Thursday, April 07, 2011

Rush in Louisville: A Review

On Tuesday evening, I saw my 7th Rush concert since 2004, this time in Louisville, Kentucky.  This show, at the new KFC/YUM Center, marks the 6th different venue I’ve seen them in.  Seven shows in six years may seem like a lot to some, but it’s painfully few compared to the hardcore fans among which I count myself.  I know people who have seen twice that many just on this tour alone. 

I always like getting to these shows early, to avoid parking woes and to find out where my seat is without fighting enormous crowds of people.  It also allows me to find close parking, and thus get out quicker when the show is over and avoid the heavy exit traffic. 

The new KFC/YUM Center sits right on the Ohio River in downtown Louisville
I arrived about two hours before the show and was able to park for $10 in a parking garage that was across the street from the venue.  It was a nice, newer garage, with a covered walkway leading virtually right up to the arena.  Considering I passed public lots two or three blocks down that were also $10, I thought this was a pretty nice find.  Of course, being two hours early helps.

The venue itself is very nice.  The acoustics inside were fantastic, and I would highly recommend it to anyone thinking about going to a concert there.  The sound was very crisp and clear, with little to no distortion.  I think this is the reason why my ears were only ringing very mildly at show’s end – in the past, I’ve sometimes had ringing ears for several days after an indoor concert.  The area around the venue is clean and new and well-lit, and I didn’t feel uncomfortable, even walking out to my car at 11 pm.

Prior to the show, I hung around outside, and there was a cover band playing Rush and Ozzy songs in front of a bar.  Turns out, the drummer was 11, the guitarist 12, and the bassist/keyboardist a 17-year-old girl wearing fishnet stockings and blue hair.  Considering their age, they were quite good.  During their cover of Tom Sawyer, the girl played keyboards with one hand while playing bass with the other – simply “hammering” the open strings at the right time.  They did a fine rendition of The Spirit of Radio, as well as a cover of Ozzy’s Crazy Train. 

As for the real Rush show, it was excellent, as always.  I try not to be one of those fans who claims every show I go to is the “best I’ve seen yet!”, but I have to say that they did seem to be more “into it” – for lack of a better phrase – than in some other shows I’ve seen.  This was probably due to the fact that the crowd was more “into it” than most.  One of my biggest complaints about Rush concerts is that the fans usually don’t move around much – they do stand throughout the show, and certainly cheer the songs, but there is never a lot of dancing and or jumping or fist-pumping or other various gyrations that you expect to see at a rock concert.  I’ve always chalked this up to the fact that most shows are populated by older people (Rush has been around since the mid-70’s), and 50-year-old fat guys aren’t as prone to head-banging and other forms of physical expression as, say, a 20-year-old would be. 

My standard for this has always been the crowd at Rush’s performance in 2002 in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil.  This was Rush’s first trip to Brazil, and the final stop there was filmed for a DVD called Rush in Rio.  This DVD, by the way, is actually Rush’s best-selling “album” of all time, certified seven times platinum by the RIAA last September. 

In any case, on the Rush in Rio DVD, the crowd of 40,000 was absolutely unbelievable.  You can see them throughout the show cheering and whooping and yelling and dancing and jumping and raising their hands and singing along and generally acting like a Brazilian soccer crowd.  They even “sang along” to one of Rush’s instrumentals, a song called YYZ, humming in unison to the familiar melody.  At one point, during the instrumental part of the song Freewill, the crowd spontaneously started bowing in rhythm with hands outstretched, like subjects making obeisance to a god (in this case, three gods). 

Compared to this crowd, American crowds are dead on their feet. 

In any case, the crowd for the Louisville show on Tuesday was a lot more “into it” than I have seen in the past (maybe this is why Rush seemed more “into it” too).  Nothing like the Brazilians, of course, but not exactly zombies either.  This always makes the show more enjoyable and makes you feel more free, yourself, to whoop and cheer and jump without looking stupid (of course, it’s that self-conscious feeling, so common among Americans, that causes no one to do it in the first place). 

As always, there were humorous videos before and after the performance, as well as themed lighting and pyrotechnics.  They actually are using more pyrotechnics on this tour than I remember them using in the past.  Lots of flame cannons and explosions, and even some minor fireworks.  

One unexpected explosion, during the line “like a lucky shot in the dark” from the song Marathon, nearly gave me a heart attack.

During one song early on (unfortunately, I can’t remember which one), guitarist Alex Lifeson played a very prominent and noticeable wrong note during one of his riffs.  He made a funny face and then humorously “scolded” his left hand. 

Someone actually managed to catch a photo of this and posted it online.
Neil Peart’s drum solo was unbelievable.  It’s always unbelievable, of course.  Anyone who knows a Rush fan probably is familiar with exclamations of how incredible Neil Peart is.  If you go to a concert and watch his drum solo, you’ll know why.  And you almost have to see it, because it’s somewhat indescribable.  During one part, he plays a song on his electric marimba and accompanies himself on drums. 

The same person who took the picture above also took this one, and the next one.
 To borrow a phrase I once read from an interview with Geddy Lee, Neil’s ability for complete “limb independence” is just staggering.  Most people’s brains can’t allow them to do what Neil Peart does.  Try patting your head with one hand, rubbing circles on your stomach with another, drawing an X in the dirt with one foot, and drawing a square in the dirt with the other foot.  All at the same time.  That’s the sort of thing Neil Peart does on the drums.

As for Geddy Lee’s bass playing, he seemed to be more “in the zone” and doing a bit more improvisation than I’ve seen in the past.  

With as good as Neil Peart is on drums, sometimes Geddy and Alex get overlooked for their own superior playing.  But make no mistake, they are both among the best on their own instruments.  That’s what makes Rush so incredible – it’s three virtuosos all coming together in the same band and making music that just blows you away. 

Geddy’s voice sounded pretty good.  It’s a fact that he is nearing 60 years old, so obviously he’s not the wailer he was in his youth.  But considering his age, not to mention the mileage, he still does a remarkably good job night after night.  He seems to struggle more noticeably on the run-of-the-mill parts than on the really high, difficult sections.  I suppose that is the result of focusing.  He “relaxes” somewhat during the easy parts, so sometimes his voice quavers a bit, but he gets mentally ready for the tough parts, and manages to hit the notes squarely.  During Freewill, which includes some of his highest vocal ranges (“Each of us, a cell of awareness,” and so on), he absolutely nailed it, belting it out like he was still 30.  It was so good it gave me goose bumps, and the crowd cheered mid-song – something you don’t often hear (although it happened a lot at this show). 

They finished with a nice encore that included old favorites La Villa Strangiato and Working Man.  They played the opening of Working Man slowed down, like you might expect from an “unplugged” version of a song.  Before Geddy started singing, I wasn’t even sure what they were playing.  They played it like that for about one verse, then suddenly ripped back into the normal, chest-thumping, ear-jarring version, and it totally blew me and the rest of the crowd away.  One of the best parts of the whole concert.

When the show was over, I bolted straight for the door while the ending video played.  I could still see and hear it as I walked out, so I didn’t miss anything, and as soon as it ended I was out the arena door, into the entry hall and back outside.  This allowed me to get to my car quickly and experience not one iota of exit traffic.  I was on the Interstate within about 10 minutes of walking out of the arena, if even that. 

All in all, it was another great Rush experience, made even better by the great Louisville crowd, the nice, concert-friendly arena, the clean, safe, well-lit area of downtown Louisville where the venue sits, and, of course, the boys themselves, the Trinity, the greatest band on earth, RUSH!!   


Anonymous said...

Actually, they have been around since the late 60's.

Mike in Richmond said...

I really enjoyed the concert, just sitting back and listening. I had the same reaction to the Working Man oncore. Thought Geddy was singing a Bob Marley song until he started the first chorus. They ripped through the rest of the song just like it was 1975.

Scott said...

Yeah, it was definitely a great moment.

Numb said...

Man, great blog and your review on Rush concert is very clear especially for those who weren't there. I'm brazilian and I did attend their concert in my town, Porto Alegre, back in 2002. You did hit the target when you talk about the crowd in Rio's concert eternized by the DVD. I assure you this wasn't only in Rio that the crowd got really mad, down here in my city, their first concert in Brazil ever, the gig was such an event. In fact, i grew up listening to Rush, as well as my friends either and we never understood why Rush had never played here before. The result of this meeting you can see on the DVD. I dare to tell that brazilian fans are the biggest and the craziest fans of all. Maybe in the States, seeing them in every tour, this became a normal thing. Here, believe, is such a crazy event! By the way, i'm posting Louisville's gig on my blog as well as much more concerts. regards. enio

Scott said...

Thanks for reading and leaving a comment Enio. I think seeing Rush in Brazil would be an absolute blast. That's always been my only complaint about Rush shows here in the few people do anything but stand there and watch, and then clap at the end.

Serene Musings Books of the Year, 2005-2015