Rush @ PNC Bank Arts Center (7/8/2007)

Logo - Rush

Artist: Rush
Venue: PNC Bank Arts Center (New York, NY)
Opener: n/a
Date: 7/8/2007
Label: Atlantic Records

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Rush in Concert by Ken Pierce (2007)

It seems as though we were celebrating Rush’s 30th Anniversary only yesterday but in truth we are now approaching year 33 of existence for the Canadian trio that we all know and love. Throughout their storied career, Rush has been a band that continually pushed the envelope of experiment with their sound, style and incredible live performances. After releasing some 25 albums (both studio and live) and several performance DVD’s, 2007 finds them in support of their most recent effort called “Snakes and Arrows”. It’s an album that has been very well-received by the fans and media alike, yet while many reviews have called it “a return to greatness” for the band – they have honestly not returned to any old or classic style and instead continue their climb upward into the annals of Rock music history. If one were to wonder why the album reminds them of something else Rush did in the past it would be because choice elements on it bear some similarity to that which is found on both “Counterparts” and “Presto” in this writer’s opinion. The PNC Bank Arts Center show would be the thirteenth show of some forty-nine stops that the band are making in North America this year. My first show was to be the one at PNC Bank Arts Center in Holmdel, NJ but my friend called me just days before with an offer to join him to see the band in Camden, NJ the Friday evening that would precede my show. A weekend with Rush would not be a totally bad occurrence so off I would go. I’ll discuss that night in brief a little later on but now here we are rolling into the PBAC and I have to say that I just love this venue. I wanted to cover the show here since it’s easier to shoot photos without the risk of rain based on the structure above and having heard many reports of bad sound at the Jones Beach show earlier this week I felt I had made the right decision. The tour would have no opening act, an aspect to their concerts I am glad Rush has kept. At this stage of the game there are too many good songs and with such a back catalog of material to address I feel the time is better spent in the fans eyes as opposed to their sitting through an opening set from anyone.

rush, rush live concert photos,
Rush in Concert by Ken Pierce (2007)

Rush has begun their shows over the past few years with some sort of intro film and they have been pretty amusing to witness. Tonight would be no different as we find visions of the new album flashing at us from the giant screens above the stage as Alex Leifson awakes from a nightmare he was having. It then moves to an odd exchange between Geddy Lee and a Scotsman before the band begins to rock. They would open with “Limelight” which is a perfect tune for getting the show started. They would jump into “Digital Man” and “Entre Nous” next, and according to many fans the band has not played that last number in concert ever. Some Rush fan sites have been posting the set lists as they happened so it was not at all a surprise to me and glancing at this list you could see that the show would be very strong on the new album. If you are wondering how much so, then allow me to inform you that nine songs from the twelve on “SAA” would be presented this evening. They would not do this all in a row but between sets which was a refreshing idea and would not have the audience feeling like the new record was being shoved down their throats. They would perform “Mission” first which I always love and the ever classic “Freewill” and as the last tune was done you quickly realized that Geddy was still able to hit a lot of the original high notes from his past. Clearly they were on fire tonight and I was enjoying myself a little more than at the Camden show. Neil’s drums sounded incredible and they are also a piece of musical art to look at. His newest Drum Workshop kit will really impress the fans and since he makes it look so easy to play I am sure he will continue to give inspiration to drummers young and old. Their sense of humor would return as we found the McKenzie Brothers from SCTV appear on screen in a sketch before the song “The Larger Bowl” was done. You might not remember this but Geddy Lee sang during the song “Take Off” which appeared on the album for their movie. It would continue to be an enjoyable experience as they brought forth “Circumstances”; a number from the album “Hemispheres” which I think is another one of those rarely performed live numbers. The first set would conclude with “Dreamline”, and I thought this was amusing for the band had used this as an opener for many years and now have swapped it around to be the closer of the first act. Exit stage left it would seem as they walked offstage to a much deserved break. It was also the chance for the audience to catch their breath and believe me you really need this at a Rush show since there is so much to absorb and enjoy. It amounts to musical sensory overload when it comes right down to it.

rush, rush live concert photos,
Rush in Concert by Ken Pierce (2007)

After the intermission the second set would come up but not before perhaps the oddest of intro segments I have yet seen from Rush and while I often enjoy them based on their wit and amusing nature I have to say that I found this particular one on the stupid side and tediously long. Personally I can find the stupidest things funny but this one was just losing me and I could not wait for it to end so the band could return. “Far Cry” would be the first song of the second set and it was here that we found the next four numbers to all be new ones. I like the way the new album sounds in the live sense and while some around me were upset that so much of it was being performed I have to say that I agree with how Rush is doing things. There is so many DVD’s out already with the same songs and this allows them to easily release one from this tour as was done with “R30” and “Rush In Rio” – the difference makes it an item we wont find repetitious and while I am not certain of this tour making it to DVD so soon after the shows have begun I can say that I saw cameramen in NJ that night. “Working Them Angels” is a solid number and has some great visuals behind the band as they play it. It depicts those who are often working thankless tasks or dangerous jobs as having Angel wings. I found it classy. The screens that were onstage were three in number and at the times that they did not show a film or clip of some kind they would show the members of the band and this allowed every seat in the place to have an excellent view. As the second set progressed forward after the new stuff was done they got back to some classics and this was when the audience got all the louder. It’s hard to not be excited as they do songs like “Subdivisions” and “Natural Science” of course and these songs still sound as fresh as they did when they were first performed over twenty years ago. I really enjoyed that they were paying attention to “Signals” outside of “New World Man” (but I still would have loved to find that song added to the set). Neil Peart’s drum solo is by far the most appealing part of the Rush show for me as he remains one of my very favorite musicians of all time. His solo was a little different but it also included some of his well-known treats. He begins on the main kit and just keeps building your levels of excitement until he stands to turn around to jam out on the electronic portions of the set. He would present a very African vibe during this part of the solo and mix triggered samples in with it and it would really make you feel as though you were listening to a full band do it. He would close his solo with the big band piece that he delivered on the “Burning For Buddy” album that he produced and performed on. It’s really cool to just watch Neil doing that kind of cool Swing and you cannot argue that it is a very lively piece of music.

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Rush in Concert by Ken Pierce (2007)

I neglected to mention that behind Geddy Lee were three standing chicken roasting ovens loaded up with the birds and actually being cooked during the show. At times people would come out from the side of the stage and baste them. The last time I saw Rush he had dryers onstage and in them were tee shirts that they would throw to the audience. No such luck tonight but thankfully they were not throwing any chicken at us either. It would make for an interesting concert keepsake but my guess is that the stage crew and guests of the band all ate very well after they finished. The second set would also give us “Witch Hunt” and I am pretty sure I never saw them do this in concert over the times I have caught them. Throughout the whole performance tonight Alex Leifson was a beaming smile and so was Geddy for that matter. Neil pretty much keeps one expression on his face but I think it is because he is a computer when it comes to executing his drumming. He is ever-focused and thinking about every single beat. Leifson would not have lost the smile if he was paid to do so since he was ripping on the guitar as well. He had one of the best sounds I had ever heard him have in comparison to the other shows and just the Friday before. This time around I was directly in the path of his amps so perhaps that was doing something to my overall perception. So far the set was matching the one I recently experienced in Camden, NJ but tonight they would change it ever slightly by opting to perform “Distant Early Warning” as opposed to “Summertime Blues”. The latter is from the bands release “Feedback” and while it’s an interesting cover, I would much rather hear a Rush original than a cover any day. The time for the set to close completely was drawing near when up on the screen appeared ‘Lil Rush, who were the kids from South Park. They attempted to do their own version of “Tom Sawyer” but as they counted off to try once again it would be Rush who played it to perfection. I still love this tune and since it was essentially my introduction to Rush it will always hold a special place in my musical heart. They would also bring “Passage To Bangkok” out of the archives once again and given the tune goes over so well in concert this was a good idea. I was a little surprised to find “One Little Victory” being done as an encore as this was the first tune on “Vapor Trails” so I expected it earlier if anything. The final number for tonight would be everyone’s favorite instrumental “YYZ” – it’s a song that finds every single person at a Rush show playing air drums and that is quite a site to behold. The total set time seemed to be almost three hours when you added it up and while some had reservations about all the new songs I think the larger part of the crowd had a great time. The guys really put on an incredible show so it is very hard not to leave feeling this way. I know that I enjoyed them so much that I cannot wait until they return to Madison Square Garden to perform in September. Fans that might have missed these couple of area shows can now make amends for this error in judgment by getting themselves to the appearance at New York City’s famous arena.

Full Photo Gallery: http://piercingmetal.com/rush-live-photos-pnc-bank-arts-center-782007/

Set List:
1. Limelight
2. Digital Man
3. Entre Nous
4. Mission
5. Freewill
6. The Main Monkey Business
7. The Larger Bowl
8. Secret Touch
9. Circumstances
10. Between The Wheels
11. Dreamline
12. Far Cry
13. Workin’ Them Angels
14. Armor And Sword
15. Spindrift
16. The Way The Wind Blows
17. Subdivisions
18. Natural Science
19. Witch Hunt
20. Malignant Narcissism
21. Neil Peart Drum Solo
22. Hope
23. Distant Early Warning
24. The Spirit Of Radio
25. Tom Sawyer
26. One Little Victory – encore
27. A Passage To Bangkok – encore
28. YYZ – encore

Official Website: www.rush.com

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