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Rush Play Two Sets at the Gibson Amphitheater — Live Review

Paul Archuleta, FilmMagic

It’s a Wednesday evening in Los Angeles, and the sun is just beginning to set as an army of Rush fans engulfs the merchandise kiosks around the Gibson Amphitheater. Noisecreep is here to witness the second night of the Canadian power trio’s Time Machine tour’s LA stop.

With an album catalog reaching back to the mid-’70s, Rush have enough classic material to fill a week’s worth of gigs. Tonight, the group skips the entire opening band thing and blesses the sold-out venue with two full sets. The doors open at 7:30 sharp and by the time Rush hit the stage 20 minutes later, the amphitheater is stuffed to the rafters.

After a slapstick comedy sketch finishes playing on the jumbo screen behind the stage, Rush launch into ‘The Spirit of Radio’ from 1980′s superb ‘Permanent Waves’ album. The first thing Noisecreep notices is bassist-singer Geddy Lee’s high-pitched vocals. The 57-year-old wails away just as hard as he did back in Rush’s club days while working his fretboard with expert ease. No one should be able to make what he’s doing right now look so effortless.

By the time Rush get into the fourth song of their set, 1993′s ‘Stick it Out,’ they’re in total command of the audience. Noisecreep scans the crowd and sees one fan after another rocking out in air guitar mode. As a matter of fact, we also see air drums, bass and even keyboards, being performed in the crowd. The best part of it is that there isn’t even a hint of irony to it all. Guitarist Alex Lifeson feeds off the energy and locks eyes with the hardcore Rush devotees in the first few rows.

After finishing the first of their two performance set with 1982′s anthem ‘Subdivisions,’ Rush exit stage right and take a much-deserved break. During the intermission the crowd files into the lobby to fill up on beer while a Rush-curated playlist including bands like Genesis, Yes and Deep Purple plays over the venue’s sound system.

Fifteen minutes later Rush return and open the second half of the night with their most famous single and classic rock radio staple, ‘Tom Sawyer,’ the first track off of the band’s 1981 album ‘Moving Pictures.’ Rush then performs ‘Moving Pictures’ it in its entirety for the next 40 minutes or so. With rockers like ‘Limelight’ and ‘Red Barchetta’ in the setlist, Lee and Lifeson work the room, each holding down one side of the stage. But it’s ‘YYZ’ — the prog-rock instrumental standard — that gets the biggest response from the capacity crowd. Every time Peart breaks into a new movement in the song, a rapturous cheer fills the room. Leave it to Rush to have an instrumental be their show-stealer.

After Rush close their ‘Moving Pictures’ performance with ‘Vital Signs,’ they treat the crowd with a new song called ‘Caravan.’ The song will be included on their next album, which will reportedly be called ‘Clockwork Angels.’ If this tune is any indication of what’s to come on the record, it looks like the group will be revisiting some of the harder-edged songwriting of their early ’90s work.

During most rock concerts, the part of the set when the drummer gets his solo is usually an ideal time to go for a bathroom break. However, most rock concerts don’t feature Neil Peart. Tonight, the drum legend’s solo incorporates everything from African and Caribbean-infused rhythms to a big band-styled finale. If that weren’t already enough, Peart’s drum riser rotates a full 360 degrees, giving Tommy Lee a run for his money.

Rush closed the epic evening with 1974′s ‘Working Man,’ adding a reggae strut to the first verse and then erupting in the Black Sabbath-like riffing of its chorus. By this time everyone is exhausted from the band’s marathon performance. Although they’ve never achieved “cool band” status from old guard institutions like Rolling Stone, tonight Rush proved that none of that ever mattered.

Watch Rush’s ‘Time Stands Still’ video

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