My first concert was '87. Hold Your Fire tour at the Spectrum in Philadephia. At the time I was living in Ocean Township, New Jersey. A blip on Route 9 between Forked River and Barnegat. It was a big deal my parents let me drive there and back at the age of 17.
In my Dad's house (yes, he reminded me that it was his house), I had two parents who taught me the value of hard work, and my life centered around family. A family with a military background. I was disciplined to be aware of my surroundings. They knew where I was at all times, and paid close attention to me when I came home at night. Meaning, they would sniff me out if I were doing anything "wrong". Oh yeah, there was ZERO angst tolerated by Mutti (stepmom from Germany) and Dad. However, they nurtured my curiosity for music, encouraging me to learn how to play an instrument (the Bass Viol), and bought my first electric bass. Like so many other individuals who've built their own shrines during the teenage years, my bedroom had it's own little corner dedicated to favorite bands. Posters aplenty: Van Halen. Duran Duran. Men at Work. Mozart. Rush was ONE of the them. Synth era Rush to be precise.
I remember sharing what it would mean to me if I could go see Rush. Didn't have to beg. I just got my license, drove an almost pristine Datsun 260 z (black, with those dark headlight covers), and was growing in different directions at all times. What a feeling to have earned their trust to let me go on that long drive to the City of Brotherly Love. Tommy Shaw opened, my girlfriend fell asleep by The Mission. I didn't care. It was really all about me seeing the band I loved, and it was my first rock concert. There was no connection to the halcyon days of the 70's, so this era was formative in my Rush experience.
It was o-dark thirty.
When I departed Goatnut International Airport all I had was a suitcase full of clothes, a laptop, and a match, in case I gassed out the lavatory.
My plane lifted off and soared above the clouds for a spectacular view. A full moon over an ocean of white and blue. For a moment, I felt awe and wonder. Nothing but that bright orb filling up the sky, casting its reflected light over the billows of moist air. It wasn't the best thing I experienced that weekend though. I was going to see Rush, the finale of the R40 tour, and possibly for their career. After seeing them twice already, in Greenesboro and Seattle, I already knew the vibe surrounding these events. The Forum in Los Angeles would be different because of the perceived finality of it all.
As the sun rose higher and higher, and my flight was making it's way over LA, my head was full of conflicting emotions. I pulled out the laptop and started typing. Here are the exact words I entered: Departure. Arrival. Anticipation. Adrenaline. Traffic. Smog. Smaug? Smuag? Touch. Hugs. Plastic surgery. Implants. Falling Down. Howie Long. Egg white omelette. Old friends. New friends. The great Charles Barkley, known for ferocious elbows during his time in the NBA, and for conjuring Satchel Paige-like wisdom, aptly described what it means to get old and retire: "Father time is undefeated".
I stopped right there. Now my thoughts turned to hitting LA, and meeting friends.
You join The Rush Forum for the band,
you stay for the people.
Two friends from TRF, Gina (x1yyz) Michael (Greyfriar) were coming to LA. Michael hails from a small village in Germany. When I joined the Forum, he was gracious to extend conversation my way. We share a connection. My stepmom is from Koln, and I spent my teen years eating really great German food. Mutti (stepmom) taught me valuable life lessons about so many things. Keeping in touch with friends was one. Michael and I have corresponded via PM for years, speaking with great honesty about so many topics. Our private conversations mean a lot to me. On this trip I got to be with him, look into his eyes and know him. He got to meet Bubbles from the Trailer Park Boys...here's his picture. Now he's famous. Can't put a price on that.
Gina has meant so much in my quest to make the little rag of a parody more enjoyable to read. I told her upon completion of the first cover she "elevated" the form, beyond the past editions. Per usual, she was humble and low key about her contribution, but for me it means the world. Someone "gets" it, and wants to contribute. She understands where I'm coming from on a creative level and can almost see where it's going. I so appreciate her efforts to help someone she doesn't know, who lives far away in the hills of Tennessee. Indeed, we are connected by such slender (and weak YBG) threads.
Concert Day 4:45 pm. From the Sheraton, Michael, Gina, and myself, departed for the Forum stopping by the Renaissance Hotel to pick up Tom Healey (periscope ace). The four of us crammed in the cab. Not a long drive to the arena. Let the whirlwind begin. We got out and made it to the "Will Call" concierge to watch the freak parade, mingling with people from all over the world. Lot's of folks to mention, but my personal favorite was a charming couple (George and Pamela) from Aberdeen, Scotland. Kilts do something for me, as well as the charm of those wonderful accents. Celebrities began emerging, so did my inner (and outer) Yukon Blade Grinder. Showtime was arriving quickly as we made our way to the libation stations and meet up with TRF members. Michael and I walked as brothers in arms to reassure ourselves the moment was actually happening. It was beautiful.
We met up with Robert (robertrobyn), Rick (rushman14), Phil (Empty Mindless Spectre) and friends. It seemed we've known each other for years...YEARS!!! A bond already existed there that was, dare I say, like a family. We eased into conversations with that excellent social lubricant known as beer. Selfies out the ying-yang. Laughter. It was all good. That was outside. Inside I met with the Animate (Liz), who was surprised I didn't look like Yosemite Sam (exact words). Oooooookay. Then, Stevie. I first met her in Greenesboro, NC. Not an active poster on TRF, but claims to have made it to all 30 shows. Wow, that is some dedication. Probably the only chick on the planet to own a 2112 shirt with a naked woman instead of a man, standing against the oppressive red star. She gave me a crystal that has "powers", which supposedly helps me radiate "positive" energy. Far out Stevie! Thanks.
A memory that shines from these encounters was meeting Rick's childhood friend who got him into Rush when he was 14 years old. They shared recollections of the first concert they attended together, and other humorous stories. As I listened to them and watched the regard they held for each other, I admired the connection. Such obvious affection and respect represented a bromance on epic levels. Cool people are people I wanna know, and you can never have too much of that in your life. It's a common theme at a Rush concert, because we get that from the band.
They're no "stars" in this building other than Rush.
When I see Rush I'm on another planet and living in the moment: Air bass--check. Air drums--check. Air guitar--check. Singing--Badly, but check. I'm reliving those teenage years jamming in my bedroom, door closed. It all comes back to me. Getting lost in the music is the reason I've showed up all these years.
First off, The Forum is THE velvet box of memories on the west coast. Whether from the concerts--or from sporting events--a ton of history has gone down in that building. A bit of Yukon Blade Grinder history went down as well. All the way from his trailer park, Bubbles was in town. I spotted the man and got a few minutes with him. We sang a bit of "Closer to the Heart" (he said I was in f***ed up key), and I exposed him to a bit of Goatnut whimsy. More on that later. It was nice to be on the inside of such a historic place. Vibe was warm. Looking around I saw thousands of people just like me. Excited to be there, pensive that it may be the end. Good cheer was the dominant feeling. It was still a packed Rush concert, and we knew an evening of incredible music was coming down the pike.
Of course when the band took the stage the energy went up ten fold, and there was no letting up. When the crowd responds in such a way it elevates the entire event into something special. Both band and crowd made it magic. It stayed that way through the entire 1st set. On The Rush Forum, the predominant era of choice is basically the Terry Brown catalog. No doubt. I enjoy it like everyone else, but it was before my time. I had to go back in time to appreciate it after I cut my teeth on the synth era. 1st set was my personal moment of zen. One would think the last set would have more energy than the 1st, for some reason that was not the case though. Weird.
The 2nd set, which takes us to Moving Picture and earlier, I'm focusing on the playing ability of these guys. Rush aims for perfection at all times when delivering the goods. However, live I don't expect it. I want the little bumps to see how they deal with them, being a player myself. I'm funny that way. When I attended the May 28th North Carolina gig, Alex got lost during The Camera Eye. I was fascinating how he held his place and picked up when he became re-orientated. To me, that's the best part. The professionalism is astounding. Complex music with lots of buttons to push, and pedals to stomp while playing...and in Geddy's case, singing added for good measure. Lot's of shit can go wrong. Yet, it seems they all carry the same load to hold it together. It's another facet of what makes this band special.
Alex was in front of me all night. Now, in my time I've seen some amazing players. Played along side some. Alex is a composer on the guitar. He does what's best for the song, creating almost any texture or mood to fit the piece. Never overplaying. Some say his ability has diminished dramatically. I disagree. His fingers may be more sausage-like than ever, but dude was on it ALL night in LA. To see him performing the volume swells of Xanadu, the harmonic opening of Red Barchetta, and the unique vibe of Animate, just floored me as I watched him close his eyes and sail away to Lerxt World.
It's my belief the main reason they stopped performing Jacob's Ladder is because it can be a slog of a song to play. Meaning it can get boring. If you're not a musician I'm afraid you wouldn't understand but let me explain. The vibe created by playing simple textures can drone on...and on. It can lull the performers to sleep almost. Good for audience in terms of song choice, hard for the folks keeping it together. By pulling the masterpiece out of the mothballs they committed to giving us a part of the Holy Grail this tour. As Alex built momentum from the staccato pulse of the opening, it was hard not to scream as he nailed the solo. Not his most challenging, but certainly one of the most cinematic of his career. Then, turning your attention to Neil, and watching him go through his arrangement, I wondered what it was like for these guys to write this stuff. Man to be a fly on the wall watching that go down.
Losing It, also a piece of the Holy Grail. Not performed live until this tour. People get old, and abilities deterioate--our common fate. I can see why they waited for the perfect moment to do it. It's too much of a bummer otherwise to be reminded of it. Why would Geddy want to sing that every night? Jonathan Dinklage provided the violin work. Different than Mink's original only in that he adds some different colors to the textures he plays. Translation: he made that song his bitch. My God, he took what Mink did, and amplified it by a factor of 3. Of note, the lighting during this song was really impressive. Liquid-y would be an apt description. The light was liquid-y. Yeah, that's it.
Cygnus was brought to life in an unexpected way this tour. For veteran's of the Halcyon days, this probably made 'em pass out. It was remarkable how the tour paid homage to A Farewell to Kings. You get Xanadu, Closer to the Heart and Cygnus x1. Had to step over the bodies after these songs to get to the bathroom. I actually prefer this song performed sans vocals. So many twists and turns to watch. Geddy was allowed to noodle away without worrying how close he was to his microphone. After the song was over, Neil was giving the crowd the towel wave. He's getting demonstrative these days.
Let me point some notable moments:
Alex watching Neil solo during Cygnus--He sat on the edge of the stage and just watched Neil, all smiles. The double bass onslaught at the end was probably as good as he's ever performed that part of the solo--thunderous. Alex usually doesn't hang out that long, but from the look on his face he was drinking up what may be the last time NEP plays that solo.
Geddy hauling the mail--Those who criticize the man's voice based on last tour have to give him his due. It's only polite. He showed up big time. I think someone he trusts and respects must've sat him down and said "look at this" and handed him the Clockwork Angels Live DVD. Geddy made it a priority to pay attention to detail in this department. All three shows I saw live, and the periscope feeds, indicate that he made a strong effort on his vocal role. Huge improvement.
Losing It--I got to see that song live. Describing it...well they played it to perfection. After the song Neil did his little fiddle imitation for Jonathan, and that was it. I'm one of the few who got to witness that song.
Geddy sitting on Neil's lap--A complete surprise during Animate. We never saw that one coming.
Is this the end?
Seeing Neil do anything other than the usual is a big deal. He actually came to the front of the stage, put his arms around Alex and Geddy, and waved. He's never done that as far as I know. If this was it, I can say I was there to watch it end. Am I sad? Yes. Yes, because I want these guys to drain that tank until the rocket sauce is just fumes. I'm sad because they can still play at a high level, and I wanna see what's possible. What if they make another record and it blows Clockwork Angels out of the water? It's possible. In this life, I wanna see what's possible...
Edited by 1-0-0-1-0-0-1, 01 August 2016 - 11:21 AM.
fixed photo link