Been a Rush fan since 1980, but never got to see them live until the R30 tour in 2004 at the White River Amphitheater near Auburn, WA. Saw them again in 2008 at The Gorge Amphitheater in George, WA. (Amusingly, both shows were listed on their respective tour schedules as “Seattle”. Auburn is close to Seattle, but George is 150 miles from Seattle by the shortest route (I-90.))
Anyway, having missed them on the two previous tours — they performed at The Gorge on my birthday on the Test For Echo tour in 1996, then again on the Vapor Trails tour in 2002 — due to being unemployed both times, I was determined to see them on the R30 tour. As luck would have it I was unemployed yet again and I also didn’t have a car, so I sold one of my basses and bought a pair of tickets in the cheap seats, the second ticket for my friend with a car so he could drive (you know, “you fly, I’ll buy”).
The sound was great, the band was flawless, and what with it being my first Rush show after 24 years of fandom, I was just so happy to be there that I didn’t even care when those of us in the cheap seats (actually the lawn behind the covered seating) got rained on. The only bad part of the show came during Neil’s drum solo. While he soloed, a large, obnoxious, and extremely loud woman behind me bellowed at Neil (as if he could hear her from a hundred yards away while he was pounding his drums): “GOOOOOOOO NEEEEEIIIIL! WOOOOAAAAAH! NEEEEEEEEEEEIIIIIIIIL! GOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO! YEEEEAAAAAAAH! NEEEEEEIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIL!” All the way through the effin’ drum solo. She was actually drowning him out.
When I saw them in '08 at The Gorge, I was employed and had a car, so I shelled out for a single ticket in the best seat still available when I bought it — Geddy’s side of the stage, still quite a few rows back, though. Nice warm day, May 31. Once again they put on an excellent show. The only downer was the wind, which was blowing hard enough to put the kibosh on the pyrotechnics. They even gave up on the smoke machine early on, because the smoke just blew straight past Alex and away. The wind also affected the sound, at least from where I was sitting. The one big speaker that was pointed almost directly at my seat was, unfortunately, suspended by cables. The wind kept it swaying back and forth throughout the show, subjecting those of us in that seating area to a sound that was basically “waaaaWAAAAAHwaaaaaWAAAAAwaaaaWAAAAA…” The only noticeable flaw in the performance came during the encore when they performed “A Passage to Bangkok”. On that song, the music all fades out after the first chorus, then Alex comes in by himself with the main guitar riff and Geddy comes in with the second verse half a beat later. But Alex came in with the riff 2 beats too early, making Geddy miss the first word of the second verse, but they recovered smoothly.
As far as showmanship … I think the band provides it in just the right amount for their music. Face it, their level of musicianship is a show in and of itself, and I think the serious fans (a large proportion of which are serious musicians themselves) want that. We’re not really interested in a bunch of jumping around and banter. Jumping around and banter means less time for the music, and we want to hear the music. Besides, these guys are all in their mid-50s now. Picture once again Mick Jagger strutting around in a belly shirt at the SuperBowl a few years ago
I should also add that I was struck by the wide range of ages I saw in the audience at both shows. Old school fans in their 50s all the way down to small children, and teenagers who were clearly there because they were into Rush’s music, not just because “hey, it’s a rock concert”. Rush seems to have a very well-behaved, polite audience. At neither show did I see anybody who was obviously “under the influence” of strange substances, though there were a few who had possibly made too many trips to the beer garden. At the Auburn show I caught an occasional, brief whiff of marijuana smoke, but I didn’t smell any at The Gorge (though admittedly my seat was on the upwind side of the venue, so any smoke would have been quickly blown away from me). Leaving the venue at the end of the '08 show was a hoot - as everybody was funneled toward the exit, somebody started mooing like a cow. The mooing was taken up by those nearby, and it spread, and pretty soon a large part of the “herd” was mooing it’s way to the parking area