Concert Review | Rush delivers dynamic, tour−de−force performance at Boston’s TD Garden
Band’s set was flush with new material
Published: Tuesday, October 30, 2012
Updated: Tuesday, October 30, 2012 00:10
Rush is a band with no shortage of material to pick from when playing live shows. At its recent Boston show at TD Garden on Oct. 24, the band proved it still knows how to select a great set and rile up a crowd.
Dubbed “the world’s largest cult band” by frontman Geddy Lee, the power trio stopped by Boston as part of the supporting tour for “Clockwork Angels,” the band’s latest album.
Rush easily could have followed in the footsteps of other classic rock acts promoting new albums by delivering a set filled with fan favorites and hits, peppered with a track or two from its latest release. While nostalgia−oriented shows are not necessarily bad, they usually indicate that a band is taking the path of least resistance. But taking the easy way out has never been Rush’s modus operandi.
After a short, funny video, the ominous rumble of Lee’s synthesizer filled the arena as the band launched into opener “Subdivisions.” The trio showed off its complex interplay from the very beginning of the song, with Lee’s bass lines weaving in between guitarist Alex Lifeson’s riffs and solos. This was all propelled by Neil Peart’s polyrhythmic drumming, in the first of what would be many dazzling displays of proficiency by Peart throughout the night. The first set was filled with many tracks from the band’s ’80s “synth era,” including about half of “Power Windows” (1985) and impressive performances of “Force Ten” and “The Analog Kid.”
Though this portion of the set contained few of Rush’s bona fide hits, it was still warmly received by the crowd. Next, the band performed the instrumental “Where’s My Thing?,” allowing each band member to display some of his instrumental prowess, including Peart’s first drum solo of the evening. Peart’s solo was a marvel to witness, as he deftly moved between genres and switched time signatures. Peart himself was a frenzied blur of motion while he maintained clockwork precision.
Drum solos are usually a self−indulgent concert staple that do little to contribute to the concert, but Peart’s solo actually worked to move the song forward musically while to serving as a showcase for his drumming capabilities.
The band took a short intermission before returning to the stage for the second set, this time accompanied by the Clockwork Angels String Ensemble. The band kicked into “Caravan,” the lead track of “Clockwork Angels” and the first of nine new songs that Rush played consecutively.
For a band with an established following and a back catalogue of hits, playing more than a few consecutive new songs is often the kiss of death for momentum, let alone nine straight. But Rush actually managed to build momentum with this portion of the set, thanks to the strength of the new material and the energy level the band maintained throughout.
Much of the new album hearkens back to the hard rock sound that Rush cultivated on some of its early albums, and made for a stunning concert sequence. Geddy Lee’s voice held up in fine form throughout the section, even after wailing on songs such as “Seven Cities of Gold.” The string ensemble added a symphonic quality to many of the songs, making some of them sound even better than their respective studio versions.
A true standout was “Headlong Flight,” with the band galloping through an energetic take on the song and Peart inserting a jaw−dropping solo mid−song along with Lifeson offering inspired guitar work.
After Rush finished its new material, the string ensemble remained onstage to add a new dynamic to fan favorites like “Dreamline” and “YYZ.” After capitalizing on the evening’s momentum with “YYZ,” Rush pushed the crowd’s energy level still higher by closing the second set with the hit “The Spirit of Radio” and opening the encores with one of their biggest hits, “Tom Sawyer.”
After bringing the entire arena to its feet with “Tom Sawyer,” Rush had one more trick up its sleeve. The band delivered a condensed but furious version of “2112,” which culminated in a crescendo of riffs and drum fills during the spectacular “Grand Finale” ending.
Even though the band challenged its audience, delivering a set devoid of many hits, the tour de force performance validated Rush’s reputation as one of the most dynamic live acts around.