Rush at 1st Mariner Arena April 22

Rush performed Friday at 1st Mariner Arena. Reporter Kevin Eck, of Ring Posts, was at the show and sent in this review. 

The Rush concert at 1st Mariner Arena Friday night had a lot of the trappings typically associated with an arena rock act that was birthed in the ’70s: There were strobe lights, pyrotechnics and a huge video screen.

But those things were all just window dressing. First and foremost, Rush has always been about the music.

Unlike many of their peers, Rush does not have a flamboyant front-man who encourages fans to scream on cue, and rather than extolling the virtues of sex, drugs and rock 'n' roll in its lyrics, the majority of songs performed by the band intelligently explore the human condition.

Rush – bassist/lead singer Geddy Lee, guitarist Alex Lifeson and drummer extraordinaire/lyricist Neil Peart – proved again  Friday night that three cool-deprived guys from the Toronto suburb of Willowdale just may comprise the coolest band around when it comes to delivering the goods on stage.

For the enthusiastic crowd at the mostly filled arena, there clearly was no doubt. On this stop of its Time Machine Tour, the power trio took the audience on a musical journey nearly 40 years in the making.

Rush, whose unique brand of progressive hard rock is marked by intricate arrangements and precise playing, seamlessly maneuvered its way through a two-and-a-half hour performance. The set list consisted of 25 songs (including three instrumentals) that spanned parts of five decades and showcased Rush’s eclectic catalog.

The highlight of the night was the band playing its most successful release – 1981’s “Moving Pictures” – in its entirety. Lee, Lifeson and Peart – now all in their late 50s – showed, however, that they are anything but a nostalgia act. They were musically as tight as ever, and Lee – whose instantly recognizable wailing vocals are an acquired taste for some –showed that he can still hit the high notes (although his voice did crack slightly during  “Far Cry,” which was the final song before the encore).

As serious as the members of Rush are about their musicianship, however, they certainly don’t take themselves too seriously, as evidenced by the self-parodying videos sprinkled throughout the performance and the playful interaction on stage between Lee and Lifeson.

The show was divided into two sets separated by a 20-minute intermission. Rather than bringing an opening act on the road with them, Rush seemingly uses the first set to warm up the crowd for the power-packed second half of the concert.

After kicking things off with signature anthem “The Spirit of Radio” and concert staple “Time Stand Still,” the band proceeded to play a string of songs that casual fans may not have recognized and hardcore fans likely wouldn’t place on their all-time favorites list. Among them was “BU2B,” a hard-driving cut from the forthcoming “Clockwork Angels” album.

Rush closed the first set with three songs from its most commercially successful period in the early to mid-80s – “Freewill,” “Marathon” and “Subdivisions.”

Then it was time for the main event of the evening. Lee, Lifeson and Peart returned to the stage and the familiar synthesizer intro to “Tom Sawyer” – the opening track on “Moving Pictures” – sent the crowd into a frenzy. That Rush classic was followed by the three others that made up Side 1 of the album – “Red Barchetta,” “YYZ” (the instrumental that sparked a generation of air drummers) and “Limelight.”

Those songs are always crowd-pleasers, but for longtime fans, seeing Rush perform the lesser known songs from the second side of “Moving Pictures” – the 11-minute “Camera Eye,” “Witch Hunt” and “Vital Signs” – is as good as it gets.

In keeping with the “Time Machine” theme, after concluding “Moving Pictures,” Rush immediately went back to the future and played “Caravan,” another song from “Clockwork Angels.” Peart then demonstrated that not all live drum solos equal bathroom breaks. Watching him take center stage to masterfully pound the skins is a must-see element of the show.

Rush ended its performance by going all the way back to the beginning for “Working Man” from its self-titled 1974 debut album. The band put a reggae spin on the opening verse of the hard-rocking song before it morphed into a jam session that gave Lee and Lifeson one final opportunity to show off their fancy fingerwork.

Set List

First set
The Spirit of Radio
Time Stand Still
Stick It Out
Workin’ Them Angels
Leave That Thing Alone

Second set
Tom Sawyer
Red Barchetta
The Camera Eye
Witch Hunt
Vital Signs
Closer to the Heart
2112 Part I: Overture
2112 Part II: The Temples of Syrinx
Far Cry


La Villa Strangiato
Working Man

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