[Ed. Note: Baeble's resident Rush superfan, photographer Mark Brown, caught Rush at the Prudential Center in New Jersey, and we knew we didn't want to do traditional coverage of the show. And so, Mark put together a piece on the show and the role Rush has played in his life for the last 30 years. It's a long read. It is a long
read, but for the band that wrote "2112 Overture" and that's been around for forty years. Geddy, Neil, Alex...this is for you and for everyone you've entertained for the last forty years.]
They are back! That's right; the R40 Train is rolling again. Neil, Alex & Geddy...that's all you have to say and you know who they are. Rush is back on tour. So listen up Baeble Music readers...especially any fans in Kansas City, Denver, Salt Lake City, Calgary, Vancouver, Seattle, Portland, San Jose, Las Vegas, Phoenix, Irvine and the last stop, The Forum in LA. These are your last twelve chances to get your tickets (if there are any left) to see the iconic prog-rock band known as Rush.
There's no new album to promote (bummer) , but for Rush's most long-lived fans, the R40 tour (that's the Rush 40th anniversary tour) will be enough. Forty years...you're joking, right? They have been a band for forty years? Yes, they have, Geddy has been singing those high notes and "slapping da bass, man" for forty years [Ed. Note: That's an I Love You, Man
reference for those not up on their Paul Rudd/Jason Segal movies.]. Neil has been known as The Best, most awesome-est, greatest inventor of rock concert drum solos of all time, and Alex, well, Alex is special. Go ahead and try not to dub Alex a fantastic melodic genius on the guitar and any Rush fan will let you hear it as to why to he is the greatest. Not to mention he is the band's in house clown and comedian...I mean the "Blah Blah Blah" speech. Hilarious.
Name five bands with more platinum and gold selling albums? You can't; there are only two: The Stones and The Beatles. Forty years worth of music? Rush has you covered. The tour's last two stops before this most recent rest brought them to the Tri-State area: New Jersey and New York. Or as I like to say, their second home away from home: New Jersey. Yeah, I said "New Jersey;" go see a Rush concert anywhere else and then come witness one in New Jersey. We are the biggest mullet wearing, jeans and jean jacket with white sneakers, 70s looking Rush fans out there. New Jersey shows are always special and Rush didn't let us down again. We were the lucky recipients of what is being called Setlist E by our good friends at Rushisaband.com and Setlist version F the following show at The Garden.
Rush announced earlier this year, that this would be their last major tour of this magnitude. Obviously, I knew I couldn't miss it. I have been to shows in Greensboro, Philadelphia, Newark and NYC. My last show will potentially be their last show at The Forum in Los Angeles.
I have never been a big believer in covering every stinking detail at any show I cover. Why ruin the entire concert by explaining every detail? I like to tease you, get you excited, and make you want to run out and get to the next concert so you can enjoy (or not enjoy) the experience I had. This tour is different in the sense that it takes place chronologically starting from their most recent album, Clockwork Angels
, all the way back to their debut album, Rush
. The guys take fans on a forty year train ride.
First things first, the guys did a pretty darn good job covering forty years as best they can. I have heard some fans complain about the first couple of songs and say that they should have played this, or why aren't they playing that? Give it a rest people. Do you really care what they are playing? It's Rush! Just stop. Trust the band to take you on the proper ride. They could sing "Patty Cake" thirty times and as long as Geddy is screeching, Neil is pounding, and Alex is wailing, then who cares? Enjoy it while you are there because as one fan Ryan was quoted. "These guys are it. The last of the great musicians. When these guys stop touring, we will only have Pearl Jam and Foo Fighters left; after that the rest of bands can't play music and aren't half the musicians these guys are." [Ed. Note: Those are strong words, Ryan. Radiohead, Arcade Fire, and Wilco would like to have a conversation with you.]
So how did I get to this point? Well, I was called a fan. For most of us, that's what we are...fans. Today, it's different. When you get called a fan as a journalist, it can come off as the professional equivalent of being knocked out by Mike Tyson. You are tasked with giving your opinion about a band or a concert; you should be unbiased with your comments [Ed. Note: I can write a book about how this notion of being "unbiased" is killing modern criticism but that's a piece for another day.]. Speak the truth no matter who it does or does not hurt.
When you're called a fan, it most likely means you aren't taken seriously. At least that is how I take it. I understand as well, but, let's be honest, we're reviewing music; shouldn't we be a fan somewhat? When Rush announced the R40 Tour, I knew I had to cover the show. If there is one band for me to cover, it is the Holy Triumvirate of Neil, Alex & Geddy. I had to get some sort of article written, and with some luck maybe score an interview. Brian Hiatt from Rolling Stone, who landed the dream interview/story, can't hog all the Rush action can he?
I was a former record label employee from way back in the day, who by random luck, had Rush on their roster. Anyone who worked with me at that time knew that as far as I was concerned Rush should be getting all of the attention of everyone at the label.
So off I was contacting management, "Hey, remember me? I'm with Baeble Music now, and I would like to cover Rush"
"Mark, we know you're a fan, but we're not sure about Baeble."
"Yes, I am a fan, but I'm serious about this. I want to write something different, not the same old cookie cutter show review. I have a story in my head already; it's a first person POV story."
I felt like I was William Miller in Almost Famous
talking to Ben Fong-Torres at Rolling Stone and telling him "It's a think piece about mid level band struggling with their own..." I felt like this was my time and I needed to pull it off. Besides, I couldn't let my college newspaper article about Rush be the only thing I ever do!
"What's the deal/Spin the wheel/If the dice are hot/take a shot/Play your cards/Show us what you got" ~ "Roll the Bones"
Here are my cards Rush. This is what I got. I get one chance at this, just one, and if I play my cards right you just might enjoy this article. This wont be your typical concert review article either. When I accepted this assignment, I asked myself, "What on earth could I possibly write that either A) readers would care about to read and/or B) Rush would actually care about. I may never get the answers to either of those questions, but like Neil said"Take a shot."
It is true; I am a Rush fan, and I have been for a very long time. 1984 to be exact. I am one of those fans who made it clear that I thought it was cool to like Rush. I collected everything when I was a kid. All the music magazines. Subscribed to Modern Drummer cause I wanted to play the drums and be like Neil. I even got a drum set for Christmas. My Dad walked me across the street from his office in the city and we went to the now closed Manny's Music. My boy Auggie hooked us up. He looked like the last person on planet earth my Dad would be talking to, but the three of us hit it off, and when Neil switched from Tama drums to Ludwigs, he took care of me mid-order.
I remember getting the drums and a struggling musician type just looked at me and said, "You are the luckiest kid alive; I wish I had a Dad like that." I was part of the Rush Backstage club and would send my questions to Dottie with hopes that Neil would answer in the next newsletter. My dad took me to my first Rush concert. It was at Brendan Byrne Arena for the Power Windows Tour. I still remember listening to the intro of "Three Blind Mice" and, then, boom they were on the stage... Alex in some sort of neon blue suit, Geddy with his Steinberger bass, and Neil with his long hair in a pony tail.
I have the crappiest picture of all time from the show, but I don't care, it was my first Rush picture ever. I have a ton of posters and tapestries that I would hang on my ceiling in my dorm room. I had bootleg albums from live shows. I had anything and everything having to do with Rush. I even had Rush Christmas cards. When people rolled their eyes or made comments about Geddy not be able to sing, I didn't give a shit. I have Rush and I am good. As a matter of fact, please don't like Rush...we don't need you anyway.
So how on earth did I become a Rush fan? The music of Rush entered my world one day while I was cutting the lawn as a twelve year old. My new friend Jeff, aka Junior from down the street, came down to see what I was doing. He asked me what i was listening to and I told him The Who. He told me I was making a mistake and I needed to be listening to Rush [Ed. Note: Jeff needs to watch his mouth if he's going to insult the Who.]. After much back and forth and arguing the merits of The Who, I told him I would check out Rush. A couple of days later, I went to Red Bank at Jack's Music Shop and I bought Rush's Moving Pictures
on cassette. The next time I had to mow the lawn, I hit play on the walkman and "Tom Sawyer" was blaring.
Rush fans are just a different breed than anything else you have ever witnessed. You have to try and understand for some 25-30 years, those fans felt ignored by the masses. It was not cool to like Rush. They could never understand why the mainstream media felt like they had to ignore Rush and their music. Rush in Rolling Stone? Not a chance!
Like everything else in life, the times change and so did Rush. Not because they had to, or were forced to, but because they could. Rush never needed critical acclaim from the media. They had fans. Real fans. Passionate fans. Fans that would knock your teeth out if you ever disrespected the band. No wanna-be type fans either. You go to a Rush concert, you better be able to backup your status. They take their fandom very seriously. If you don't believe me, go watch the Rock and Roll HOF ceremony when Rush got inducted. The entire place was filled with Rush fans. Can they be extreme? Yes. Are there fans of this band that are complete freak shows and take it to levels that I consider to be not normal? Yes. Is that bad thing? Depends on who you ask.
Find a random fan at a concert and ask them how many shows they have been to. If you meet anyone who has been to less than ten concerts, you haven't met a real fan or they are the child of a lifelong fan and haven't been alive long enough to make it to ten concerts. Look up something called RushCon
which is the Rush fan convention. Look for the fans with the crazy buttons or the flower girl who always manages to make it to all the Rush shows. Look for the fans who break out their jean jackets because they are still stuck in a time warp from the 70s and 80s. They are all at a Rush concert and no matter how long they have been a fan, the dedication to the Brand of Rush is surpassed by no other band in existence today.
It is cool to like Rush now. Ever since the R30 Tour, the guys have been rising up the charts in the mainstream popularity world. Or should I say Rush is #trending now. It is okay, people. You don't have to be embarrassed to say you like Rush. Rolling Stone finally joined reality and realized there ain't many bands left like Rush; we have to give them their due. Rush had basically an entire episode of the Colbert Report dedicated to their appearance. The show's producer is a big time fan. They were a cultural phenomenon in the movie I Love You Man
, which is still getting mileage to this day in current Rush tours. Watch Sydney Fife and Peter Klaven rap on this year's tour along with a host of other Rush celebrities.
I asked my wife what she thought it was like being married to a Rush fan...a Rush fan who made it perfectly clear that Rush songs would be played at our wedding. I am not talking about "last song, end of the night" playtime either. I am talking about "the wedding party got introduced with 'Limelight' playing in the background." We met with the wedding planner in NYC and told them there was one requirement: the band needs to play Rush. The agent we met with said to me, "Mark, I have to play your wedding. Our rate is higher then you want to spend, but my drummer will shit and will freak out with excitement to play Rush at your wedding."
We did close the night with "Tom Sawyer" and "YYZ" for the record. She can't understand why every time we get in car together and I have Sirius radio on that a Rush songs pops up. She has gotten to the point now where she is immune to it, and she just deals with it. My ringtone is "Spirit of the Radio."
Her best reaction came after I made her go to a concert. My wife thinks that the fans of Rush are some sort of dude cult. Her one, only and certainly last Rush concert came during the Clockwork Angels tour. We were front row in Seattle.
I must preface the show with some information. The weekend before the concert our home was destroyed by Hurricane Sandy. It was a nightmare to say the least and extremely emotional. A Rush concert along with a football game all the way across the country was the last thing on our minds. Well...maybe it was on my mind a little. The next couple days were rough cleaning up the pieces of our life when I asked her, "What do you want to do with Seattle?"
"Let's get to the end of the week and go from there," she said.
Leading up to our trip I was in touch with John who was the tour photographer for Rush. I had introduced myself to John a while back when I was young in the photography world and asked him for some advice. He was great in helping me. He takes fantastic shots of the band which you can check out here
if you want any. He knew I was coming out to the Seattle show, and we had tentative plans to maybe meet up if schedule allowed. I emailed him and explained the Sandy situation, and we were going to bail. He said to us, "Get on the plane. Use the weekend as a distraction."
So we did! We made it to Seattle and we were sitting front row to Rush for the very first time ever. We were even delusional enough to make a sign (like all nutjob Rush fans sitting front row do) hoping the guys would give us a high five or something. It said "Just lost our house in Sandy, flew across the country for Rush"
I don't know what we were thinking, but we were corny enough to do it. But John took a picture of us with that sign amongst other photos from that night, and we are forever grateful. One of those photos was actually used as a Christmas card one year. It's classic; there I am enjoying the show and and my wife is hiding right behind me on her cell phone asking if it's almost over. It was the fan next to her in the front row that freaked her out. It was all good until the third or fourth song and the guy busted out his replica Neil drumming hat and started air drumming like nothing she had ever seen before. Not to mention she thinks that someone is squeezing Geddy's balls every time he is singing. The guy behind her was taking notes during the concert and she just couldn't understand what was going on with these fan. Welcome to Rush babe, but wait there is one more story there.
My wife was also turning 40 the following spring. I planned a special trip to Europe for her birthday. As dumb luck would have it, Rush decided to plan some London dates while we were going to be in town at the same time. Do I try it again? No way, she will kill me, just act like I didn't know they were going to be there the same time. We make our way to London and I had dinner reservations at the Mandarin Oriental Hotel restaurant called Dinner one night. That place is off the charts by the way; go if you're in London [Ed. Note: I'm not sure how I feel about a restaurant called "Dinner." That would be like if IHOP renamed itself "Breakfast."].
We were sitting there enjoying the evening with no clue what we are eating because it's British cuisine, and who sits at the table next to us? You guessed it: Geddy and Alex and their wives. Are you freaking kidding me? My wife says we have to say hi. I explain to her, "Look, I've met them before; it's all good. We're in one of those restaurants where I think we just leave it alone."
I asked the host to send them a bottle of any wine they wanted, but he politely declined doing that for me. So I said to my wife, "Let's enjoy the irony of not going to a concert while we're in London, but pretend we are having dinner with them. No one else is going to bother them and I don't want to be that guy."
Well, I shouldn't have bought another bottle of wine for our table. We finished our meal and were getting ready to leave and she says to me, "You're being stupid; let's go say 'Hi.'"
Well I am married to a good looking blonde and let's just say Geddy saw us leaving. She goes right up to him and they start talking. I try to avoid it because now I feel stupid and sure enough I am being waved over by Geddy and my wife. We have a quick conversation, a hello and wave to Alex and they were very gracious about it, and I will leave it at that. I just feel like there are certain times you leave people alone, but I was wrong, and my wife who couldn't name one Rush song to save her life ends up being the key ingredient to the second best time I have encountered the guys from Rush. Not to mention this. "That was fun. I really like Geddy now; he was so cool."
The first time I met the guys was when I worked for the record label. I was 24 years old and It was Test for Echo
time. Nothing from Test for Echo
is played on the R40 Tour so this is spot where it gets some props. I was lucky enough to accompany the publicist covering the show while they were in town. She took me out to the show early and basically said, "Don't be stupid."
So there I was backstage. I was hanging with Geddy and Alex again. We met earlier in the week at the offices doing press, but now I was at the show. I had my passes, the whole nine yards. We got some photos taken and I was feeling pretty damn lucky right then. Donna, wherever you are, I still can't thank you enough! I got to watch the show and then I was backstage again after the show. I was in the dressing room minding my own business when the band walked in. I didn't even make eye contact. I just sat there and said hello. It was truly an awesome moment.
The NJ and NYC shows were very similar in their setlists. There were a couple of minor changes but for the most part, they were the same. Rush has a video introduction that you absolutely need to be in your seats for to see. Don't miss it; it's very cool and very funny. They opened up with "The Anarchist" from Clockwork Angels
. To be honest, I never gave the song much thought. It was the show in Philly where I actually paid more attention to it and realized what a ballsy choice it was for opening the show. By the time they opened in NJ with it, I was loving it more and more.
Here is where I struggle as a writer. I really don't want to give it away. Yes, you can go online and get anything you want. Rush is even putting it on their website what they are playing. You can even buy all of your concert gear ahead time here
if you don't want have the thrill of actually buying it at the venue. When you have a body of work that has changed rock music, some albums wont make the cut for the R40 tour. Test For Echo
, Power Windows
, and Hold Your Fire
all didn't make it.
And that's fine; those albums have been well represented over the past decade's worth of Rush tours. What is important is what DID make the cut and in this particular case it was "Losing It" from Signals
. The song had never been performed live before this tour ever, and its debut was a couple of shows earlier in their hometown of Toronto. Just when everyone was expecting "that special song" to be performed again...probably at MSG, out comes Jonathan Dinklage from the Clockwork Angels Orchestra to perform "Losing it." And, man, did the Rush faithful "Lose It" alright. The crowd went nuts. I even saw someone crying. I will say that one special song really is special. I always liked it, better to hear it live for the first time; it was captivating. Shortly after what I like to call the Rush Fans' Anthem, "Subdivisions," they take a break. Immediately, the fans get into talking about the show. " You see how tight they are?" " Neil is killing it tonight" "So fucking sexy...Neil is so fucking sexy.." The woman singing Neil's praises was good looking too.
Just as part two gets to start, there is another video for the fans to watch. This one is full of outtakes and funny moments with Rush and their concert video archives. "Tom Sawyer" is filling our ears. From this point on the guys go back in time. On this particular night, they played "The Camera Eye" in a slot that usually gets switched out between "Red Barchetta" and "YYZ." To me, "The Camera Eye" is THE song but, Rush, I know what you are thinking, "How cliche since I am also a photographer," but take a listen to that song and its complexities. Neil's drum fills and Alex's solo at the end are in my opinion why you need to appreciate Rush for what they are...some insane ass musicians.
Following "The Camera Eye," we were taken on a journey of musical surprises through time with ever-changing stage props and Geddy changing his bass guitar for every song on the tour. Neil has even switched drums sets with a modern day replica of Chromie, from yester-year. It is all something that needs to been seen in person, and having a hack like myself describe it won't do it justice anyway. It was when "Closer to Heart" was played that I heard what is probably one of the funniest lines from the evening. Jeff who is 49 years old and originally from Nova Scotia (Eh), said "I haven't heard 'Closer to the Heart' performed live since my Eighth grade dance when we all just stood there with our dates after the song picked up. I love this fucking song because I touched boobs that night." [Ed. Note: Classic.]
As the older songs started popping up, I realized I didn't have the connection to this time period that I hoped I would. I love the music, but I wasn't even old enough to give a shit about music when they were playing these albums live. When I first got into Rush, I needed to get everything they had made; I remember the first time I watched Exit Stage Left
. This time frame in the current R40 tour reminded me of watching ESL
as a young new fan. To see the double necks played together was an awesome treat not to mention the constantly changing stage background. I have the posters of the old 70s Rush and the amp stacks and the drum kits with all actual pieces of percussion...no electronic stuff. So to see it represented live and to have a gap in my Rush world filled with something I can only dream about was awesome and completely worth the price of admission.
I am never going to be the Rush fan that hangs on to every word and dissects the meaning to every lyric in every song. I love their music; it's that simple. I'm not discounting their lyrics; I say that because their talent level as musicians is ridiculous. Their beats, their melodies, and the way they just fucking kick the shit out of their instruments just gets it going for me.
You ever blast Rush out of your car stereo? I love nothing more then rolling up to a traffic light and having "Freewill" blasting out the car. That guitar solo is right up there with some of Alex's greatest stuff ever. When I see the car next to me look pissed off and roll up their window, it makes me smile [Ed. Note: That sounds vaguely sociopathic, Mark.]. When I hear Rush being played in the background of a stadium or sports game I am covering, it makes me smile. It's that sense of pride that I have with being a Rush fan. It can not be explained. It's why I go to certain Rush dates by myself. I don't want to be bothered, and I just want to enjoy a Rush concert without worrying about who I am with and do they get it or enjoy it. Fuck that. I am too old for that crap. I make my money and I will spend it on front row seats to Rush. That's me as a Rush fan.
Here is what I think. Anything can happen. As a Rush fan, I knew there to be two things that would always remain true: 1) Rush would never be in, let alone on the cover of Rolling Stone and 2) Rush would never be on Saturday Night Live. (Lorne Michaels is Canadian so maybe we need to start harassing him to put Rush on the Season 41 debut of SNL. Why they didn't play the show this year since they both turned 40 is beyond me.) Well, one out of two is a start. I feel there is no way the Final Show at the Forum is it. While I commend them for going out on top with a sold out summer tour while they still can, I just can't see Geddy and the guys hanging it up. If The Who and the Stones can still tour so can Rush!
But in case I'm wrong, well then I just want to say to Geddy, Alex and Neil, "It was awesome. Your music has never gotten old or stale. I am really glad my friend convinced me to listen to you guys, and I have had some great times in life with your music as a part of it. Good luck with whatever the future brings, and lastly, I will see you at The Forum in the Front Row. I am taking my brother in law to his first Rush concert. He has no idea what's about to happen to him."
[Ed. Note: If you want to see more of Mark's rush photos from the past, you can find them here
. You can also follow Mark on Instagram
for more of his concert and sports photography.]