Friday, July 31, 2015

Rush thrills fans at Irvine Meadows

Singer-bassist Geddy Lee (on screen) looks on at drummer Neil Peart
and guitarist Alex Lifeson on July 30, 2015. Photo: Robert Kinsler
Rock fans either get Rush or they don't.
Fortunately, the crowd that filled Irvine Meadows Amphitheatre in Orange County, CA on Thursday night (July 30, 2015) gets singer-bassist-keyboardist Geddy Lee, guitarist Alex Lifeson and drummer Neil Peart. Big time.

For just under three hours (including a quick 15-minute intermission), the Canadian rock trio that was finally put into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 2013 and unbelievably has yet to ever earn a Grammy Award displayed why they remain one of rock's most enduring and groundbreaking bands. The latest stop on their ambitious R40 Live 40th Anniversary Tour, the threesome performed a mix of well-known radio staples, dazzling prog-rock gems, '80s synth rock tracks and deep album cuts that left everyone thrilled.

A Rush show works on a variety of levels. First and foremost is the musicianship. Lee's ability to handle high-flying lead vocals while playing intricate bass parts and frequently jumping to keyboards to add sonic layers to the lush arrangements was a wonder, particularly during the potent "Early Distant Warning" and magnificent follow-up "Subdivisions" that closed out the incredible first set. Lifeson's work on guitar was likewise a wonder, whether working his electric guitar of the moment while using a Wah-wah foot pedal on "Headlong Flight," or masterfully fusing power chords and urgent lead guitar on "Early Distant Warning" or "Roll the Bones." 

Drumming legend Neil Peart was a wonder all night.
Photo: Robert Kinsler
While master drummer Neil Peart never fails to impress (as he did during a stunning five-minute drum solo offered up in the second half of the concert), what remains a wonder is how at age 62 he remains so unique. No drummer has been able to match his ability to blend his level of technical prowess behind a drum kit that simultaneously fits impeccably into the style of the playing by his band mates and the songs themselves.

The high level of musicianship and connection the three members of the band have with each other might well be enough, but it was clear in Irvine that the additional ingredients including the range and strength of the trio's complex (and, yes, accessible) songs as well as the winning blend of video projections, lasers, lights and concept films all positioned in exactly the right space made for a fast-paced and incredible night or rock 'n' roll theater.

"Jacob's Ladder," a choice cut off the band's 1980 release Permanent Waves, was particularly effective with its spellbinding textures and instrumental firepower. Not much later, those same impressive elements came together on "Xanadu." And how great was it to hear the band tear through a good-sized chunk of its 1976 progressive rock epic 2112? Just ask any of the countless fans playing air guitar and bass all night long.

Amidst all the creative elements and with the energy of the enthusiastic faithful, the concert sped to its inevitable ending, with a dynamic "What You're Doing" and night-ending hard-rocking take on the band's "Working Man."

A photo taken of a rear projection screen at the beginning of the Rush concert on July 30, 2015.

Setlist for Rush on Thursday, July 30, 2015

First Set 
The Anarchist / Clockwork Angels / Headlong Flight (with 'Drumbastica' mini drum solo) / Far Cry / The Main Monkey Business / One Little Victory / Animate / Roll the Bones / Distant Early Warning / Subdivisions
Second Set
Tom Sawyer / YYZ / The Spirit of Radio / Natural Science / Jacob's Ladder / Cygnus X-1 Book II: Hemispheres Part I: Prelude / Cygnus X-1 Book One: The Voyage Parts 1 & 3, (with five-minute drum solo) / Closer to the Heart / Xanadu / 2112 Part I: Overture / 2112 Part II: The Temples of Syrinx / 2112 Part IV: Presentation / 2112 Part VII: Grand Finale
Lakeside Park / Anthem / What You're Doing / Working Man

Robert Kinsler

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