“We’ve got a ton — like, maybe two tons — of music to play for you,” said Rush bassist and singer Geddy Lee at the band’s show at Jiffy Lube Live Saturday night.
He wasn’t exaggerating: The trio blazed through 26 songs in about two and a half hours, stopping only for one brief intermission (because, as Lee said, “we are getting old by the second”). Of course, the Canadian group has a lot of material to pull from, with a steady release of albums since its 1974 debut.
This particular tour was billed as “The Time Machine Tour,” a vague name that did little to disguise the open secret that the band was playing its magnificent 1981 album “Moving Pictures” in its entirety. That album spawned some of the band’s most well-known songs — “Tom Sawyer,” “Red Barchetta,” the instrumental “YYZ” and “Limelight” — and those tracks were the set’s high point.
But there was plenty more to enjoy. The concert included two new songs (“Caravan,” which featured a crisp, lengthy instrumental interlude, and the dramatic “BU2B,” which Lee introduced as “I Was Brought Up To Believe”). There were also several instrumentals and humorously bizarre moments: During “2112 Part I: Overture,” two men — one dressed in a gorilla suit, one dressed as a hot dog — walked across the stage. The group sprinkled in some musical surprises, too: “La Villa Strangiato” began with a polka intro, and the band played the first verse of “Working Man” reggae style.
After the concert ended, a brief film screened featuring Jason Segel and Paul Rudd reprising their Rush-adoring roles from the film “I Love You, Man,” loaded with hilarious quips about the band — including the group itself commenting, “Seven females at a Rush concert; must be a world record!”
The show itself was both thunderous and understated. Thunderous, of course: Jiffy Lube Live is a huge stadium, and the band’s music filled it with a roar. Many of Rush’s contemporaries fill out their stadium sound with extra stage musicians, but Rush created a massive sound with just three: Lee, guitarist Alex Lifeson and legendary drummer Neil Peart.
But the performance was understated, as well. All three musicians are well-known for their instrumental prowess, but none was particularly flashy about it Saturday. Even Neil Peart’s 8-minute drum solo (in which he rotated his drum kit 180 degrees to attack a second set behind him) was far from ostentatious. A well-angled overhead video projected behind him offered a clear picture of how hard he was working.
Similarly, Lifeson and Lee’s parts were intricate and precise, but not at all showy. They were animated as they moved around stage, and Lee’s eyebrows shot skyward whenever his voice reached for the stratosphere. Lifeson’s fingers flew on the guitar lines on “La Villa Strangiato” and “Freewill,” and Lee kept pace on “Caravan.” But the overall look and feel of the performance was effortless, like the three were just jamming together onstage.
Even the visuals projected behind the band were understated, complementing rather than distracting from the performance. And when those images were replaced with the live stage feed, the three appeared as they seemed to all of us in the audience: larger than life.
1) “The Spirit of Radio”
2) “Time Stand Still”
4) “Stick It Out”
5) “Workin’ Them Angels”
6) “Leave That Thing Alone”
12) “Tom Sawyer”
13) “Red Barchetta”
16) “The Camera Eye”
17) “Witch Hunt”
18) “Vital Signs”
20) Drum Solo
21) “Closer To The Heart”
22) “2112 Part I: Overture”
23) “2112 Part II: The Temples of Syrinx”
24) “Far Cry”
25) “La Villa Strangiato”
26) “Working Man”
Written by Express contributor Catherine Lewis
Photo by Ethan Miller/Getty Images