Friday, November 23, 2012

Rush Clockwork Angels Tour Gibson Amphitheater Review – November 19, 2012


I saw Rush in concert for the first time in the early 1980s at The Fabulous Forum for their Signals tour, and faithfully attended their concerts until around 1995 when I lost interest in their new material. Well, last week I had the opportunity to pick up a prime ticket so I took a chance and headed to their show this past Monday night at the Gibson Amphitheater in Universal City, California.

Gibson Amphitheater is a great place to see a show, as it has good lines of sight and relatively good acoustics for a loud rock show. Despite its name this is an enclosed venue, as a roof was installed back in the early 1980s when it was still called the Universal Amphitheater. Compared to the local sports arenas it is not huge, holding about 6,000 people, and parking is always a breeze there too, which makes for a painless concert experience.

This event was billed as “An Evening With Rush” in support of their most recent studio album, Clockwork Angels. No warm up band is mentioned on the tickets because Rush does the whole show, which includes two sets and an encore. Not bad for a bunch of old guys.

Rush concerts were always interesting when I was a kid because they were such a polarizing band, and people either loved them or hated them, so their shows were exclusively populated by fans. Nothing had changed in the last 30 years, as there was nothing but diehard fans around on Monday night. The kind of fans that knew the lyrics to all the songs and sang along (not that you could hear them singing, this is still one of the loudest bands on the planet).

These fans got what they paid for, with a 2 ½ + hour show that included many of their hits. The first set kicked off with “Subdivisions” and the bass on the synthesizers and kick drum was cranked. From my seat on the edge of the 2nd row (stage right) my jacket was actually moving from all the air the subs were pushing out. It was evident from the first song that this power prog rock trio has not lost a step. The last four decades of touring has honed their live show to a razor edge, and they did not miss a cue all night.

This hour-long set continued on with nine more songs, including “The Big Money”, “Force Ten”, and “The Analog Kid.” Throughout these songs, I was amazed to watch Alex Lifeson and Geddy Lee closely replicate what they had done in the studio through the use of synthesizers that were trigged by their feet while they were still playing the guitar and bass. Neil Peart gave up the first of two thunderous drum solos near the end of this set, and he proved that he is still one of the best drummers in the business (probably #2, right behind Danny Carey from Tool).

After the intermission, I was stunned to find eight string players on the stage, and that they were directed by David Campbell, who also happens to be Beck Hanson’s dad. This set was frontloaded with a lot of material from the Clockwork Angels album, which I have not heard before. These are good songs, and I was pleased to find that the band had moved beyond the cliché heavy lyrics that made me drift away from them back in the 1990s. The strings added a lot to the show, and along with the beautiful visuals on the video screens made for a memorable experience.

The second set finished up with pure gold for any true Rush fan. After “Manhattan Project” there was another drum solo, followed up by “Red Sector A”, a kick-ass rendition of “YYZ” and their old opening song, “The Spirit of Radio.”

The encore started off with “Tom Sawyer,” which has to be their biggest hit, and they finished the show with parts I, II and VII of their 1976 tragic rock opera, 2112: “Overture”, “The Temples of Synrinx” and the “Grand Finale.”

Overall it was a great show, and any Rush fan would have been happy with the evening. Though they do not show any signs of slowing down, I recommend that you get out and see one of their shows sometime soon before they decide to give up on the grueling life on the road. I rank their live shows among the best I have seen, and I think you will agree.


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