Saturday, August 7, 2010

Seriously ... Rush has a sense of humor

When it comes to musicianship, the members of Rush are stone-cold serious.

That’s pretty much the attitude Geddy Lee (bass and vocals), Alex Lifeson (guitars) and Neal Peart (drums) convey while playing three-plus hours every night on tour. There is no running ’round the stage. There is no jumping around. There is no playing up to the crowd in an attempt to milk applause.

In fact, on Thursday night at USANA Amphitheatre, when Lee ambled over from his stage left homebase to stand in front of Peart’s drum kit and literally jumped with slightly bended knees before landing to signal the end of rocking tune “Limelight” (probably my personal favorite Rush song), I actually recorded it in my notebook – just because the slight sign of exuberance was so out of the ordinary.

Peart is as good of a rock ’n’ roll drummer as you’ll ever find. In fact, if you are at a Rush show and don’t make the effort to simply watch him for minutes at a time, you are cheating yourself out of a major highlight. The only real concession Peart makes to showmanship is the occasional drumstick toss in mid-air and mid-beat. All of a sudden a stick flies upward, end over end, then drops right back to him as he grabs it and continues on. Of course, he has maintained the beat with his left hand and feet the entire time. He executed the maneuver three or four times, once even catching the wayward stick behind his head (not sure if that was intentional, but it was impressive).

When it came to his drum solo, he mesmerized the crowd for seven tantalizing minutes, with the entire kit rotating halfway around partway through, and he even accompanied himself by triggering a horn section. Still, when his solo actually ended, there was no standing and beating his chest while soaking up the applause of an appreciative audience – as most drummers rightfully do in concert. No, the lights over his kit went out, and he immediately turned and exited the stage as Lifeson began playing an acoustic guitar solo that eventually led into the full-band rendition of “Closer to the Heart.”

Yes, when it comes to musicianship, the members of Rush are stone-cold serious. But when it comes to videos, they can be flat-out hilarious. Audience laughs were flowing during three video segments Thursday. There was a six-minute clip that preceded the show, leading into opening number “The Spirit of Radio.” It featured Lee as a quirky diner operator, where he was serving Peart (dressed up as an Irish cop) and Lifeson, nearly unrecognizable in a fat suit, as a band auditioned by playing a polka version of “The Spirit of Radio.”

A three-minute video opened the second set, and spoofed the making of music videos to the tune of “Tom Sawyer,” which would be the next live song. Both videos played off the time travel element, tying into Rush’s Time Machine tour theme.

To close things out, there was another six-minute production that started after the band left the stage at the end of the night following “Working Man.” This production was an elaborate takeoff of the movie “I Love You, Man” and featured the show’s stars, Jason Segal and Paul Rudd, as backstage crashers who end up encountering the members of Rush in the band’s personal hospitality room. My favorite moment occurred when the band was preparing to enter the hospitality room and someone mentioned that they had counted 13 women in the audience that night.

“Thirteen females at a Rush concert?” deadpanned Peart. “That must be some kind of record.”

Just goes to show that the band is aware of its reputation and is willing to have a little fun with it.

My published review of the Rush show is available here:

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