Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Schultz' Earful: Rush

By: David Schultz

Not to take anything away from Neil Diamond or ABBA, the simple fact that Rush has never been considered for the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame continues to be one of the organization's most mystifying head scratchers. Nearly 40 years after the release of their self-titled debut in 1974, the Canadian legends can still sell out New York City's Madison Square Garden without completely immersing themselves in nostalgia. True, the selling point to their Time Machine tour has been a cover to cover offering of Moving Pictures, their 1981 album that unleashed "Tom Sawyer" onto the world. However, the show also features gratifying material from their last couple albums and previews a pair of songs from an upcoming album that’s a refreshing take on Rush trying to sound like Metallica.

For those who unfairly lump Rush into the category of bands that have outlived their usefulness and transcended the irony of aging into the band they always feared becoming, Geddy Lee, Alex Lifeson and Neal Peart might giddily join in the joke. In filmed preambles to each set and a strange coda that featured Paul Rudd and Jason Segal reprising their Rush-obsessed characters from I Love You Man, the three mine the humor to be had from lasting as long as they have on the strength of one of most ardent fanbases of all time. What keeps Rush vital is their unparalleled musicianship; they’ve spawned numerous disciples that cannot even fathom replicating the skills of the band they love. Lifeson's guitar, Lee's synth and most importantly his signature voice are instantly recognizable and, of course, Rush invented the time change. Yet, for all the musicians that profess Rush’s greatness, can you name one band that's tried their hand at following in their footsteps?

At the Garden, Peart unleashed his typically stupendous and perplexing barrage of beats and fills. Watching him work, it’s hard to believe that his right and left hands are connected to the same brain. They each seem to be working on a different beat but all to wonderful effect. Even if you aren't interested in the song, you can get lost watching Peart wail away on an uncountable number of drums. Lee also approaches the bass from a unique perspective, being one of the few bassists whose riffs aim for the mind rather than the funky gut. Having the unenviable task of following a Peart solo, Lifeson worked with an acoustic guitar slowly easing into a finely wrought version of “Closer To The Heart.”

In addition to a full workout of Moving Pictures, Rush cranked out FM radio staples like “Freewill” and “The Spirit Of Radio” and progressive rock instrumental opuses like “YYZ” and “La Villa Strangiato” for the throng of head bobbing fans at the Garden. The unreleased songs, “Caravan” and “BU2B,” received an added boost from pyrotechnic displays that the live warhorses didn’t require. To close the night, Rush gave a lengthy tip of the hat to their geeky, Dungeons & Dragons influenced history with a fiery “2112 Overture/The Temple Of Syrinx.” Finally, as if to show that they could, they transformed “Working Man,” their first true hit, from a guitar-oriented classic rock stalwart into a reggae tinged jaunt. Very few bands could pull the seamless transition that they pulled off in bringing the song back around to its normal form. Then again, Rush is not just any band.

1 comment:

Rinjo Njori! said...

It's been awhile since i cranked open my copy of 2112, Moving Pictures, or Permanent Waves... hmm...

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Grace Potter Rocking The Gear circa 2006!