Rush levels Red Rocks with three hours of power and precision
8.16.10 | Red Rocks Amphitheater
It's taken more than three decades for Rush to refine its approach to stadium rock, and the long gestation period has paid off. The Canadian trio's three-hour set at Red Rocks Monday night showed just how carefully the band has constructed its approach to live music, and just how impressive the resulting show has become. The band's gear, its sense of theatricality, its multi-layered sound design and, obviously, the members' virtuosic musical performances were all in top form.
Every element of the show boasted the marks of years of precision and care, an attention to detail that's only deepened with the band's years on the road. Even with the somewhat muddy sound that resulted from the high volume needed at Red Rocks, the subtleties in the music still came through.
At times, Rush's on-stage routine seemed formalized to a fault. Geddy Lee, Alex Lifeson and Neil Peart delivered versions of seminal Rush material that followed the album versions virtually note for note. That fidelity was found in live renditions of the band's most commercially viable progressive rock anthems, like "The Spirit of Radio" and "Tom Sawyer," as well as more abstract, theory-heavy performances of the entire Moving Pictures album and dense instrumental flights, like "YYZ."
But whatever the show lacked in spontaneity, it made up for it in sheer scope.
The theatrics weren't limited to the standard fire columns, light shows or coordinated fireworks of most large-scale rock shows. As on all recent Rush tours, the set design and the animated imagery beamed on a giant screen behind the band touted specific themes and undertones, constant cues that added a sense of drama and performance art to the concert.
The repeating visual cues all had to do with time and industry. Video clips shown at the beginning of the show and after the twenty-minute intermission featured Lee, Lifeson and Peart starring in an odd blend of comedy and surrealism. First the three were dressed as Jewish diner patrons and staff; Lifeson wore a hulking fat suit, playing the manager of the fictional band "Rash."
Playing a waiter, Lee spoke about his bar mitzvah and called to a daughter named Kugel. The screen malfunctioned before the clip ended, but the audience still caught sight of a machine called a "Gefilter," a device that summoned Rash and moved them through separate eras and time periods.