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Rush In Concert 6/27/15 Review

Article by: Steve Principato
Featured Image: Randy Johnson/


Part I The Beginning (Overture)

I first learned of this musical phenomenon they call RUSH way back in 1992 when I was a wee freshman at Wayne Hills HS in New Jersey. I was in a Jazz Improv class (I’ve always hated Jazz, but heck, I got to play my guitar during school for credit, what could be better? Maybe it would get me some girls?)

Enter the Upperclassmen. The ones who would mercilessly haze me on a daily basis for having a shitty guitar. (No, kids, bully laws didn’t exist in 1992.) They all had rich kid guitars and they would jam with bass and drums on this wordless, but catchy song, in which I knew not the title. (YYZ) The current RUSH release at the time was Roll the Bones (no one saw a problem with the rapping skeleton that year). They spoke of how AWESOME this Neil Peart and Geddy Lee were at playing bass, drums, keyboards, glockenspiels, solving world hunger, curing baldness, ending all war, etc. I asked, “Who is that you’re playing?” in a shy, uncertain voice. They responded, ”DUH!! RUSH!!” in their frustrated, condescending voices. The “cool” kids were jamming to RUSH! It was at that point my quest for this band began.

So, I gave them a listen. I didn’t even know they were Canadian. (I’m Canadian, by the way.) Though I DID recognize their unmistakable talent at the age of 14, I didn’t actually accept RUSH music into my rotation for another 15 years. Let’s face it, as a teenager you’re steadfast set on where your musical loyalties lie. Mine was Metal. Metallica to be specific, there wasn’t much else in the life an awkward, pimply faced, mullet-headed teenager.

But how can my clueless 15 year old brain comprehend the unmistakable connection between RUSH and Metal as a whole? I wasnt ready for RUSH. This would take more time.

For me, songs featuring rapping skeletons would have raised doubt to Rush’s heavy metall street credit.


Part II: The Enlightenment (The Temples of Cyrix)

Fast forward 15 years. I’m all grown up and I’ve experienced exponentially more music since the age of 14. It was no longer just about antisocial metal, but I had now developed more “sophisticated” musical tastes. Enter PROG Rock. What musical genre speaks clearer to a 28 year old socially inept music snob? I had finally accepted the music that should have been the soundtrack to my life thus far. Im my youth, I simply didn’t understand that songs such as “Subdivisions” were about ME as a teeneger, when I actually was a teenager. I would’ve had to have been a teenager in 1982 to really get that song, since it was kind of popular that year.

Ok, just one more time jump.. Great Scott Marty, Lets hope the flux capacitor can hold out!


Part III The Show (Presentation)

7pm – here we are, The day of the Rush Concert: Saturday, June 27, 2015. It’s the future. We’re IN the future, not a flying car in site. But nevermind. RUSH is 40 years going and still here, and I’m going to see them for the first time ever… and perhaps the last time ever. Thats right, this is apparently their FINAL tour. But of course, if I had a dime for every act that said “this is our final tour”….I’d maybe be able to buy a small coffee? (At the bagel place on the corner, not even Dunkin Donuts.)

However, Rush is not the type of band to jerk around their fans. After all, they’re Canadian.

After running through the streets of Newark, NJ in the pouring rain, dodging cars and bootlegged tour shirt pushers, we arrived, right on time at the Prudential Center … affectionately known as the “Rock” to us natives.


Hardcore Rush Fans are Legendary


For many years, I imagined what these fans might be like at an actual Rush concert. One important fact is that they are about 90% male, so I was rather surprised by the greater number of female fans at this venue. Second, they basically fall into a social subdivision. (ha!) They would likely be identified in the 1980’s as, well… nerds!

Not the nerds you youngins are used to...


Like I mentioned, this being the authentic 1980s-grade nerd. The type of nerd that I predicted I’d grow up to be after viewing Revenge of the Nerds. (I’m kind of there.) Not the nerds you youngins are used to.


730pm – Lights go down, intro movies roll…

The clever intro reel featured an animated depiction of the rock group virtually walking through the 40 years of their career. This short film was created in a similar style to that of Terry Gilliam, though the dry humor was carefully replaced with their native brand of what I like to call, “Canada dry humor,” which is neither dry nor funny. (And the ginger ale is better too.) Otherwise, the general humor is virtually meta to that of the Rush fanbase. Because I didn’t  really get most of it..

Have a look:


The main theme of this concert is 40 years of Rush, or R40. The set list took a “back in time” approach. In other words, the songs pretty much get better as the three hour set list progressed. C’mon, does anyone actually like anything recorded after Signals?

Another interesting and clever aspect of this show was the dynamic stage design. Basically, as the show progressed and time when backwards, the backline became less sophisticated, until finally reduced to single amplifiers by the end of the show. The part of this theme that I didn’t quite comprehend was that the backline begins as what appears to be steampunk-esqe techno-victorian fixtures (rather than amplifiers), which are then slowly changed over to washing machines,(not sure what make) and finally over to Marshall and Ampeg amplifiers.

Was Rush once powered by a whirlpool backline? Is that the secret to their sound?  They basically lost me there.. Canadian humor? Take off!

The fact this was the first (and likely last) time I’ll see Rush, I opted for the cheaper nosebleed seats as I simply feel that one should be “experienced“ with a band to be willing to pay for superior seating. ( I.E. when I see Metallica, I’m definitely up front.) Regarding the altitude of my seats – If you have attended an event at the “rock” you’ll understand what such a concert experience entails. Now besides the near death defying vertical angle of your seats (and I’m still surprised no one has yet been killed at this venue), the sonic quality appears rather diminished at such a stratospheric altitude. Let’s face it, there is a lot of atmosphere between you and the band. As a result, the sound quality was was nothing more than muddy echoes by the time the sound waves found my lofty reference point. Another factor due to the distance, is that it very well may have been the least loudest concert I’ve ever attended. I guess that yields a positive review at my age?

rush fan - no creditRegarding the quality of their musicianship, naturally Rush was spot on. This band simply does not EVER lose focus. In a world of overpriced geriatric acts that no longer prioritize their playing ability, Rush stands above the crowd. All three members of this power trio possess a unique talent. However, it’s no surprise that Neil Peart steals the show. He’s the Professor, the reason why people come to see RUSH! This mild-mannered, somewhat reclusive drum-a-phile deeply reflects the fanbase of Rush in both fierce loyalty and inspiration. Neil is a living embodiment of the hardcore Rush fan.

Now as I had mentioned before, the concert was THREE hours long, with a brief intermission at the halfway point (around 1982 in their discography), a most impressive

feat with their respective ages in mind. The first set began with a collection of more contemporary titles that I have never heard before. It seemed that the crowd at large felt the same way, save for a few hardcore fans. It wasn’t until “Roll the Bones” was played that I had felt Included in the show, and what a better song Rush to include me in! Ahh, takes me back to the beginning!

Now if there are any Rush fans out there, or at least fans of the most ridiculous campy videos ever produced, “Roll the Bones” is your jam. Why?

Again, wait for the Skeleton.

Naturally, I was expecting the band to project everyone’s favorite (and only) video toaster-generated, mohawk-mained rapping skeleton (he’s a badass). Sadly, they let us down in our hour of need.

Instead there was this:


Who are these guys?
Who are these guys?

I must admit, the alternative was a pleasant surprise for me.  I mean of course Tyrion Lannister is a major Rush fan! Rush would have been the total bomb if they existed in the Game of Thrones universe. All of the cool, sadisticly murderous people would totally dig them. However, in our somewhat less bloody reality, at least his pint-sized real life counterpart digs Rush. As does Tom Morello! Cool! (I admit, I was happy to see his face.) Now, can anyone tell me who those two other guys were?

As I stated earlier, the set list became more familiar and enjoyable as the show carried on. “Subdivisions” (the song that is about me in high school) featured the original 1982 video about an outcast nerdy kid who escapes his cruel reality at the video arcade by playing Tempest.

Other Favorites include “Tom Sawyer,” “Spirit of the Radio,” drum greek favorites such as the likes of  “Cygnus X-1” (can you get any nerdier than that?) and finally, to the epic track which I was shouting for throughout the entire show, (despite the disdain of the humorless RUSH fans surrounding me), “2112” — in four parts. Sadly, they cut out the “discovery” act. Lame. (Have I told you about my idea to produce “2112: The Musical”? Next time.)

ever since that Led Zeppelin guy used one...
Ever since that Led Zeppelin guy used one. (Photo cred: Wireimage)

On a gear-head note, the show was quite an impressive display of the RUSH guitar arsenal. On the guitar end, Alex seems most comfortable with an array of obligatory Les Paul variations. Personally, I think it’s one of the most overrated guitars in all of music.

But I'm really happy he doesn't do THIS anymore.
But I’m really happy he doesn’t do THIS anymore.

Geddy on the other hand showed off his collection of beautiful bass-sets — that’s like assets but with bases instead. Geddy started off with his contractually obligatory Fender J’s, but eventually moved on to one very unique specimen of a vintage Gibson Thunderbird bass, then on to a more contemporary model. (Actually, Geddy appeared to change basses on every song. It’s good to be the king.) As a Gibson Firebird/Thunderbird aficionado, the sight of someone playing one captures my attention.

So then they played Xanadu!

xanadu no credit
No, not this one.

The good one! …and then this happens:

Part IV The Encore (Soliloquy) …did you realize that I’m breaking the article into the acts of 2112? (Rush inside humor. Canada Dry as hell, eh?)

Rush brought the show to a close with a sneaky encore performance introduced by none other than legendary comedian, Eugene Levy. The final encore segment represented the band’s early years from their first two records. It would have been nice if they included their original drummer (John Rutsey) for this segment, as I prefer John’s drumming over the rum deity Neil Peart for the early material (yes, I said it), but sadly he’s been deceased since 2008.

RUSH ended the show with their first ever hit single, “Working Man”, and the band exited stage left, followed by a closing reel that featured Alex telling off a puppet who has commandeered their dressing room.

Oh yeah, one more thing: They didn’t play “Limelight” or “Trees”. My first and last experience of Rush live, and they skip those songs? I won’t forget that, Rush.

Part V Final word (Grand Finale)

So, there you have it Rush Fans. In a nutshell, the amazing talent and uniqueness of this Canadian trio has solidified their place in prog rock royalty. R40 – this is 40 years of RUSH!
No flights, no breakups, no drama (except for the runaways), no drugs, and definitely no women. RUSH did not choose to burn up in the flames of unbridled rock stardom like many other defunct rock legends. They were never superstars, but still had superfans. They were never an MTV band, yet they were the most household Prog Rock band in the world. They are simply three lifelong friends doing what they love. Rocking it out. ..with the occasional CG skeleton to bust out some rhymes.

 I strongly recommend checking out RUSH on their final R40 tour. As it is stated, this is their final major tour. Like them or not, Rush will go down in history. Think what it would be like to have this opportunity to see historic bands like Zeppelin, The Who, The Stones (wait, are they still playing?) Otherwise, if the whole “this is our final four” history repeats itself (KIss, Ozzy, etc) we can all look forward to the R50 tour somewhere down the road.

See you there.

Steven Principato
Steven Principato is our resident music historian and unofficial metal corespondent. Besides trying not to get his photo gear smashed in the pit, you might otherwise find him obsessing about obscure musical details. It happens to be Steven's eventual goal to be on stage IN the concert photo rather than the one taking it.

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