Rush during their Friday night show at the MGM Grand
As a guy who wasn’t even alive when over half of the songs on the set list were first released, it might seem strange to some of the older rockers out there that I would even show interest in such an old school rock act such as Rush – and rightfully so. They are not nearly as mainstream as the Beatles or the Rolling Stones, not as commercialized as KISS or as heralded in rock lore as Black Sabbath or even – gasp – Bon Jovi. They’ve only this year managed to get a nomination for the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. Heck, they don’t even put their songs on Glee, The Voice or the X-Factor and we all know how much us young’ins love bands whose songs are ‘creatively’ butchered on national TV! So it came as no surprise when the drunk man next to me at the MGM Garden Arena asked with a puzzled but honest expression, “You like Rush?”
I thought about it for a moment and although I never really asked myself why I liked the band – the answer affirmatively being because they rock harder than Iggy Pop on Red Bulls and Ritalin – I could, again, definitely see why such a question would be brought up. The younger generation typically doesn’t attend shows featuring vintage (read: old) bands whose grandkids are as old as they are but Rush is not your typical vintage band – and Friday night during their “Clockwork Angels” Tour gig in Las Vegas, they more than proved it!
Everything from their selection of songs to the lighting and effects of their show echoed that these guys weren’t merely veteran rockers cashing in on their back catalog of hits. No – these guys were here to rock the audience in bold new ways whether it was your first time or two hundredth, through and through.
And speaking of the set list, the sheer amount of new material used by the band – including nine from their latest album and tour namesake, Clockwork Angels – would seem like a huge gamble for better known classic rock legends such Bob Dylan who would be rightfully reprimanded by critics if he didn’t toss in a hit every five songs – but not for Rush who actually seemed to thrive on the new numbers with singer and bassist Geddy Lee’s voice sounding much more relaxed and natural, especially when you consider he should be hitting 60 years of age in 2013. But before we get to that, let’s start at the beginning of the show.
Among the best features of the show: the awesome videos
As far as opening acts are concerned, none need apply at a Rush concert as the band is well known for their lengthy, multiple-part shows, and Friday’s was no different. The show itself was separated into two ‘acts’ of sorts and one 15 minute break. Adding in the intense encore segment and you have yourself a three hour show worthy of every single penny.
The band began with a handful of old favorites such as the synth laden “Subdivision” and the radio friendly hit “Limelight” along with the lesser known “Bravado,” “The Big Money” and “Grand Designs” before heading deep into their lengthy nine-new-song segment complete with an accompanying string section that featured eight violinists, giving songs such as the instrumental “YYZ” a fresh new feel.
About two hours and forty-five minutes after the beginning of the show, Geddy thanked the crowd for coming out and promised to be back soon, but with huge hits still left un-played, you knew ‘back soon’ wasn’t good enough, at least not without a killer encore segment, and that’s exactly what they delivered. As soon as that first opening and very recognizable synth chord began to chime, the crowd burst into a frenzy as Rush laid down a very intense rendition of their most notable hit, “Tom Sawer” and proceeded to end to show with a few pieces off their huge multi-part creation, “2112,” including “Overture,” “The Temples of Syrinx” and “Grand Finale.”
By far, one of the best non-musical aspects of the show – aside from Geddy wearing a T-shirt with Neil’s high school pic on it – had to be the outstanding lighting and hilarious video montages on the big screen above them. From skits that featured the band dressed as miniature gnomes trading words with an auditor to in-song videos featuring steam punk inlays and ambiguous designs, the music wasn’t the only must-see attraction during the show. Check out some of the included pictures for a small sample of the varied lighting and video designs used to see for yourself (they are a bit hard to describe as you’ll see). There was even just the right amount of pyrotechnics thrown in for good measure! Not ‘huge fireballs bursting towards the audience after every chord change’ a la KISS (which makes for three fireballs per song) but at just the right moments for ultimate effect.
The band itself was as solid as ever and even managed to turn certain on stage disasters into highlights such as skillfully transforming guitarist Alex Lifeson’s string breakage into an impromptu drum solo by the amazing Neil Peart – not including his official, lengthier and more impressive solo towards the end of the night. But speaking of Lifeson – who had more than his fair share of killer solos and masterful licks without any noticeable hits apart from his guitar string issues – the man doesn’t get nearly as much credit as he deserves although it’s kind of hard to stand out when your bassist is Geddy Lee and your drum section features arguably the greatest rock drummer of all time.
All in all, this show is far from a trio of veteran rockers living off of the nostalgia of their heyday. It’s a huge plethora of power rock songs performed by veteran players who can still give most of the young bands a run for their money. A must see performance for any fan of rock, young and old alike.
You can check out the complete set list for Rush’s Friday night “Clockwork Angels” gig at the MGM Garden Arena below:
The eight-piece string section added plenty of power
- The Big Money
- Force Ten
- Grand Designs
- The Analog Kid
- Where's My Thing?
- Far Cry
Set Two, with string section
- Clockwork Angels
- The Anarchist
- The Wreckers
- Headlong Flight
- Halo Effect
- Seven Cities of Gold
- The Garden
- Manhattan Project
- Drum Solo
- (The Percussor)
- Red Sector A
- The Spirit of Radio
Bassist and frontman Geddy Lee thanking the crowd
- Tom Sawyer
- 2112 Part I: Overture
- 2112 Part II: The Temples of Syrinx
- 2112 Part VII: Grand Finale
Picture Credit: All photos taken by the author