Often accused of being pretentious and humorless, the guys in the Canadian prog rock trio Rush have actually lightened up over the course of their 30-year career. Sure, they still take their music seriously but instead of trying to replicate what they do in the studio on stage, the guys’ live show has evolved to the point that the trio now takes some liberties with the arrangements. The show last night at Quicken Loans Arena was a textbook example of just how much fun the band’s concerts have become.
For the concert’s first half, the band focused on playing some of the deeper cuts from its back catalogue. While it included hits like “Subdivisions,” a radio-friendly, synth-heavy track off 1982’s Signals, it also revisited rather obscure tunes such as “Territories,” “Far Cry,” and the instrumental “Where’s My Thing.” The first set included an obligatory drum solo from Neil Peart — who hasn’t slowed a bit — before the band took a brief 20-minute intermission.
During the intermission, the band played a funny video that featured actor Jay Baruchel as a nosey auditor who gets the run around from a group of gnomes. But after the funny spoof, the band got down to serious business for the second half, which began with a series of songs from its new album Clockwork Angels. The band came out fired up (and set off some serious fireworks and pyrotechnics as well) and sounded invigorated on the new material, which benefited from a 7-person string section. With the exception of “The Garden,” ironically enough the track that singer-bassist Geddy Lee described as one of his favorites on the new album, the new material had real power behind it and the production value, which included giant video screens that rotated above the stage, was impressive as well. The band’s energy bled into “Red Sector A,” an ’80s tune that the band played as if came from its heavier past, and the jazzy instrumental “YYZ.” Even the set closing classic “Spirit of the Radio,” a staple that you’d think has become tiresome to trot out at show after show, was played with passion.
For the encore, the band struggled to bring “Tom Sawyer” to life but excelled on a pair of instrumentals from its groundbreaking 1976 album 2112.