Tuesday, August 10, 2010


Shoreline Amphitheatre, Mountain View, CA
August 9, 2010

I've never been a big Rush fan, but I've always had their albums in my collection even if they've never been in heavy rotation for me. Before tonight, the only other time I'd seen Rush was in 1994 when I was a guest of the Melvins. The majority of the 17,000 Rush fans in the Cow Palace HATED the Melvins... and I mean REALLY HATED them! I've never been in an arena where the booing was so loud between songs; the Melvins played slower just to piss the crowd off more.

(From the Umlaut Archives)

Fast forward to 2010 and I recently watched the new Rush documentary Beyond The Lighted Stage and it made me a Rush fan. Seriously. The band's story is pretty epic and the band members are... TOTAL GEEKS. I had no idea that one of the most successful Rock bands ever were such dorks... Just like me! WOW. The Geeks shall inherit The Earth.

I didn't know I was going to the show until less than 24 hours before, but The Rock Godz work in mysterious ways. Long story short: I found myself in Sec 101, Row A, Seat 6; sometimes my job has its advantages.

The theme of the current tour is "Time Machine" and the stage design was all Steampunk with Neil's drum kit looking more like the inner workings of a Steampunk clock than a drum kit. The rest of the stage design was deceptively simple but once the show started it was one of the most magical Rock shows I've ever seen. Rush do not do anything half ass and while other bands who play huge venues like Shoreline go for over the top bombast, Rush's approach was subtle to the point of being sublime. The stage was so detailed I can't imagine more than a few hundred people out of the 20,000 in the house even noticed everything.

There was so much detail! Such as the little video screens in the orbs on the drum riser that showed different animated graphics depending on the song... A marker moved between Real Time > Half Time > Bass Time > Sausage Time on the Steampunk meat grinder behind Geddy; a roadie in costume came out several times during the set to put more "meat" in the grinder and sausages came out of the machine the entire set... and the meat grinder was even miked.. HAHA! A Steampunk style date counter came onscreen when they played an old song and would dial in the year of the song before they launched into it.. Time Machine Tour! Geddit? They also showed short animated film clips to introduce other songs which gave the concert a theater feel... and the band's strategic use of pyro and flames onstage was downright classy.

The show opened with a clever short film about a time machine featuring the members as various characters. It was actually hilarious and extremely well done... and it segued straight into the band almost casually coming onstage with 'Spirit Of The Radio' and for the next 2 1/2 hours it was full-on Rush World.

'Spirit Of The Radio'

As a Music Geek, there was so much to take in that it was overwhelming... The musicianship... The production. To be honest, I'm having a hard time remembering everything. The first part of evening was an 11-song set that included older songs, recent songs, and a new song that played into the time machine theme of the tour: past, present, future. Since I'm a casual Rush fan I can only claim to have known 4/11 of this set but it obviously hit a chord with the hardcore fans because a couple of longtime Rush Geeks told me it might have been the best hour of a set they'd ever seen the band play. Nice... I guess.. but I don't know 'cause I'm a poser.

After the 1st set there was a 30 minute intermission and the time machine year counter was shown on the video screen behind the stage. As the intermission ended the houselights went down, the counter clicked over to "1980", and the band returned to the stage to play the Moving Pictures album in its entirety. Right before the band came onstage another short film was shown that depicted a movie set with Geddy as an "English" filmmaker and Alex as a fat "German" filmmaker. As a trio of German Beer Maids walked past them carrying trays of beer, "German" Alex said "Look... Moving PITCHERS!" RUSH ARE SUCH DORKS!! I LOVE IT!

Best Quote: "Play that Mark Twain song!" - Umlaut Nation friend Junior.

Since I grew up on FM Rock Radio it was hard not to get caught up and enthralled as Rush delivered 4 of their most famous songs consecutively: 'Tom Sawyer' > 'Red Barchetta' > 'YYZ' > 'Limelight'. Dude, where's the bong!? My personal geek moment came as 'YYZ' ended and the opening riff of 'Limelight' lit up the night. I've always liked the opening riff and 'Limelight' is still the best song ever written about a "normal" person dealing with fame. Admittedly, the last 2-3 songs of Moving Pictures after 'Limelight' sound dated to me, so I spent a good bit of this time watching the crowd who were obviously way into it. I noticed a woman on the complete opposite side of the amphitheater who was jumping up and down and singing every lyric. Impressive... and despite the cliche that chicks don't dig Rush the crowd was pretty Milf-tastic. I'm just saying that maybe this particular cliche isn't true anymore.

Photo courtesy of Photo Ray

It should also go without saying, but the level of musicianship that Rush displays is almost beyond human comprehension sometimes. Even for a casual Rush fan like myself, the musicianship transcended the songs at times. Plus, they've played as a band since 1974 with no lineup changes; somehow I don't think bands like Avenged Sevenfold will be in a similar position or have as great of a musical legacy in 30 years... and if I'm wrong come and find me in 30 years.

Anyway... I can't stand drum solos, but the way Neil Peart shows off his stick skills was cool. His onstage kit is basically 2-3 different kits ringed around him on the riser; as I said earlier the drums looked more like the inner workings of a Steampunk clock than a musical instrument. As Peart's solo spot lifted off, the drums rotated so he could do different things: Rock... Tribal.. and some jam thing with sound triggers. I couldn't sit through it every day, but it was at least interesting. It was also impressive how the stage design included strategically placed cameras above, below, and on the drum kit to give all the Neil Peart Geeks a complete view of his show on the video screens. Dude, where's the bong!?

Right after the drum-gasm, Alex played a brief acoustic interlude that dovetailed into 'Closer To Heart'. NICE. However, that went into the '2112 Overture' > 'The Temples of Syrinx' Rush Geek-gasm and that's when I saw heads exploding in the crowd. Dude, where's the bong!?

One of the best parts of the night was noticing Robert Trujillo of Metallica totally geeking out in front of Geddy during the first encore 'La Villa Strangiato'. He was jumping up and down, pumping his fist in the air, taking pics with his cell phone. It was cute; even Rock Stars have heroes. The night closed with an extended version of 'Working Man' and that... was... it. Then it was exit stage left and Rush were gone as magically as they had appeared.

Exit Stage Left

After they left the stage, another short film was shown, this one featuring the actors Jason Segel and Paul Rudd. It was both a slap in the face and a homage to their über fans. It was hilarious... and heartwarming. WOW! Are Rush, like, the coolest band ever? Maybe. (Note: Umlaut Nation friend Micki informed me that Segel and Rudd reprised their characters from the movie I Love You, Man for this short film... I haven't seen it! Next stop: Netflix queue..).

If you bought one of every Rush merch item you would have paid around $675. On the way back to the car, some pimply-faced teenagers called us fags... but glittering prizes and endless compromises shatters the illusion of integrity.... yeah.

Click HERE to see Photo Ray's shots from the evening.