Tuesday, 24 May 2011

RUSH - Time Machine Tour

For anyone that knows me, or for regular readers of my blog, it is no surprise that I am a huge fan of the band Rush. I have already written two blogs about them: Rush - the biggest band you never heard of and Heroes - Rush.

When I first heard last year that Rush were going to tour the UK, I knew I wanted to go and see them. I've seen Rush twice in concert before. I saw them on their Show of Hands and Presto tours. They were amazing on both occasions. They are one of the best live bands I've ever seen. They are faultless musicians who can play the most complex music to a live audience without missing a single note.

I arranged to go with a friend of mine. I bought two tickets last November for the LG Arena in Birmingham (formerly called the NEC Arena). The date of the concert was 22nd of May 2011. I'd heard from their web site that they would be playing the entire album Moving Pictures from start to finish, as well as playing old and new material. The concert would therefore be around 3 hours.

As the concert got closer, I still hadn't received the tickets, and was getting a bit worried. In the week leading up to the concert, I rang the ticket agency, and they assured me the tickets were on their way. On the Friday before the concert (which was set for the Sunday) I received an email from the ticket agency informing me they would not be able to supply the tickets after all. To say I was frustrated, gutted and disappointed is putting it mildly. I rang up my friend and gave him the bad news.

On the off chance, my friend rang up the venue and asked if they had any tickets left. By a stroke of good luck, they had a handful left! He immediately purchased two of them, and a ticket for parking too.What a result!

We arrived at the concert in plenty of time. We parked up, and then went  for a bite to eat and a drink. There were plenty of people wearing Rush T-shirts from various tours. We made our way to our seats on the Showdesk, which is just above the restaurant. We had plenty of room to sit or stand up, and had a good view of the stage too.
As is usual for Rush, the concert started with a video projected onto the back screen. It was a short comedy spoof about a band manager (played by Alex Lifeson - guitarist) trying to get his band a gig by impressing the venue promoter (played by Geddy Lee - bassist and vocalist). Listening in on the conversation was the unimpressed bystander (played by Neil Peart - drummer).

Eventually, the band came on stage and erupted into Spirit of Radio, to a huge roar from the crowd. At last, our heroes were on the stage! No matter how many times I hear this song, I never, ever tire of it. It is timeless, and judging by the reception from the rest of the crowd, they agreed with me.

They then launched into other favourites including Time Stand Still, Subdivisions, Marathon and Freewill, as well as new tracks including BU2B from the as yet unreleased Clockwork Angels album.

One thing I noticed was an air drummer to the far left of the stage (to the right from the perspective of the band). Rush concerts are the only time where you'll see far more air drummers than air guitarists. What struck me about this particular air drummer was that he air drummed during every single song, and his hands were perfectly mimicking Neil's hand movements (which is not easy as his style of drumming contains many difficult segments and notes, making even air drumming difficult). Not only that, but he was hitting the correct drums and cymbals. When Neil hit a right hand cymbal, the air drummer would be hitting a cymbal to his right. He was perfectly shadowing Neil's every movement, even to the songs that were unreleased. My guess is that he must have been a roadie, or even Neil's drum technician. His enthusiasm and abilities to perfectly shadow Neil were impressive.

There was a short interval, where my friend and I went for a  quick drink. We got back to our seats just as the band were about to come back on stage. When they did, they played the entire Moving Pictures album, including tracks they have never played live before such as Vital Signs (the track was deemed to difficult to play live). They opened the second half of the concert with Tom Sawyer, then straight into another of my favourites - Red Barchetta. Vital Signs was the last track from Moving Pictures.

As the band closed the track, Neil launched into his drum solo - Love 4 Sale. Each tour, Neil adjusts and changes his drum solo. Although I recognised sections of it, much of it was new. Unlike many drum solos (where the drummer just hits everything as hard and as fast as they can), Neil's solo is a musical set piece, with different parts of the kit played in different styles and tempos. Throughout the solo, the cameras gave us close up video shots of him (overhead and side cameras), and played these onto the huge back screen so we could see him playing. His level of technique is phenomenal, and well beyond the skill of most drummers. Most can only sit back, be amazed, and hope to be one tenth as good as Neil.

Other songs played included Closer To The Heart (which my friend betted me they wouldn't play), Caravan (from Clockwork Angels) and 2112. They closed the show with Far Cry.

Naturally, they got huge shouts from the audience to come back and do an encore, which they did. They played La Villa Strangiato (which I've never seen them play live before), Working Man (a rock track which they updated to include a reggae intro - which worked remarkably well) and finally Cygnus X-1.

The concert was amazing, which is what I would expect from a band of the caliber of Rush. As soon as the album Clockwork Angels is on sale, I'll be buying it!


  1. RE: The air drummer: very unlikely he was a roadie or a tech. Those songs were already released online...plus you know there's youtube. Also the set list has been on wikipedia so you shoulda put all your money on that bet you had there.

  2. also, Vital signs was played on Grace Under pressure tour. Maybe you meant Camera Eye, which they hadn't played live before now.

  3. Hey thanks for the feedback. Maybe I should have put more money on the bet :-)

    Ahhh....I meant Camera Eye, thanks for the correction.