Friday, 27 May 2011

2011 Summer of Gigs #1: Rush at the 02

It might not quite be summer officially, but as far as I’m concerned my 2011 ‘Summer of gigs’ has started, and been kicked off in fine style by legendary Canadian 3-piece Rush, as they wrapped up the UK leg of their ‘Time Machine Tour’ in London on Wednesday night.

The USP of this tour is the set contains the classic 1981 album Moving Pictures in it’s entirety, and we received a first-rate performance of a first-rate album. Containing signature songs such as Tom Sawyer and personal favourite Limelight as well as the epic and rarely-performed live The Camera Eye...oh hell, I might as well just list the entire track listing and say it's brilliant! I’ve never been a fan of instrumentals (well not if they’re studio versions that go longer than about 3 minutes, anyway – but live it’s a different story), but am more than happy to make an exception for YYZ and in a live setting it’s an absolute stonker – it’s been playing in my head virtually non-stop for the last two days, so enough said!

Reference was made early on to the number of classics they have to choose from, so there was always going to be plenty of note left out, but overall the rest of the set contained an excellent snapshot of the band’s entire career, reaching back to the first album with Working Man and right through to 2007s excellent Snakes and Arrows and beyond with two new songs from their forthcoming album also getting an airing.

The band have a reputation as one of the best live bands on the planet, which is quite something to live up to, but despite some pretty horrendous sound issues during the first set, they still managed to exceed expectations. Geddy Lee has one of those ‘marmite’ voices that people either love or hate (but even the Danes wouldn’t dare ban…) but to be honest I’ve never really understood those who complain about his voice, it’s expressive and tuneful and his phrasing is excellent – an acquired taste that was easy to acquire for me, at least. As for his musical contribution…let’s just say that he can do more with a 4-string bass than should be humanly possible.

Alex Lifeson and Neil Peart were also at the top of their respective games, with Peart’s drum solo an absolute highlight (Hey, I’m a sucker for drums, okay?) Oh, earlier on he – SHOCK, HORROR! – dropped a drumstick, which some have taken as a sign of an impending apocalypse, but personally I love it when legends go and prove they’re only human after all. In any case all three seemed to be enjoying themselves immensely, even if the crowd’s response was a tad on the lacklustre side at times (but then it’s a well known non-fact that Londoner’s can’t cope with midweek gigs…)

I’m not really a fan of arena gigs, and this was my first one in many a moon (Not that I’ve been avoiding them, and have several more coming up) and as a result it was disappointing in the sense that I wasn’t in my usual spot as per your bog-standard standing gig (i.e. just behind those strange people who queue for hours to get right up the front) so felt quite removed from the action for most of the 3-hour show. Being at the front of a block probably contributed to this feeling as there was a couple of metres between myself and the next row of audience (in a block that included Marillion’s Steve Rothery, I couldn’t help but notice…Marillion, of course, toured as support for Rush a mere 25 years ago) Still, with big screens, animations, one lame and two hilarious narrative videos and pyrotechnics that can be felt even from towards the back of the arena, noone could claim that the band don’t make the most of the larger setting.

Despite quibbles then about the venue and the sound, this was everything I expected from my first Rush gig and more. It also made up for the time ( a couple of years ago) when I was still working for a ticketing company back in New Zealand and received an email from an event manager titled 'Rush on sale' - after my initial euphoria and disbelief I opened the email to find there was some kids event going on sale the next day that we'd not known about up until then - gutting! Anyway, here’s hoping it won’t be the only chance I have to see them! (8/10)