitheater was called Coca-Cola Starplex before Coke lost the advertising bid war with the vodka maker. It's strange to have such major city buildings being named after commercial interests. I wonder if this goes on everywhere. Smirnoff didn't have the decency to pay to rename the signs so all of the little signs around downtown that direct you how to get there still say "Starplex." Bringing a blanket inside gets you suspicious looks from people who look more like crack dealers than professionals as they nod toward you and snap "shake your blanket." I opted to bring sealed bottles of water rather than pay for their outrageously priced beverages and deal with those people so my only other encounter was with their meandering storm trooper "EVENT STAFF" that cut through the crowd for no particular reason (or to intimidate, perhaps). The outdoor venue was hot, very hot even after the sun set and even with my huge bottle of water.

Smirnoff's stage is set at the back of the covered seating that lines a concrete floor. Large speakers are placed on and around the stage for amplifying the music for the people in the seated section. At the back of the seated section are monitors and smaller speakers that seem always too loud and too bright. I used my Etymotic-designed "Hearos" to attenuate the volume ("evenly") to something more tolerable. At one point I thought to myself, "Man, this really sounds like they're in a tunnel" so I took them out and realized, "Oh, right, they actually are kind of in a tunnel."

I'm not sure how people manage to design venues like this that are almost exclusively music venues yet sound so bad. Really I just wanted to post this to whine about it and also to say that this is part of what goes into my thinking when I'm weighing whether a concert is worth attending. The real shame of it is that the band's who don't get good turnout think that the town just doesn't like them. Venue is a very important for it to be so overlooked. The second question people ask after "when" is "where." People want to know because they do care--even the layperson who doesn't typically question sound cares about where the band is playing, whether its because of the seats, the staff or the climate. How band managers continue to ignore this is beyond me.

Overall impressions and spoiler warning
First let me say to those of you who have tickets to this tour already that you've nothing to fear. The set is excellent and the musicians are playing at their best. Be glad you're seeing this tour no matter your opinion of the new album. From here out I'm going to talk about specifics and spoil things a lot, so consider this your warning. Read on at your own risk.

* * * S P O I L E R S * * *






























set list
I did some searches on the web to verify and Rush is keeping the set list pretty consistent from city to city. What follows is what they actually played in Dallas. In parenthesis are the couple of songs that it seems they're optioning out in some cities.


intro > Tom Sawyer
Distant Early Warning
New World Man
Roll The Bones
Earthshine
YYZ
The Pass
Bravado
The Big Money
Between The Sun and The Moon
Freewill (replaced Vital Signs from earlier tour dates)
Natural Science
* intermission *
One Little Victory
Driven
Ghost Rider (some tour dates played Ceiling Unlimited instead)
Secret Touch
Dreamline
Red Sector A
Leave That Thing Alone > Drum Solo
Acoustic/Unplugged: Resist
2112: Overture/Temples of Syrinx
Limelight
La Villa Strangiato
The Spirit of Radio
encore:
Bytor and the Snow Dog
Cygnus X-1
Working Man

Starting with "Tom Sawyer" is a real gutsy move. Clearly their biggest hit and a fan-favorite, it's the one song that Rush could simply never choose to not play. Playing your hit first is a "Go home, posers" kind of move that only a few bands are brave enough to pull. The thought generally is that people who only came to hear the hits will leave if you play them first. This leaves only the real fans. I'll leave it up to you whether you think this ploy works or not.

Notable absentees from the set list: "Closer To The Heart", "Trees", "Fly By Night", "Subdivisions", "Mystic Rhythms", "Time Stands Still", "Animate." Disappointing? Well, maybe, if you really like their hits. For me, I was glad to sacrifice these for what IS in that list. I'm not sure you'd call it exotic, but it's definitely a fan pleaser set. I was certainly satisfied.

the performance
Having "Tom Sawyer" first meant that the band would be not quite warmed up and that the equipment and mixing would still be fine tuning. For some people that must have been frustrating. I didn't mind. The audience was immediately alive if not a little shocked that they were playing it. I imagine the people still streaming in from the parking lot were upset. "Tom Sawyer" really sets the tone as saying, "We're a drum-lead progressive rock band and we mean business" but at the same time, I've heard this song so many times that I didn't mind it being sacrificed to the warm up. I'd seen them once before so I'd gotten to hear this last time anyway.

"Distant Early Warning" and "New World Man" saw Rush become more cohesive and powerful. I think some people would have expected this to be anticlimactic after "Tom Sawyer" but it worked really well. After "New World Man" ended, the band finally stopped, said their hellos and introduced the idea that they had a new album out. I liked the fact that Rush doesn't make a big production out of having a new album out. It's as if every new album is instantly just a part of their back catalog and no special effort is made to promote it. It makes me feel less like I'm being advertised too which I guess is good considering the lyrical content of so much of their music.

"Earthshine" was the first tracked played from the new album and, while I still have mixed opinions about the album, this is one of my favorite tracks on it. They did the song justice and I'll have no problem seeing this become a tour regular. "Earthshine" spun immediately into "YYZ" and the audience seemed quite pleased. I always think it's funny when the audience goes wild over an instrumental. Sometimes I wish this was proof positive enough that the radio is wrong and that instrumentals got some airplay. The audience practically sheered each time one of the musicians was highlighted and featured on the screen that fell behind the stage and the monitors for the lawn audience.

Hearing "The Pass and "Bravado" bordered on strange. They're just not tracks I expected to hear live. They took the audience down a little which was a welcomed relief after such a powerful opening.

"The Big Money" was also kind of strange to hear life though the audience seemed really receptive to hearing something more familiar. During it the screen behind the band had numbers dropping in a green background similar to the code screens in The Matrix. I spent too little time appreciating the music and too much wondering how much money Rush takes in a year to have such anti-commercial anti-wealth opinions. Sometimes they remind me of John Lennon's "peace, love and communism songs"--John Lennon died a millionaire.

Geddy introduced "Between The Soon and the Moon" as a song they don't normally play. No kidding. This was really nice for me. The performance was just dead on and this has been one of my favorite of Rush's "newer" songs. Very cool. The screen was now showing an odd animation of the sun and moon with a silhouette of a six armed woman dancing. I think the word I'm looking for is "Trippy." This lead immediately into "Freewill", a song from my favorite Rush album and, to me, is really Rush at the height of their musical career. These two tracks flowed together really well and it felt as if you were being told some story that didn't really make sense. In fact, the concept of the song "Freewill" is something I always found kind of funny--it disagrees with my personal philosophy but does so in such a way as to make you grateful. It's like when you get into an argument with someone and your opponent is just so careful and articulate that you're in total awe of his or her debate abilities despite thinking he's full of it. This is how most of Rush is to me. Everyone, and I mean everyone, was happy to hear "Freewill."

"Natural Science" also came without a break between songs and, as I alluded to earlier, is my absolute favorite Rush song. They played this one on the last tour and I thought I was lucky to hear it then. Since I've only been to two Rush shows maybe it's not as uncommon as I thought. None the less--very cool. I hope they leave it in their set forever. I don't think I could ever tire of hearing this one live.

I positioned myself a little better (and away from drunken rednecks) during the intermission but it didn't really seem like many people left. This surprised me a little. They'd already played a good length and played the songs a lot of people came to hear. Personally, I find it difficult to walk out on any live music--always staying until I'm certain that the absolute last note has been played but at the concerts I go to, there seems to almost always be people who have someplace else to be. Seems that these folks were real fans, though--that or they paid enough for the tickets that they couldn't betray their wallets by leaving early.

The intermission featured a wilderness setting and crickets chirping for its length. As the time neared for Rush's return, a computer animated dragon showed up on the screen, looked at his watch and seemed irritated. The audience chuckled as the dragon did a few other antics before finally breathing fire onto the stage. The torches on stage were set ablaze like something you'd expect from Motley Crue or Judas Priest and Rush took the stage to play the first song from their new album, "One Little Victory."

I had no complaints with the performance and the stage antics of the dragon breathing onto the side stage and having it lit appropriately was kind of neat but I really don't care for this song at all and I was reminded of that listening to it live.

"Driven" came immediately next and is a song I actually do like. During this the members of Rush can be seen on the screen in bizarre science fiction looking go karts racing around a warehouse. I wondered if this was from a video. Then I wondered if Rush has videos that are played in other countries. Then finally I remembered that Canada has a law forcing broadcasters to play 25% of their contents from Canadian origin. Maybe MuchMusic was playing Rush videos between Britney and NSync? Who knew. If this is true maybe we should waste some of our tax money to force our citizens to listen to something not-crap too. Freedom is overrated.

"Ghost Rider" seemed to flow thematically as the projection screen changed to show a drivers point of view down a winding highway. Emotionally this is how I feel listening to a lot of Rush's music. Flowing softly down a twisted mountain road, dreamlike and surreal. I like this song too and the performance here restored my faith reminding me how much I love this band.

Geddy introduced "Secret Touch" after expressing some appreciation for the applause. I couldn't help but wonder if the lyrics to this are really about anal sex or if I'm the only one who heard it that way. Maybe I should have a Rush fan explain this one so I won't think about it that way next time.

"Dreamline" is, I think, more of a classic Rush song to me than it is to other people. I loved hearing them play this one. "Red Sector A" again just seemed like the perfect next song to play. Never would I have assembled this set list in this bizarre seeming order but it was actually very artfully crafted. This one had some strange grey metal robots dancing on the screen. It reminded me a bit of that 1984 Macintosh commercial. Hmmm.

Rush used "Leave That Thing Alone" as an instrumental introduction to the drum solo. They did that last time too and it seems to work pretty well since everyone gets an opportunity to be a star in this instrumental. It also really builds up the excitement in the audience as they prepare for what they know is the climax of the show, Neil's drum solo. It's funny because of Neil hadn't been in Rush you might have occasionally heard "Wow, Alex is my favorite guitarist" or "Man, Geddy is an awesome bass player." As it is, you never hear those comments, but not because they're not great musicians--they are. It's just that they have to live in the shadow of such a beloved and exotic drummer.

This solo was NOT "Rhythm Method", it was - in fact - an all new, all different drum solo and I was really appreciative. Sometimes I actually dread drum solos at concerts so it's kind of funny that even I love hearing Neil do his. His solo highlights the size and variety in his drum kit as much as it does his skill and agility. The truth is, it's the variety in this one drum kit that has pushed me so much to want for better equipment to listen to music on. You see, I have trouble telling one drum from another on the average headphone or amplifier. It was probably Neil's drums that most inspired me to buy my Sony 7506 and Panasonic portable and today its still a staple reason for wanting more and more. Hearing it live, even at a crappy venue, will tell you just how much there is to hear and how far away you are. It's almost depressing but it's nice to have such clear goals. Give me a system that can reproduce *this* and I'll be a happy person. </rant>

Where was I? Oh yeah, the drum solo. Neil plays the xylophone. Neil plays more tom toms than I knew even existed. And, at one point he plays this weird "drum" that excretes a strange distorted electronic sample. If anyone else had done it, it wouldn't have worked, but Neil just used it to get even more variety out of his kit. The guy is just all over the place on that kit with arms twisting to move in both directions independently like some kind of magic trick. I know a lot of people will argue that there are better drummers, especially in jazz, but come on, how can you not be impressed by this? It's a lot of fun to watch and listen to.

Neil got to take a little break after his lengthy solo as Alex and Geddy come out like buddies and sit down with acoustic guitars to play their new rendition of "Resist." I think it works and I personally really like hearing alternate versions of songs. I wonder if some people were irked that we got this instead of "Trees." I liked it.

Neil's return to the stage brought with him a very powerful version of the 2112 Overture. Everyone stood for this. This is what the real fans came for. It seemed to me that Geddy's voice gave a little in this one and I wondered to myself if I could have hit those notes better than he did. His predicament seemed to have stemmed more from exhaustion than from old age though and it seems pretty forgivable given the length of their show. Besides that, his bass playing more than made up for the shortcoming.

"Limelight", "La Villa Strangiato" and "The Spirit of Radio" were real fan pleasers too and Geddy's voice seemed to have returned to him in full by the time 2112 had wrapped up. I was especially surprised to hear "Spirit of the Radio" since they'd already played "Freewill." I guess I'd just assumed that was an either/or kind of thing. It really felt like I was getting something for free. I couldn't have been happier about it.

When Rush finally left the stage it was so quick as to know absolutely that there was an encore. If that wasn't enough the screen was left with the logo of the Vapor Trails album and a burning animation on screen. Sometimes I wonder why we go through this BS with rock bands. Still, the encore this time seemed like more of a "this is stuff we really would never put in a normal set" kind of thing and for that I especially dug it. I really couldn't believe I was hearing "Bytor and the Snow Dog" and "Cygnus X-1."

The show concluded with "Working Man", a song that seemed pretty appropriate for such a strenuous set. My respect for Rush reached even higher levels after this show. My only regret about the entire event is wondering if I'll ever get to hear them in a venue that doesn't suck. Here's to hope.
 
     Share This Post       
post-171592
Post #2 of 4

ArChaos

500+ Head-Fier
Joined
Jun 14, 2002
Messages
667
Reaction score
123
Joined
Jun 14, 2002
Posts
667
Likes
123
     Share This Post       
post-171797
Post #4 of 4

kerelybonto

doo-di-doo-di-dum doo-di-dum doo-di-doo-di-dum
Joined
May 6, 2002
Messages
1,518
Reaction score
10
Joined
May 6, 2002
Posts
1,518
Likes
10
Another nice write-up, kelly. Makes me regret all the more that I missed the Kansas City show. (See long and tedious lamentations elsewhere.)

In KC (so I heard) Rush entered to the Three Stooges theme, using its last downnote as the first in "Tom Sawyer." I thought that sounded cool, especially since it often seems that Rush is a really serious band.

And, kelly, "the way out is the way in" could apply as well to the front door as the back. Perhaps your interpretation just clues us in on the type of guy you really are. ...

kerelybonto
 
     Share This Post       

Users Who Are Viewing This Thread (Users: 0, Guests: 1)

Top