Rush returned to Smirnoff Music Centre in Dallas after a 3 year hiatus following the 2004 30th Anniversary tour. They performed in support of their most recent studio album Snakes and Arrows, their 18th studio album (I don't count Feedback) and first new release since 2002's Vapor Trails. They brought the monstrosity that is a Rush tour in it's full glory to the stage for over 3 hours of proggy splendiferousness. (feel free to quote me there).
Featuring the standard Rush show of lights, video, ear crushing decibel levels, rotisserie chicken (wah?) and fricking laser beams, there was something for everyone. (don't forget you can't get something for nothing, though) (sorry, couldn't help it). They opened the show with the perennial favorite Limelight (bookending with the last tour as this was the previous closer) and brought back some deeper album cuts including Digital Man and Entre Nous, followed by Mission and Freewill before introducing some new material.
The first new cut was the instrumental The Main Monkey Business which featured videos of monkeys and various other primates performing chucklelicous tasks like talking on the phone and driving a car (looking like the old film reels you've probably seen before) whilst a couple of the crew chefs came out and basted the rotisserie chickens. Yes, chickens. This year Geddy decided to escalate the superfluous gear arms race by replacing the dryers and rotating vending machine with three separate full size rotisserie chicken ovens like you would see at a restaurant. And yes, they were miced. Apparently he's no longer satisfied with the warm/dry tone and wanted a little more gristle and grease in his signal path. (lest we forget, talking about tone is akin to swimming about politics)
This was followed by The Larger Bowl from Snakes & Arrows and then Secret Touch from Vapor Trails. That led to a very deep cut in Circumstances from Hemispheres which I know hasn't been played in a long time, if ever. Next was my favorite Grace Under Pressure tune, Between the Wheels and then the set was closed out by Dreamline, which is one of the standouts off Roll the Bones.
Another amusing moment from the first set was about halfway into Limelight when Alex got a chance to see the little board babes (barbie dolls placed down by his pedals holding up post it notes like they were signs). The generally describe acts that are illegal in most countries or make salient observations you would expect from a groupie. I think the crew members make new batches up every night. As is typical, he was laughing until he had to focus on the solo. I hope someone is keeping a track of these messages as the ones I have seen are pretty funny. Examples are listed below.
After the intermission, they returned with a mini-set of all new material including Far Cry, Working them Angels, Armor & Sword, Spindrift, and The Way the Wind Blows. The pictures in Angels were especially moving, featuring people from various walks of life like construction workers, janitors, waitresses, nurses, and soldiers all with pairs of angel wings on their backs. All of the new material sounded even better live and got a really positive response from the crowd. After the new material they dipped back into the vault with Subdivisions, Natural Science, and Witch Hunt before returning to the new album with an instrumental section including Malignant Narcissim, the drum solo, and Hope. PGA tour Rocco Mediate (who had been checking out the stage pre-show, and gave me a very puzzled look when I shouted his name) came out to perform the chefly duties wearing a Rush baseball shirt and the chef's hat, of course.
They closed out the second set with Distant Early Warning, Spirit of Radio and Tom Sawyer. Tom Sawyer included an intro by the South Park kids with Cartman portraying Geddy Lee on the keyboards totally screwing up the lyrics. It was hilarious. There's a clip of that below as well. They came out for one encore, starting with One Little Victory (including that darn dragon and his flamethrowers), A Passage to Bangkok, and closing the show with YYZ.
From a technical standpoint the show went very well. There were no major equipment or performance problems and the sound was good to my ears which were admittedly overloaded in the second row. I'm sure the best sound was in the second tier of seats near the middle. It's always a trade off between a good view and a good sound mix. All three players performed superbly as expected and they still seem to be enjoying themselves putting on these shows. We had an excellent view of the whole stage from the second row on Alex's side and I was able to feast on the fretboard as much as I desired. The front row center got all the picks though. Bastards.
My overall impression of this show is much the same as the R30 show in that Rush is putting on the most complete show of their career and easily one of the best concert experiences anywhere in the world. They manage to combine overpowering sound, lights, video, lazers, smoke, snakes, dragons, humor, a deep set list, and just the force of their wills upon the audience of twenty thousand. I feel truly lucky that these guys still love to write, record and perform music and share it with their fans. Their love of music is what keeps them in the business more than thirty years since they started. I highly doubt there are any financial considerations at all, except perhaps to continue funding their ability to make music in the future.
Geddy closed the show out by saying "I hope we can see you guys again sometime", which I am hoping means they still feel like they have something to offer by returning to the studio and subsequently the stage in the future. No one could fault them for retiring after all they have accomplished in their careers, and we can at least live with the knowledge that we have their very large selection of DVDs and albums to relive the live experience as many times as we want in the future. Something tells me they're not done yet, though. Here's hoping.
Alex: He played a variety of Les Pauls, the Gibson Howard Roberts, his iconic White Gibson ES-355 (rumor says a Gibson signature model is in works), various Garrison Acoustics including 6 and 12 strings, and a Mandola. His Les Pauls were outfitted in some cases with tremolos and piezo pickups. His Howard Roberts also had a piezo in it as well. His amps were all Hughes & Kettners with two Alex Lifeson Triamp MKII double stacks in the middle, flanked on either side by Switchblade double stacks. His rack mount was turned away from the stage front and his pedals on the floor weren't visible but I have it on good authority (i.e., guitar player) that he was using a Dunlop DCR-ISR Crybaby Rack wah, TC Electronic 1210 Spatial Expander & Stereo Chorus/Flanger, TC Electronic G-Force multi-effects processors (3) with 1 spare, and Voodoo Lab GCX switchers. He may have added a Loft chorus (the actual one used on Limelight). At his feet were the Ernie Ball Volume Pedal, Dunlop DCR-1FC foot controller, an Axess Electronics FX1 MIDI Foot controller, Korg MPK 180 Bass pedals, and a Boss TU-12H Tuner.
Geddy: Used mainly his black Jazz Bass (which may have been the original '72 or one of his signatures), a red Fender Jazz, the Jaco Pastorius signature (fretted and fretless, respectively) and the Rickenbacker. His onstage amplification was courtesy of the henhouse rotisserie ovens (3).
His official list from the tour book:
1972 Fender Jazz bass
Fender Jazz Geddy Lee model
Fender Jazz Custom Shop bass
Fender Jaco Pastorius Tribute fretless bass
Fender Jaco Pastorius Tribute Custom Shop fretted version
Garrison acoustic guitars
Avalon direct boxes, model U5
SansAmp RPM pre-amps
Palmer speaker simulator, model PDI-05
Trace Elliot Quatra valve amps
Sampson UR-5D wireless system
Keyboards and Samplers
Roland XV-5080 sampler/ synthesizers
Roland Fantom-X7 synthesizer
Moog Little Fatty digital synthesizer
Korg MIDI pedals
Neal: He played his "Snakes & Arrows" custom kit made by the Drum Workshop and described in detail in the tour book. It was the typical Neal monstrosity setup of acoustic drums, percussion, cymbals and electronic drums/pads.
The detailed set list/equipment blow by blow: (equipment listed as it changes. if nothing is listed they played the same gear from the previous song)
1. Limelight: Alex - Gibson LP Standard Honey Burst with tremolo, Geddy - Fender Jazz Bass Black
2. Digital Man: same
3. Entre Nous: Alex - Gibson LP Goldtop, 12 String Garrison acoustic
4. Mission: Alex - Gibson LP Tobacco Sunburst
5. Freewill: same
6. The Main Monkey Business: Alex - Gibson LP Goldtop
7. The Larger Bowl: Alex - Gibson LP Tobacco Sunburst (with piezo)
8. Secret Touch: Alex - Gibson LP Black Beauty with tremolo, Geddy - Red Jazz Bass
9. Circumstances: same
10. Between the Wheels: Geddy - Jaco Pastorius Fretted Jazz Bass
11. Dreamline: Alex - LP Honey Burst with tremolo, Geddy - Black Jazz Bass
12. Far Cry: Alex - LP Cherry Sunburst
13. Working Them Angels: Alex - LP Cherry SB with Piezo, Mandolin with shubb capo
14. Armor & Sword: same
15. Spindrift: same
16. The Way the Wind Blows: Alex - Gibson Howard Roberts with piezo
17. Subdivisions: Alex - LP Cherry Sunburst
18. Natural Science: Alex - LP Honey Burst with tremolo
19. Witch Hunt: same
20. Malignant Narcissim: Geddy - Jaco Pastorious Fretless Jazz Bass
21. Drum Solo
22. Hope: Alex - Garrison 12 String
23. Distant Early Warning: Alex - LP Honey Burst with tremolo, Geddy - Black Jazz Bass
24. The Spirit of Radio: same
25. Tom Sawyer: same
26. One Little Victory: Alex - Gibson ES-355 White
27. A Passage to Bangkok: Geddy - Black Rickenbacker
28. YYZ: Geddy - Black Jazz Bass
Here are some additional show notes taken from 2112.net that further explain some show features better than I did:
- The opening video begins with a dream sequence of Snakes and Arrows images, then Alex sits up in bed, saying, "Snakes? Who would dream about snakes, that's so creepy. Honey? Honey - wake up. I had this weirdest dream, it was a snake…" then the person lying next to him sits up and its Neil. They look at each other and yell in surpise and yell 'AHHHHHHHHHHH!", then after another sequence, Geddy wakes up in a chair and says "What did they do to my food?" and then in walks an old man in a Scottish kilt who speaks with a Scottish accent who tells Geddy he doesn't care how he is feeling, to "…wipe that chicken off your face and get out there!" after which they which they all ran out. The guy in the Scottish costume is actually Geddy, dressed in make up and wig. At the end of the show, another video of Scottish Geddy plays, where he tells people to go home because he wants to get back to eating his chicken.
- The video intro for the second set is all Alex in rare, comical form, playing several characters on the Snakes and Arrows Leela board. The board shifts around the screen and highlights certain lines to which Alex pops up and executes typical Alex rants.
- There is a video of Bob & Doug McKenzie to introduce "The Larger Bowl"; "The Larger Bowl" has video snippets showing alternating images between the rich and the poor, etc. Towards the end you see iron gates on 2 screens, but as they focus in on the buildings behind them you see that one is a mansion and the other is a prison.
- Alex plays a mandola mounted on an Omega stand during "Workin' Them Angels"; "Workin' Them Angels" had a video accompaniment similar to the album art of various types of workers and soldiers with angel wings.
- There is a South Park video intro to Tom Sawyer; during the video, the South Park characters begin playing Tom Sawyer but Cartman sings the wrong lyrics, "…floated down the river on a raft with a black guy", which leads to an argument with Cartman saying he's read the book and that's how the story goes, but the other quickly corrects him saying "that's Huckleberry Finn, stupid!". Cartman then says "I am Geddy Lee! And I will sing whatever lyrics I want!". They then start again to count off the beginning where Rush takes over and plays.
- During "A Passage To Bangkok", a video plays showing footage of far east trains, poppy fields, marijuana plants and many other scenes related to the lyrics. (including reefer madness clips of stoned teens during the 50s)
- "Digital Man" has a new arrangement, missing the first "He's got a force field" lyric.
- The drum solo has been completely revamped. Neil has a slew of new marimba samples, which give the middle section including the "Momo's Dance Party" part an Oriental percussion feel (the "Scars" and "Pieces of Eight" sections have been dropped). Instead of "One O'clock Jump", the solo now includes a complete big band triggered sample of "Cotton Tail", which Neil performed with the Buddy Rich Band on Burning for Buddy Vol. I.
- Geddy Lee is playing his 4001 Rickenbacker bass on stage for the first time in 25 years (last seen on the Signals tour).
- Geddy Lee is using a minature Snakes & Arrows drum as a cup holder!
- There are multiple "Barbie Doll" groupies standing on stage in front of Alex Lifeson, holding "Post-It" signs with various sayings on them, apparently created by the roadies. Sayings have included: "I Like The Drummer", "My Grampa Says Your Cool", "Can I Roll Your Bones?", "I'm A Dino-Whore AKA Suckasaurass", "I Was Conceived While My Dad Was At A Rush Concert", "I'm Not Wearing Any Panties", "My Mom Thinks Your Hot!", "I'm Only Doing This To Pay For College", "Freebird!", "I Thought ZZ Top Had Beards", "Bass Player's Cute! Is That His Real Nose?", "I Golf Naked", "Nice Dinosaurs-You Must Be A Caveman", "If It's Too Loud You're Too Old"
Finally, a few links to fan vids taken during the show:
Intro sequence and Limelight
South Park Intro to Tom Sawyer
Bob & Doug's Intro to The Larger Bowl
A small excerpt from Malignant Narcissism
A Passage to Bangkok