(Photo: Ethan Miller/Getty Images)
“We got about a thousand songs to play tonight.”
Geddy Lee, bassist and singer for the legendary group Rush, may have been exaggerating a little Sunday night at the Bridgestone Arena in Nashville, Tennessee, when he said that to his raucous crowd. But only just a little. He and his two bandmates, the always mind-blowing Alex Lifeson and Neil Peart, played for close to three and a half hours Sunday night, running through classic rock radio staples, deep cuts, and their seminal album, 1981’s Moving Pictures, in its entirety.
Sure, there was a twenty-minute intermission snuck in there, but that was the only sign that Rush has aged at all since the day Moving Pictures came out in 1981. Lee can still hit all of the high notes he’s known for, skying to reach the refrain of “Closer to the Heart.” He can still send shivers down your spine with his hurting delivery on “Subdivisions”: “In the high school halls/In the shopping malls/Conform or be cast out.”
And those other two guys weren’t half bad, either. Long instrumentals like “YYZ” and the mind-blowing encore “La Villa Strangiato” show how tight Rush still is as a band and how sharp their musical chops are compared to not only to their past selves, but to anyone else out there playing today, yesterday, or in the next twenty years. Last night, Lifeson did more than just play his solos note for note. He ripped through “Limelight” and straight up dominated the deep bends of “2112 Overture/The Temples of Syrinx.” Peart did more than just play a drum solo; in his spotlight moment, during which his kit rotated around him not once, but twice, he touched on jazz, afro-beat and good ol’ rock ‘n’ roll.
Most importantly, Rush gave the crowd what they wanted. Or perhaps the multi-generational crowd wanted whatever Rush would give them. The symbiosis between the two entities was clear from start, heard in the cheers greeting the opening video skit, which featured both a polka and a disco version of “Spirit of the Radio,” Lifeson in a fat suit and Lee wearing a monocle.
Rush was here to have fun, and if you were going to stand and watch this show, you better have been having fun, too. Lee first appeared on stage wearing a shirt that said “RASH” in the traditional Rush logo, and he then bounced around, hopping to and fro like a teenager playing these songs for the first time. Lifeson shook his guitar with both hands to get that extra little bit of sustain, banging it against his mic stand. Peart threw his drumstick thirty feet in the air end over end and caught it in rhythm.
Despite all the musical complexity of their songs, Rush does not seem like a band that takes themselves too seriously. They broke out a reggae version of “Working Man” for the final song of their encore, enjoying the light-hearted beat before finally breaking into the song’s normal gritty groove. And just before the lights went up, they showed a skit featuring actors Paul Rudd and Jason Segel, both reprising their roles as Rush-crazed fans from the movie, “I Love You, Man.”
“The Holy Trinity, they’re guys just like us,” says Segel’s character, Sidney Fife. “Except they’re also the greatest musicians in the history of the world.”
Exaggeration? Maybe only just a little.