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Progressive Rock Concert Reviews

Rush

Live in Milwaukee, WI, September, 2007

Review by Greg Olma

Lately Rush concerts have become quite the events. Since the Test For Echo tour, the band has been playing 2 sets with no opening act. Add to that the fact that each time they go out on tour, it may be the last time, and you’re left with a feeling of joy and sadness. Joy because you just witnessed a great show and sadness because you don’t know if that was your last time seeing them live.

After having seen them umpteen times live, you would think that I would be jaded by now but when the lights go out, I still got a rush (no pun intended). The show opened with a little video of the guys clowning around (I won’t give it away so you’ll just have to see the show) before they launched into “Limelight.” As many times as I’ve heard this song, I think it is a great live tune and a great opener. The big video screens behind the band showed all the action on stage so no matter where you sat; you got a good view of everything. In quick succession, the band played “Digital Man” and “Entre Nous.” I don’t ever recall them playing the latter, even on the Permanent Waves tour. Even “Digital Man” hasn’t been part of the set since the early 80’s. Although “Mission” was an odd choice from Hold Your Fire, it was nice that they decided to play a track from an overlooked record. Before the band played some new stuff, they snuck in a spot on version of “Freewill.” I was surprised at the crowd response since it really is not a “hit” song. A good chunk of Snakes And Arrows was performed and they started things off with the instrumental “The Main Monkey Business.” It is more of a rock tune than the prog-ish “La Villa Strangiato” but it is a welcome addition to the set list. Bob and Doug Mckenzie (on the video screens) introduced the next song “The Larger Bowl.” The video that accompanied the tune really brought the lyrics to life, making quite a statement between the classes in the US. After those new tunes, Rush went back an album and played “Secret Touch” off of Vapor Trails. Following this newer cut, the boys went back a few decades and pulled out “Circumstances.” I thought I had seen the last of that tune played live a long time ago but Rush still know how to throw us a curve ball every once in a while and make the show special. The first set closed with “Between The Wheels” and “Dreamline” (complete with a laser light show).

After a short 15 minute intermission, and another video intro, Alex Lifeson, Geddy Lee and Neil Peart came back with track 1 off the new record “Far Cry.” They played a lot of the new disc right away during this set. They covered “Workin’ Them Angels,” “Armor And Sword” and “Spindrift.” By the time they got to “The Way The Wind Blows,” the wind was starting to come out of their sails. The song is good but it just didn’t seem to carry over very well live. After that large chunk of Snakes And Arrows material, it was nice to get an older tune in the way of “Subdivisions.” “Natural Science” was next and it is one of those tracks that is better live than on record. I have never seen “Witch Hunt” live so it was quite a treat when they rolled out that song and gave it the live treatment. I think the last time they played it live was on the Grace Under Pressure tour. When that track concluded, the guys came back to the new record with “Malignant Narcissism.” At the conclusion of that instrumental, Neil Peart did his solo spot. There are not many drummers out there who perform solos that are integral parts of the show but Peart’s are always special. He changed it up a little from last tour but still incorporated the big band sound towards the end. I guess they wanted to give Geddy Lee a little longer rest because Alex Lifeson came out and played “Hope” as his solo spot. Then the whole band reappeared and played “Distant Early Warning.” I’m glad that they played that cut because they have been flip-flopping between that and “Summertime Blues.” I much prefer their own material over a cover song. To end the show, Rush did the “hit singles” thing and played “The Spirit Of Radio” and “Tom Sawyer.” Never ones to not do an encore, the guys came back for one more round and played “One Little Victory,” “A Passage To Bangkok” and “YYZ.” Like I said earlier, I always feel a bit of sadness after attending a Rush show but if that was the last time, at least they went out on top.

This review is available in book format (hardcover and paperback) in Music Street Journal: 2007 Volume 5 at lulu.com/strangesound.
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