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Progressive Rock Concert Reviews

Rush

Live In Chicago, IL, June, 2008

Review by Gary Hill

I’d seen Rush quite a few times before and one of those times had been in this venue, Chicago’s United Center. I have to say that early on I wasn’t impressed with the show, but it wasn’t due to Rush’ performance, but rather the sound which was bass heavy and a bit muddled. After a few songs this was corrected and the group pulled it together as the best concert I’ve ever seen from them.

Anyone who’s ever seen Rush live knows that you usually get some kind of a humorous tweak in terms of stage gear – one tour saw the stage embellished with vintage 1950’s appliances. Well, this tour was no exception. This time behind Geddy Lee was something that at first resembled a stack of Marshall amps with an orange glow. Further examination revealed the words, “The Henhouse” across the top and the fact that the orange glowing things were none other than rotisserie chickens. In fact, at a couple points during the show a young lady came out and basted all of them. There were some references to chickens during the course of some of the humorous video clips between songs, too.

Rush worked through a set that showcased a lot of various parts of their career. Quite a bit of time was spent focused on their latest disc, Snakes and Arrows. The funny thing is, other than a couple tracks, I wasn’t really impressed by that album. After hearing the music live I have to dig it out again and give it another chance. The music was really well served by the concert venue treatment.

Certainly Rush’s sense of humor is well presented in the live setting. The “Henhouse” was part of that, but their humor didn’t end there. At one point Bob and Doug McKenzie make an appearance on the screen bringing their particular flavor of funniness to the table. Perhaps the show stealer was the clip that preceded “Tom Sawyer.” The band leave the stage and the screen lights up with the South Park crew set up as a band. The drum head reads “Lil Rush.” They launch into the song, but something’s not right. It is quickly brought up that the lyrics are wrong. To which the Geddy Lee type South Park character says that he is Geddy Lee and he can use whatever lyrics he wants. The group disagrees and tell him to start again and do it right. Then the real Rush (not the lil counterparts) engage the track in true form.

For my money Rush’ proggier side has always been my favorite era of the band, but they didn’t pay a lot of tribute to that – although we were treated to “Natural Science.” The thing is, while I might have quibbled with the selection of songs (and with as large a catalog as the band has, how can they please everyone?) I can’t argue with the power and majesty of the show. You really haven’t heard Rush until you’ve seen them live and of all the times I’ve seen them, this was their strongest showing.

This review is available in book format (hardcover and paperback) in Music Street Journal: 2008  Volume 4 at lulu.com/strangesound.
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