Rush defies age with vitality and verve (and rotisserie chickens) in Vancouver



By Steve Newton

When you’ve been around as long as Rush has, you can pretty well do as you please. If you don’t feel like doing any interviews to support your tour—even though you have a relatively new studio album, 2007’s Snakes & Arrows, to talk about—you don’t have to. And if you want to play a ton of songs off that album—even though most Rush fans could care less about them—you can do that as well. Hell, when you’re Rush, you can cook chickens on-stage in a giant rotisserie if you feel like it!

Apparently, the rotating chickens—which a roadie in a chef’s hat would periodically baste—are devoured by the band, crew, and guests after shows. Rush singer-bassist Geddy Lee, guitarist Alex Lifeson, and drummer Neil Peart are no doubt ravenous when they get off-stage, because their current set is nearly three-and-a-half hours long—including a half-hour intermission—and there’s no screwing around between tunes. The Canadian prog-rock veterans cranked out song after song, with no hesitation, as if aware that—no matter what Mick Jagger says—time is no longer on their side.

The show last night (May 29) kicked off with “Limelight”, from 1981’s Moving Pictures, an album Rush would return to later for “Red Barchetta” and the much-loved “Tom Sawyer”. Three large video screens were set up at the rear of the stage (one for each member) so you could clearly see how much they’d aged since the last time they were here, on the Vapor Trails tour of 2002. The thing about Rush, though, is that it doesn’t matter what they look like; it’s always been about the music. And today that music is, incredibly, as vibrant as ever.

How can Peart, at an age when he should be enjoying the benefits of Freedom 55, still display such vitality and verve? He’s one of the only rock drummers who can play a 10-minute solo that keeps you transfixed the entire time. Lifeson is no less a guitar god than he was the first time he blasted out the metallic roar of “Working Man”, back in ’74. And Lee’s vocal cords are easily as deserving of scientific study as Keith Richards’s internal organs.

Though serious players all, Rush also has a humorous side, which was revealed when SCTV characters Bob and Doug McKenzie appeared via video to introduce a new song, “The Larger Bowl”, and when the cartoon kids from South Park were shown making up their own verse for “Tom Sawyer”, but getting sidetracked by the plot of Adventures of Huckleberry Finn.

Right after the intermission five more new songs from Snakes & Arrows were rolled out, and though there was nothing wrong with the quality of the material, the crowd wasn’t too interested. The faithful wanted the big ’80s hits, and soon got them in the form of “Subdivisions” and “The Spirit of Radio”.

I was actually hoping for some vintage Rush material, like maybe a track or two off the band’s self-titled debut, but it never happened. Sadly, there was no “In the Mood” on this night, perhaps because Peart has spent so many years emulating Buddy Rich that the cowbell mastery of Rush’s long-forgotten first drummer, John Rutsey, has proved impossible to top.

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