Saturday, 28 May 2011

What a Rush!

I think it was probably 1978, round at Pete's house one schoolday lunchtime. He had just received a delivery, maybe his first, from one of those mail-order record clubs. In the delivery was Rainbow's 1976 album "Rainbow Rising" which, alone, was enough to blow young minds freshly arrived in the world of rock. But for me, a seminal and slightly life-changing encounter that day was with another 12 inch diameter piece of black vinyl that had arrived in the box - Rush's "Farewell to Kings" album:

 What was this? Who was that guy with the high voice and what on earth were they singing about? Three Canadians with songs about Spaceships, black holes, Kings, philosophers and ploughmen, and some sublime musicianship. To a teenage mind rapidly absorbing as much science fiction as I could lay my hands on and with a burgeoning taste in rock music, especially on the more melodic wing (and maybe even then in the progressive vein), this was heady stuff indeed! After a bit more rooting about in record shops (this was pre-internet of course), I came to realise that this was Rush's fifth studio album and I remember thinking at the time "Ah well, I guess I've missed their most productive period", as that was the usual pattern, wasn't it? A lifetime of preparing for the first album, spillover of that good material into the second and then a steady decline! I could never have guessed that I would still be listening to fresh new music appearing from Rush 33 years later, and still eagerly anticipating new albums from a band that had been recording for 37 years!

Anyone who knows me really well will know that the music of Rush has been one of the great musical loves of my life. I can't count the thousands of hours of activity that have been accompanied by Rush on vinlyl or tape, then on CD and now on mp3 or iPod. I'm a Rush fan or a fanboy or a geek or a nerd. Accordingly, I was delighted and excited to hear of another tour, the Time Machine tour, which they were to bring to the UK in May 2011. And so, accompanied by the same Pete who had inadvertently introduced me to Rush in the first place, and who has been to at least two other Rush gigs with me before, I went to see them in the Glasgow SECC (Scottish Exhibition and Conference Centre) two weeks ago tonight, some 30 years since I first saw them.

The big excitement of the Time Machine tour for UK fans was that the band was going to play in its entirety, for the first time in the UK, their 1981 "Moving Pictures" album, one of my favourites and their biggest selling album in the U.S., and which remains the band's most popular and commercially successful studio recording to date. Here's a picture of the cover of my programme for the 1981 tour for "Moving Pictures" (in which shows, ironically, they didn't play the whole album). That was my first Rush gig (and Pete's) (at the Ingliston Showground in Edinburgh) and generated a splendid piece of rock memorabilia for both of us (see below).

My old programme from the Rush 1981 "Moving Pictures" tour

My much-treasured autographed page from the Moving Pictures tour programme, from the days when the band used to wheel themselves out to meet fans after the gig - and all three of the guys, not just Geddy and Alex who do most of the meet and greet (and interview) stuff these days. In fact, Pete and I were waiting for our lift home (Pete's Dad maybe?) outside the Ingliston venue. Most of the crowd had gone home, when suddenly a roadie sauntered over and said that the band were just coming out to a table and three chairs behind us to sign autographs. Blimey, talk about the right place and right time... I don't think I washed the hand that shook the hands for about a week! Hey, I was 16 - this was an important event! It has to be said, they don't look much like this anymore, but I've changed in 30 years too...

With the advent of camera phones, there is now a much greater opportunity to capture some great personal memories of gigs, so here is a selection of my photos from the Glasgow show on May 14th. No real spoilers here from me for anyone still to see the tour elsewhere on the planet. If you want a detailed set list or a review, look elsewhere!

Successful rock bands on tour need big trucks - here, Rush are using Stage Truck (did you notice what they did with that name there? Very clever!)

But a big show like the one that Rush puts on needs a lot more than one truck - ten, in fact, which needed a stitched-together panorama to capture then all!

A selection of the signs in the SECC that night - strobe lighting, smoke and pyrotechnics? I damn well hope so - that's what I paid my money for!

The guys from the band (as they were in 1976 at least) - this was a mini-highlight of the night for me - these three uber-fans must have had a couple of hundred photos taken - they were in the front block of the stalls - I hope they had a great night and I do hope the band spotted them!

Here's the original look from the 2112 album in 1976 - at least we now know from where George Lucas pinched the costume ideas for Luke Skywalker...
The audiences at Rush gigs these days feature a lot of heads like mine...

An eight-armed lighting rig, each arm multiply jointed and able to move independently, and each arm covered in lights - very impressive!

And a great video screen put to great, often split-image, effect. In this case, a little Geddy Lee and a big Geddy Lee!

During "Working Them Angels" from "Snakes and Arrows"

Little Geddy Lee and big Alex Lifeson with a mandolin close-up, again during "Working Them Angels"

The guys in the band...

The Professor, Neil Peart during his drum solo - the great overhead camera shows his three different drum kits on a rotating base, includin th electronic kit he's added in recent years. And was that a wee bit of film of Gene Krupa that I saw during the video show for the drum solo?

We're jammin'...

A bit of "2112" - what else could it be?
A great night - probably the best show I've seen Rush put on over the 30 years I've been going to see them! If you have the chance, go and catch the Time Machine tour - you won't regret it...

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