Words By Sean Palmerston; Concert Photography by Adam Wills
Tuesday was the first of two hometown shows by Willowdale’s (and arguably Canada’s) greatest ever
musical exports. Through the past few tours, it has become commonplace for Rush to play two separate
shows in Toronto, although these are usually booked a few months apart. This time around however,
when booking their summer 2010 Time Machine tour, the trio decided instead to play two shows within
days of each other at different Toronto venues. Tuesday was an outdoor show at the Molson Canadian
Amphitheatre, while the Saturday show upcoming will be held at the Air Canada Centre. One in, one out;
one taking its chances with Mother Nature, the other to be safely indoors.
I had already purchased tickets for Saturday’s show before the opportunity arose to go to both, but when
the offer came in to attend Tuesday as well I thought I had better accept. It’s been a long time since I’ve
seen Rush play live. In fact, before this week I had only ever seen them once and it was some 25 years
ago when I was in grade nine. My one and only previous Rush gig was in March, 1986 at Toronto’s
Maple Leaf Gardens on the Power Windows tour. It was my first major arena experience and an
unforgettable night that established my insatiable appetite for live music. I had tried numerous times to see them since, including a missed opportunity to see them live with the person I consider to be the world’s second best drummer after Neil Peart (Dave Witte, for those who care) in 1997, but things never worked out.
Getting to the Amphitheatre just before 7:30 due to bad traffic and being re-routed around the CNE
grounds from the Go Train stop, I was worried I wouldn’t make it inside before the show started.
However, somehow I made it in, found my seat and was ready when 7:40 came and a film commenced
behind their gear. It was the “real” story of Rush or, actually, about the band Rash. If there is one thing
that has always impressed me about the band over the years it has been their sense of humour. This
opening sequence featured the three dressed in costume: Geddy Lee as a moustached sausage-maker,
Alex Lifeson as an obese band manager and Neil Peart as a stoic traffic cop. The setting is a deli (Moe
Panzer’s perhaps?) and a trio is playing “The Spirit of Radio”. I won’t tell the entire tale, but it’s very
funny and also involves a time machine. We’ll see the band dressed up in other parts during the show, but
this introductory film works the best.
It was obvious to see the band would start with “The Spirit Of Radio” and did so with gusto and muscle.
The crowd was fully engaged with the band before the first drum fill, with a good chunk of the capacity
crowd on their feet from the start onwards. The audience was electric and rapturous in their response.
Having gone to shows in the Toronto area for more than twenty-five years now, this was absolutely the
loudest crowd I have ever been a part of and their fervour gave the band that extra surge of energy that
can take a concert from being good to great. The first set turned out to be a very strong one, with mid-
set highlights including “Stick It Out” and brand new song “BU2B” before really ramping things up at
the end with “Free Will”, “Marathon” and “Subdivisions” guaranteeing everyone was up on their feet, air
drumming and singing at the top of their lungs.
After a short twenty-minute intermission the video screen once again came into play, with a time machine
clicking the years up from 1974 until 1981. There was then another hilarious film with the band in
character – including Geddy Lee looking very Warhol-esque – and a very funny joke involving German
barmaids and “moving pitchers” – before the band kicked into playing their most famous album in its
entirety in sequential order. Side one of the album contains four of the band’s signature tunes (“Tom
Sawyer,” “Red Barchetta”, “YYZ” and “Limelight”), which were played with precision and perfection in
a way we all knew they were capable of, but it was the second side of the album that was what all diehard
Rush fans have been waiting to hear.
Before this tour it had been over twenty years since the trio had played “The Camera Eye” live. The ten-
minute mini-epic is a cornerstone in the band’s career, their last extended piece and a song that ended the
end of their progressive era, while helping to bridge the gap to their ever-increasingly keyboard heavy
direction. The song is one of my top three Rush songs of all time and to say they hit it out of the park
would be an understatement. The trio nailed the song inside and out. Its’ accompanying new films, shot
in New York City and London, did the track well and made it a real highlight of the night. Of course,
getting to also see “Witch Hunt” and Vital Signs” performed live was every bit as special too. I’m not a
huge fan of bands doing albums in their entirety, but when the album is freaking Moving Pictures, the
band is Rush, and it only makes up about a third of the show, how can you say no?
One thing that really struck me about this concert was how Rush managed to get even better as the show
went on. Despite the three band members being over fifty, they continued to gain steam and were actually
at their most energetic, somewhat unbelievably, during the final third of the show. The band came out
of Moving Pictures and straight into their second new song of the night, current radio single “Caravan”,
which works much better in concert than the studio version. After a somewhat meandering drum solo,
unfortunately the weakest part of the night as far as I am concerned, the band then hit another high
with “Closer To The Heart” – featuring a newly arranged acoustic opening by Alex Lifeson – and a
medley of “2112 Overture” and “Temples of Syrinx” that had the majority of the crowd pumping their
fists in approval. “Far Cry”, one of the stronger songs off Snakes and Arrows, ended the second set.
Perhaps not the ending some were looking for, but knowing what has probably to come in the encore few
“La Villa Strangiato” is one of the most difficult songs in the Rush catalogue to play and a definite
crowd favourite. It was the first song of the encore this evening and, like the rest of the show, was played
perfectly. Actually, it seemed like the band had a lot of passion this evening, with Lifeson really bending
this shit out of his guitar strings and Geddy jumping all over. The followed it up with “Working Man”,
the song that first got them on the radio and remains an anthem for many. The arrangement of the song
started in a faux-reggae shuffle that I was pretty indifferent on, but it was a great ending to a terrific night
Tuesday’s Rush show was awesome in so many ways. I didn’t even get a chance to talk about the
fantastic light show and the cool stage set-up they have, mostly because even without that this would have
been a great show for me. It is these nice touches that show why Rush have such a devoted fan base. They want to put on a great show for their fans. It’s not a matter of having to, it is wanting to. Seeing this show early has only done one thing for me – it makes me even more impatient for Saturday so I can see it all over again. Can’t wait!
All concert photography published above is the property of Adam Wills and Hellbound.ca and may not be used without the written permission of both Adam and Hellbound.ca. Unless you’re Geddy Lee – then you can do whatever the hell you want!