New York City or Newark? That was the question we had to answer when the Rush R40 Tour dates were announced. It's always cool seeing a show at Madison Square Garden, but it was a Monday night which means hauling ass to the train station right after work, granted pre-gaming on the train ride down is always nice, but then the fight for a taxi back to Grand Central afterward and the almost two hour ride home which always seems so much longer after a show. Newark on the other hand was a Saturday and not a bad drive, so most of the gang opted for Newark this past Saturday night.
So all together we had 11 of us coming in 3 different cars from different locations and a train from the city all looking to meet at around 6pm for a bit of a hang before heading into the Prudential Center. The ticket said 7:30 and we knew there was no opening band on this tour...we didn't know how punctual Rush would be, but didn't want to chance missing anything.
It looked like the rain would put a bit of a damper on things (yes, bad pun intended) in regards to our pre-concert hang...but the real bummer was the fact that the usual lot we park in right outside the Prudential center raised the parking rate to $50!!! Yes, fifty friggin bucks! Our friends got rooked into that, but we found the indoor deck about two blocks away for half that. Got all good and parked about 6:30 after weaving our way through the army of bootleg shirt salesmen out in force like I haven't seen in a long time!
We played "Signals" and drank some beer. I had picked up Dos Equis and realized my faux pas...it should have been Molson's in honor of the Canadian Rock Gods we were going to see. We compared tales of the first, best etc times we saw the boys (First for me was 1990, the "Presto" tour at the Brendan Byrne Arena when it was called that in NJ...Mr. Big opened...best would by far be this night.) Oddly enough, "Presto" was one of the band's few studio albums (hell they got 20 and did stuff from 14 of them) they would not visit on our journey back in time tonight.
I guess anytime a band tours without a new album, it is in essence a trip through time, but Rush did it in a very linear fashion, playing the songs they chose for the setlist in order by album release starting with the newest and ending the night with a pair off their debut.
We headed in at 7:20 and were just outside our section in the mezzanine on Geddy's side of the stage when the lights went down and their intro video started at about 7:45. Perfect timing.
The first set of the night was 10 songs which covered the most recent 30 years of Rush's career opening with "The Anarchist" from their last album Clockwork Angels and ending the set about an hour later with the ever popular "Subdivision" off of Signals.
It's a bold move few bands, even those of legendary stature, could pull off. Imagine the Rolling Stones opening their show with four songs off their two newest albums? The beer lines would be tremendous, but Rush fans are all in so following the opening numbers was "Headlong Flight" also off of Clockwork which featured a mini drum solo from Neil Peart.
Next was a pair from 2007's "Snakes & Arrows" with "Far Cry" and the killer "The Main Monkey Business."
At this point let me talk about what was going on on stage. As the band took us back in time, there was a constant group of "roadies" who were changing out the set on stage to somewhat match the tour for the album the songs were coming off of. The set started with the steam punkishness of late and was converted into the washing machine/time travel motif as the set went on.
The first album Rush skipped over was their cover album "Feedback" and went right into "How It Is" off 2002's Vapor Trails.
As we entered the 1990's, they touched on two of their 3 releases from that decade with "Animate" off Counterparts followed by the title track to "Roll The Bones."
This would also mark the first Dinklage appearance of the night.
I certainly remember when "Roll The Bones" was released and all the talk about Rush rapping. Well overtime it appears fans love the rap and Rush got a bunch of their high profile fans to lip sync along with the rap section on the screens when it hit that part. There was Tom Morello, Jason Segel, Paul Rudd, The Trailer Park Boys and others including Peter Dinklage (currently of "Game of Thrones").
But as I said...it would not be the only Dinklage sighting of the night.
We were flying back in time at a furious pace at this point and jumped over both Hold Your Fire and Power Windows to 1984's Grace Under Pressure for "Between The Wheels."
After finishing, Geddy said they were going to go a bit "off script" tonight and wanted to welcome a guest to the stage to help on the next song. It would be our second Dinklage of the night, this time it was violinist Jonathan (Peter's brother), brought out to play "Losing It" off of Signals for just the second time on this tour.
Then the set ended on a huge note with the "hit" off Signals - "Subdivisions"
Again that is a hell of a setlist that is not meant for the casual fan. No "Big Money", "Distant Early Warning", "Time Stand Still", but the audience was all there fully engaged the whole time.
The audience knew this also meant the rest of the night would be spent with the classic first 8 albums!
A screen dropped in front of the stage and there was about a 20 minute intermission at this point. We went out to hit the bathroom and grab another tasty beverage and met up with two of our crew who we missed in the parking lot earlier for a few minutes, but soon it was time to head back to the seats where another humorous video titled "No Country for Old Hens" played which ended with the South Park kids introing "Tom Sawyer" off 1981's Moving Pictures.
At this point the stage had been reset as Moving Pictures is basically Rush at the peak of their Hard Rock glory and there was a huge wall of Marshall amps behind Alex and a huge wall of amps behind Geddy as well. Alex's drum head was now the 2112 classic image. As before, during this set and the encore, as Rush went back in time, more and more amps were removed and by the time they got to their debut album at the end of the set, both Alex and Geddy simply had a single amp behind them actually sitting each sitting on a school chair which is how it must have looked at their earliest gigs.
We knew we'd get another of Moving Pictures and Rush have been rotating "YYZ", "Red Barchetta" and "The Camera Eye" which is what we got. I was really surprised. I was sure they would save that for MSG on Monday with it's lyrics mentioning New Yorkers and the streets of Manhattan (MSG got "Red Barchetta").
We stepped back another year to 1980 for "The Spirit of Radio" off Permanent Waves and then a real deep cut with "Jacob's Ladder" off the same album which hadn't been played in decades before this current tour.
At last we moved into the 70's with "Cygnus X-1 Book II: Hemispheres Part I: Prelude" from Hemispheres and continued with "Cygnus X-1" (The Voyage Part 1 and 3) from A Farewell To Kings.
Neil did his amazing drum solo between part 1 and part 3.
A Farewell to Kings got major love with "Closer to the Heart" next up. This was the only technical glitch of the night with some major distortion on the acoustic guitar for the first 10 or 15 seconds before it became recognizable.
Stayed with Farewell for a triple shot. Next up was an absolutely amazing version of "Xanadu"
2112 would end the second set with:
Part I: Overture
Part II: The Temples of Syrinx
Part IV: Presentation
Part VII: Grand Finale
Yes the audience was pretty much going ape shit at this time (although not really in our section 112 for some odd reason. We were and the dudes in front of us were and the dude next to me was...but everyone was really mellow)
Another video during the encore break, this one starring Eugene Levy called "Mel's Rock Pile" and then the boys came out for the final four opening with "Lakeside Park" from Caress of Steel. They only played about the first half before morphing into "Anthem" from Fly By Night. I think there must have been an 11:00pm curfew as they normally seem to play all of Lakeside Park and it was getting damn close to 11pm.
The night would end with "What You're Doing" and "Working Man" off the self titled 1974 debut.
WOW is all I can say. I stated earlier how before the show we discussed our first and best Rush shows...everyone of us agreed this was the best Rush show we'd ever seen. Really amazing and the way the show builds with this trip through time is incredible.
My buddy and I decided then and there we were going to go see them again at Madison Square Garden tonight (I'm writing this on 6/29) but we found it was all sold out and cheapest scalped tix were running about two bills, so a tad too expensive, but man, so glad I got to see this tour. Doesn't sound like it will come back around, but if it does I'm there. (Just took a peak at the MSG setlist...same as ours except Distant Early Warning instead of Between The Wheels and Red Barchetta instead of Camera Eye...they even got the double Dinklage and Losing it. I had a bunch of friends going so glad to see their show appears to have been killer as well!)
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