Tuesday, November 19, 2013

Rush - Clockwork Angels Tour - Growing Old With Great Grace

It's extremely interesting to watch rock grow up and grow old. Some artists and acts step up, and some stumble. Some have kept their act's together, while some have wilted. Some mail it in, and some suit up and blow the folks away.

Rush definitely falls into the latter category - most bands are lucky to make it to eleven albums, while Rush has eleven live albums to their credit, and while you can occasionally hear the strain of the constant touring in Geddy Lee's voice, he's still giving it a hundred percent and using his brain to take him where his vocal cords may no longer allow him to tread. As a band Lee, Lifeson, and Peart are still on fire and delivering the goods. This album features over three hours of music, 31 songs (12 with a string section), and spans over forty years of recording - I'd wager this is a marathon not many mere mortals could run.

There's nothing I can say to a Rush fan that they don't already know, so I'm talking here to the casual listener, or folks like myself who have always thought a little Rush went a long way. I'd be the first to admit that the band has always been a head, or two in front of me when it came to sheer grey matter, but what impresses me most about this live set is the amount of heart I'm hearing. Early in the set the band breaks out The Analog Kid, and both the energy and passion on display is majestic. They're going for the throat, and they're hitting their mark. Then there are tunes like Big Money, in which each member is on top of every part, and not missing a bar, or a note. A Hall of Fame performance, indeed.

Then there's the matter of playing over half of their last studio album without missing a beat, and having the material measure up to the classics. How many bands stay this engaged over the length of a career. If Rush ever misstepped, it may have been in their being so workmanlike, so very Canadian about the whole affair, and my tongue is, of course, in my cheek - they showed up they did their job, and they did what mattered. They moved units and put asses in seats for decades without so much as a single lineup change since before their first American tour. It's tough to find an unsatisfied customer.

Even soundcheck sounds good as the band rips through Limelight - Geddy Lee's bass tone is amongst the best I've ever heard, and he's got the chops to display it in the limelight. Lifeson is always underrated, and while he's got no complaints, when you hear his solo on this track you'll get it more than ever. And, of course, Neil Peart may, or may not be God's drummer, he's certainly amongst the best that ever walked the earth. Yeah, even soundcheck sounds incredible.

Rarely performed tunes like Middletown Dreams sound seamless and robust - Rush is not a band to do things with anything less than absolute devotion and care. I don't know how many people actually consider the tremendous care that this takes, the energy, the skills, and the love. It's easy to dismiss Rush as unemotional math rock, especially if one never listened close or actually paid attention, but maybe it's just that it's easier to criticize what we don't understand than it is to put in the work to figure it out.

Tom Sawyer is an unassailable classic, and when you hear the crowd erupt at it's intro, you know you're in for a great trip - again, the band plays it as if they were touring it for the first time, and when Lifeson goes into his solo, he's got Lee and Peart chasing his down the freeway at midnight, just as always. There's no resting on laurels, no half-assing nothing - they deliver.

Like I said at the top, there's nothing I need to say to the converted - Rush has been at the top of their game for decades, and they continue to be at the top today. But - for those who have always either half liked the band, or maybe even not liked the band, I'd recommend checking out Clockwork Angels Tour, and maybe coming to appreciate something maybe missed before - the fact that Rush is simply on of the best rock bands this planet has seen.

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