Monday, November 19, 2012

Rush at its grandest in Anaheim

My Rush review and the accompanying photo were originally posted on The Orange County Register site on Sunday, Nov. 18, 2012. Click here to access the original posting and Rod Veal's photo gallery. A special "thank you" to Ron Bronsgeest for his image capturing Rush and the amazing stage design that really enhanced the concert.

The trio crammed decades of conceptual rock into its three-hour Honda Center set


Rush in concert on Nov. 17, 2012. Photo credit: Ron Bronsgeest

  Every legendary band has its hardcore followers, but the faithful who are drawn to Rush deserve credit on a number of fronts.

Unlike many classic rock shows where audiences seem more interested in talking on their cell phones, posing for pictures with pals or going on an endless number of beer runs, the majority of fans seated around me were fully tuned into Saturday night’s (Nov. 17, 2012) three-hour show (which included a brief intermission) at Honda Center. I can't remember another Southern California arena audience over the past few years quite as riveted as this one.

These devotees were not only magnetized by the band's biggest hits but also stood and cheered the involving material from the group’s latest album, Clockwork Angels, which comprised the majority of the second set. Sadly, most audiences consider new songs a time to sit, thereby stalling momentum. Not Rush junkies; they even air drum in time.

Those dedicated fans were rewarded in Anaheim with an impressive showcase of the band's always striking prog-rock chops, intelligent songcraft and breathtaking arrangements. (The trio plays again Monday, Nov. 20, at Gibson Amphitheatre.)

Singer-bassist Geddy Lee of Rush at Honda Center on Nov. 17, 2012.

The concert unfolded in three distinct parts – first an hour-long set featuring many of Rush's best-known radio gems, with Clockwork Angels the focus of the middle section and the epic 2112 celebrated during a rewarding encore. And the set design added to the night's magic. In addition to a fantastic rear-projection screen, there were 10 floating miniature monitors utilized throughout later segments.

Behind guitarist Alex Lifeson were what appeared to be old megaphones but actually were more screens, while positioned behind singer Geddy Lee was an assortment of eye-grabbing circus-ready props, including an old popcorn machine and a gigantic brain in a jar. Drummer Neil Peart's rotating drum riser also came decorated with colorful lights that enhanced the retro theme.

An electrifying "Subdivisions" opened the long night, Lee juggling keyboard and bass duties with precision. A strong back-to-back performance of the driving "Limelight" and a textured "Territories" also stood out in the early set. Lifeson's fretwork was particularly impressive on "Grand Designs," his key solo featuring ringing harmonies, fluid chording and thrilling runs, all sprinkled with bashes of his whammy bar to add vibrato.

Clockwork Angels, another in a long line of Rush’s concept albums, was celebrated via assorted pyrotechnics, including towering real-life flames (very hot!), as well as colorful videos and strong performances overall, assisted by an eight-member string section. "The Anarchist" was powered by thundering yet dynamic work from Peart; "Carnies" rocked equally hard, albeit with symphonic touches.

Those strings also magnified the beautiful, immediately accessible piece "The Wreckers,” while the disc’s final cut, "The Garden," grew from tender folk-rock to majestic grandeur in its finale. And lest the second set get too bogged down in fresh stuff, a rip through "The Spirit of Radio” further charged the arena’s atmosphere.

With Rush set to release a deluxe edition of its 1976 opus 2112 next month (bolstered by three live bonus tracks), it seemed likely the band would spotlight that seminal album at some point. Filling up the encore with selections from it made the most sense, after first elating fans with a faithful handling of "Tom Sawyer."

The band really seemed to have a great time throughout the night, but it was especially evident during that last burst – Lee and Lifeson patrolled the big stage, unleashing virtuoso firepower, and normally serious Peart could be seen twirling his sticks playfully amid the thunder.

Set list: Rush at Honda Center, Anaheim, Nov. 17, 2012

First set: Subdivisions / The Big Money / Force Ten / Grand Designs / Limelight / Territories / The Analog Kid / The Pass / Where's My Thing? / Far Cry

Second set: Caravan / Clockwork Angels / The Anarchist / Carnies / The Wreckers / Headlong Flight / Halo Effect / Wish Them Well / The Garden / Dreamline / Drum Solo / Red Sector A / YYZ / The Spirit of Radio

Encore: Tom Sawyer / 2112 Part I: Overture > Part II: The Temples of Syrinx > Part VII: Grand Finale

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