June 09, 2004

glorfindel, rock critic

(I'm not a real rock critic. I just play one on my blog.)

Unlike most rock groups that put out their first album in 1974, Rush is still writing (good) new music. Its members haven't ODd on drugs, and they're still touring (and I don't mean packing them in at the State Fair as the opening act for Foreigner, either). This makes them relics and ass-kickers at the same time.

Last night I saw Rush on their 30th anniversary tour, and they showed both sides of their nature. They showed their relic selves, but not in the pejorative sense of the word. Throughout the long medley at the end that included, among four or five others, "Xanadu," "The Trees," and "La Villa Strangiato," I was gripped by the feeling that these guys had been around long enough to make their own history--especially when they played covers of old Clapton a la Robert Johnson ("Crossroads") and other classics like "Summertime Blues" and "The Seeker." Their own older material seemed to take its place alongside these classics, and I can't help but think that thirty years from now some old band will trot out some Rush covers as an homage to the music that got them started. Hell, there are plenty of "old bands" right now who could do that.

But let's be honest: Rush kicked a lot of ass. Their new stuff, most notably "Earthshine" from 2002's Vapor Trails, was blistering, and proved that no one, even now, puts out a more pounding heavy rock sound than Rush. But, as Neil Peart's drum solo and Alex Lifeson's funky spoken-word piece, mumbled into the microphone as he made some weird subterranean sounds on the guitar, hinted, Rush might make a damn fine jazz ensemble, too.

One thing Rush will probably never be good at is hip-hop and rap. Nevertheless, they were one of the first, and still one of the only, old-line white-guy rock bands to try to incorporate some rap into their music. Even most Rush fans will admit that the rap bit in "Roll the Bones" didn't quite capture the essence of the form in the way that, say, Eminem has, so it was mildly surprising that Rush put the entire rap bit into it's performance of "Roll the Bones" last night. But why not? They deserve credit for branching out, and in a tour that's intended as a retrospective, it's very honest of them to leave that rap bit in. Talking skeletons and all.

The show wasn't perfect. The sun was still out in the beginning and was shining directly into the band members' faces. Geddy Lee had trouble remembering the lyrics to some of the songs, prompting his quip as he went off at the intermission that they'd be back "after they got some brain surgery."

But after it got dark, and the stars came out, and Rush had set the mood with an inexorably pounding performance of "Between the Wheels", the show began to move in the way only Rush can move it. . .

To live between the wars in our time
Living in real time
Holding the good time
Holding on to yesterdays. . .

It slips between your hands like water
This living in real time
A dizzying lifetime
Reeling by on celluloid. . .

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. . .

--Rush, Between the Wheels

Posted by Carey at June 9, 2004 09:27 PM

Rush is a decent band.

Certainly not at the level of, oh...Pink Floyd, but decent.

Posted by: at June 10, 2004 09:19 AM

Rush is a decent band.

Certainly not at the level of, oh...Pink Floyd, but decent.

Posted by: Brian at June 10, 2004 09:20 AM

Pink Floyd? They're so... so British. It's like listening to Tony Blair (assuming he could play an instrument, and could write dark lyrics. Oh, and sing).

Yeah. Just like Tony Blair.

Posted by: Carey at June 13, 2004 01:11 AM

Aye, and listening to Rush is like listening to Fran Drescher recite Walt Whitman poems after snorting Equal(TM) brand artificial sweetener and driving a nail through your eye.

Posted by: Brian at June 13, 2004 03:20 AM