Monday, June 13, 2011

Dancing With Dinosaurs

There are some rules they don’t tell you about going to concerts. Like when the doors open on a Shakira gig, there’s no hurry because she won’t be on until much later. (She’ll be well worth the wait, mind you.) But for a Rush concert, well, rush. The clue was there in the name, I’ll grant you, but I was, for the first time in my life, late for a show.

Admittedly I took a laid back attitude to the schedule – courtesy of the lessons learned at the Shakira concert in December. Doors open at 6:30pm, show starts 7:30pm, I figured the latter time was more than good enough to aim for. But on Wednesday 25th May I should still have been at the O2 in fine time for the Canadian trio’s Time Machine Tour.

But: (adopts Reggie Perrin voice) 10 minutes late, delays on the Jubilee line. Followed by a hold-up at the doors as, thanks to having my ticket displayed prominently on the side of my fridge for the last few months, the print had faded somewhat so they had to print a fresh ticket for me so that their machine could read the bar code. Then I foolishly attempted to grab some fast food before taking my seat, and suffice to say it wasn’t. Fast, that is. It was food, of sorts.

And, perhaps as punishment for my joking on twitter about who might be supporting Rush – Hans Zimmer? – there was no support act and the main act had kicked off at or near 7:30. Ouch.

So I missed the first twenty minutes. I’m guessing about four songs. Although with Rush, that could just as easily have been two songs. Depends on which era they started out on in their Time Machine.

Ah well, all these things are part of the adventure and, like the winter wonderland outside at the Shakira concert, certainly serve to characterise a given occasion in the memory.

The fact is, I’m glad to say, missed songs aside, the band pretty much scotched all my jokes about dinosaurs and the chance to see them again before fossilisation set in. They have been around for aaaaaaaaaaaaages. I grew up with my Dad playing their albums (loud) (in amongst Pink Floyd, Genesis, Yes, King Crimson and others) on Saturdays when my Mum went out shopping. Fair to say, I didn’t actually get into them myself until early to mid teens, maybe, but that still makes for thirty years I’ve been following their progress. I saw them live back in the days of yore of their Roll The Bones Tour. The memory cheats, I know, but to me they didn’t seem any less live this time out.

More so, I would say, since Roll The Bones – along with Hold Your Fire, which featured prominently on that tour - was heavier on the synthesisers and lighter on the heavier stuff. Whereas, what with Time Machine intended as a tour through their own history, this packed enough punch to defibrillate a dinosaur. Such hammering bass you could feel the vibrations in your chest. In a good way.

The set – as in physical set – was relatively simple but had a beautiful Jules Verne steampunk aesthetic going for it, backed up with fireworks (loud enough to nearly give the guy next to me a heart attack) and spurting pillars of flame, with Peart installed at its heart like a cross between Captain Nemo and Animal from the Muppets – and delivering a sensational drum solo midway through the second half.

That’s right. Second half. For all their age, Lee, Lifeson and Peart gave us a *three-hour* stormathon of recent tracks, a smattering of new material and of course the classics. Lifeson doesn’t move a whole lot but he gives his all on the guitars, while Lee bounds around the stage like a kid. One section of the show is devoted to a live performance of the Moving Pictures album in its entirety. Yay! Because I love that album. From Tom Sawyer to Vital Signs, (even if I can’t always hear Red Barchetta these days without being reminded of that damn Milky Way ad – “The red car and the blue car had a race!”) it’s something of a bridge between their purer metal years and their flirtation with more commercial leanings (like Hold Your Fire) – but at least they never did a full Genesis. It’s something of a miracle in rock genealogy terms that the three of them have remained together for so long. Whatever chemistry they have between them, it works.

On first impressions, the new songs were what I’d call dependable Rush, not blow you away stuff. But in fairness to the band, when you go to see a show like theirs, there’s a sense of an unspoken trade agreement – sure, fellas, you can play your new material as long as you give us a healthy slew of the oldies. And they held up their end of the bargain.

The one and only area I feel a bit cheated on (apart from what the O2 vendor charged me for a burger and a few chips!) is that there was no Xanadu. I have this horrible niggling feeling that maybe they opened with that track and I am going to have to put it on the CD player when I get home just to remind myself of its awesomeness. We did get the exquisite Closer To The Heart from the same era, but part of me always (and when I say always, bear in mind I’ve only seen the band live twice) feels a Rush concert is incomplete without Xanadu. I’d rather hoped it would be one of the encore numbers, but instead we were treated to the powerhouse Villa Strangiato and (oddly reggaed up to initially disguise it) Working Man. For my money, the latter was a curious choice of closing number, but on the other hand it hails from their very earliest album and I guess it’s fitting that the Time Machine ends up back at what was essentially the beginning.

It’s like if Doctor Who was a rock band, they might play out with An Unearthly Child. And that would by no means be a bad thing.

It’s an oldie but a goodie. Just like Rush. Thanks for that guys.

Not sure what kind of dinosaurs they are, but I’m sure the word ‘bronto’ is in there somewhere.


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