Back to back reviews here: RUSH – first the band and then the concert from June-28!
Their new CD, Vapor Trails, came out a few weeks ago. You gotta know Rush before you can know what to expect. These guys have out 15 studio albums and four live compilations. Just after these guys release a live CD, their sound changes on the very next studio album. They keep evolving over time, but since their fans usually do too, it’s a win-win thing. Of course you get the people that get set on a sound an won’t move from it, making them hate the “new” or “old” Rush. What do I mean? The first four albums – Rush, Fly By Night, Caress of Steel, 2112 – were very Zeppelin and metal influenced. Rush has said so themselves. They were new to the business and they were heavily influenced by the music of the day. The next four – Hemispheres, Farewell to Kings, Permanent Waves, Moving Pictures – were very Artsy, Sci-Fi rock. It started with 2112, but really matured through these four CD’s. Long epic songs with a heavy storyline and futuristic themes. The next four – Signals, Grace Under Pressure, Power Windows, Hold Your Fire – were very FM sounding. How FM? Picture Geddy and Alex in hip 80’s gear with no-head guitars and Neil on all electric pads in an MTV video. They went into more keyboard and simple (for them anyway) beats with the guitar and keyboard taking the spot light, instead of the percussion and the bass. The next four – Presto, Roll the Bones, Counterparts, Test for Echo – were alternative and grunge influenced. They were all over the map with this four mostly because it spanned most of the 90’s instead of doing a CD a year and 1/2.
So the newest CD, Vapor Trails, is the first of the next quartet (see, there was a point to that whole part up there) and it does take another new direction. Sort of. It’s more like a re-discovery, really. See the Canadian Trio are back into the hard sound. Very little keyboard. Lots of bass. Lots of toms for Neil’s part. Alex has a lot of power riffs but the real star (again) is Geddy with his bass riffs. Never simple, he’s got dual parts for a number of the songs, making most bass players weep with envy. Add to that other nice things like a 13 track CD (longer than most today) and the fact that there’s a new “part” of Fear makes it a must have for any long time Rush fan. As for the rest of you mortals that have no idea what I’m talking about, it’s a good look for you too, because there’s some good and catchy music here – beside with things like CDNow out there, you can always take a look before you buy.
And then there was the concert. It opened in Hartford – near me for a change, who would have thought it? – and since they hadn’t played in 5 years, I wasn’t expecting much. Some time in the mid-90’s (the Roll the Bones tour, I think) they opened in CT and they were just all right. The lighting people had some issues and one or two of the triggered sound bites were off, but they’re always great to see, so who am I to complain? After a 5 year absence, the boys were dead on for this show. Everything was tight – the music was great. Neil’s solo was the best I’ve ever seen him do and I’ve seen him at least six times live, a few times on video, and he was just incredible. Neil also spent about 90% of the concert on his analog drums; the digitals are just there for added effects and songs like Early Distance Warning. They played YYZ, they played that funky instrumental from Roll the Bones for Neil’s solo, and after the solo, Alex and Geddy did an acoustic version of Resist – obviously Neil needs some down time after the solo! They did the Pass, they did Tom Sawyer – first, so it got out of the way early – and they jumped all over the Discography. And I mean all over – even to ByTor and the Snow Dog. Truly a phenomenal show – they boys look happy to be out there again!
So, if you’re a Rush fan, here’s you to do list for 2002: Get the new CD. Then get your ass to the show – they are making the rounds and you should really catch them – well worth the trip to a venue. And if you happen to see Neil after the show, swipe his Roland V-Drums for me – I need to upgrade my Pintech trap set!