Review by Paul Quinton, photos by Krish Mistry
One wag on Facebook remarked that Rush tours were like buses, you wait ages for one, then several arrive all at once. It’s stretching the metaphor somewhat, but he did have a point. Since the R30 tour in 2004, we’ve been lucky enough to be included on every tour since, with the result that the Clockwork Angels tour is the fourth time the band have played the UK in the last decade, after having stayed away for the previous 12 years, and with the band receiving more and wider respect and recognition than at any time in their illustrious career, these are heady times to be a Rush fan.
It has to be said that the LG was not sold out for this gig, the rear section was completely screened off, as were the blocks adjacent to the stage, and it’s probably fair to say that the ticket prices played a large part in that, the best seats costing over eighty pounds, including fees. Clockwork Angels, the album, has a steampunk theme, and this is represented in the stage set, probably the most extravagant the band has ever put together. A huge video screen that redefines High Definition, a lighting system that includes another ten video screens flying above and around the stage, at times it was almost too much to take in.
After Rush’s customary introductory film short, this time with the band’s heads superimposed onto a cartoon engine, the ominous synthesiser tones of ‘Subdivisions’ opened the first half of the show. First impressions were how big the sound was, loud, filling the LG’s space, but still clear from where we were sitting and perfectly balanced. The opening set was mainly drawn from the band’s 1980s albums, but had several surprises, including ‘Grand Designs’, ‘Middletown Dreams’ and ‘Territories’ which had Rushophiles thinking hard to establish whether these had ever been performed in the UK before this tour (consensus being that they hadn’t). There were also welcome returns for songs like ‘Force Ten’ and ‘The Analog Kid’. The huge light show was being used cleverly at this point, not firing all its guns at once but with each of its features being brought into play separately over the course of the first half. After a phenomenal version of ‘The Pass’, which gave Alex Lifeson the chance to show how phenomenally good and yet equally underrated a guitarist he is, another rarely played song, the instrumental ‘Where’s My Thing’ led to the first of Neil Peart’s drum solos, a comparatively brief, apparently semi-improvised piece, before the band ended the opening set with a sumptuous ‘Far Cry’. The first half alone would have been a memorable gig in itself, but we were barely halfway through the night’s work.
This tour is in support of the band’s fine recent album, ‘Clockwork Angels’, on which the band have used extensive orchestration. To reproduce this live, rather than use a range of samples and backing tracks, the band decided to take a proper string section on the road with them, and so the eight violin and cello players duly took their places at the back of the stage when the second half opened ready for the performance of the full album. How they managed to keep playing while standing in the middle of the extensive pyro the band used during the opening song, ‘Caravan,’ is anyone’s guess. Either way, although the added instruments gave the sound engineer some problems in balancing things, it definitely added something to the performance, particularly in songs like ‘Carnies’, ‘Headlong Flight’ and the climax of the album, ‘The Garden’.
After that the band rounded the show off with a brief series of crowd-pleasers, including ‘Dreamline’, although I did miss the lasers from previous tours, ‘Red Sector A’, the instrumental ‘YYZ’ and a triumphant ‘Spirit of Radio’ to end the main show. There was also another brief Neil Peart solo, which he improvised with his drums being heavily treated with sound effects, although this was probably the least interesting solo I’ve ever seen him do. All that was left then, was the encore, another fan-pleasing double bill of ‘Tom Sawyer’, sadly minus the ‘South Park’ intro film from the ‘Snakes and Arrows’ tour, and, to the delight of the entire hall, an edited version of ‘2112’, which included the often played opening segments of ‘Overture/Temples of Syrinx’ and then the rarely played ‘Grand Finale’.
For a band in their fifth decade of performing, they really do seem rejuvenated and motivated, which is probably down to their belief in and eagerness to perform their new material, rather than haul round a ‘Greatest Hits’ set, which would probably be as popular and far easier to do. The show was a superb spectacle, both musically and visually, and there’s no sign at all of the band slowing down, or even easing off. Each time they come over, most Rush fans think it may be the last, but as Neil Peart writes in the programme, sorry, tour book, the new songs were written to played again and again, and ‘if the fates allow, they will be’, so here’s hoping they want to keep playing them for us again and again.
The Big Money
The Analog Kid
Where’s My Thing
Seven Cities Of Gold
Wish Them Well
Red Sector A
The Spirit Of Radio
2112 (Overture/Temples of Syrinx/Grand Finale)