On 25th May, I had the pleasure of being entertained by three virtuoso musicians: guitarist Alex Lifeson, drummer Neil Peart and bassist Geddy Lee – a belated birthday present to myself. The venue was London’s O2 Arena, and I was 4th row, centre-stage watching my favourite rock band: Rush, on their 2011 Time Machine Tour. I was close enough to the stage during the show, to wonder if I had been singed by some of the pyrotechnics. Past, present and future came together onstage as Rush performed to sheer perfection, their classic hits including the entire ‘Moving Pictures’ album, as well as new material from their forthcoming ‘Clockwork Angels’ album. Although I have been a Rush fan, since I first heard ‘The Spirit of Radio’ on the radio back in 1979, this was the first Rush concert I had been to. OK, so I don’t get out much… Bite me.
For anyone who hasn’t heard of Rush, it may be worthwhile to read what Wikipedia, the free encyclopaedia, has to say about them. And no fan should be without the excellent ‘Rush - Beyond the Lighted Stage’ DVD, released in 2010. It is one of life’s great mysteries that this phenomenal band has yet to be inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, despite over 40 years of professional activity during which they achieved 24 gold, 14 platinum, and 3 multi-platinum records, with estimated album sales of over 40 million units.
Regarding ‘Time Machine’, subtitled: ‘The Future As It Ought To Have Been’, lyricist Neil Peart relates how he had an idea for a fictional world that would make a great setting for a suite of songs that told a story. An avid science fiction fan, Neil Peart proposed a ‘steampunk’ approach. He described ‘steampunk’ as a genre of science fiction pioneered by authors such as his friend, Kevin J. Anderson, as a reaction against the dehumanised, alienated and dystopian societies portrayed by ‘cyberpunk’ futurists.
Unlike ‘2112’ and ‘Red Barchetta’, both set in what Neil Peart described as a “darker kind of imagining, for dramatic and allegorical effect,” ‘Time Machine’ is inspired by the steampunk definitions: “The future as it ought to have been,” or “The future as seen from the past,” citing the scenarios imagined in ‘20,000 Leagues Under the Sea’ by Jules Verne. The results left me speechless: stage and lighting design evocative of the Victorian age, comical short films that transported me to a parallel universe and music… such incredible music.
The concert began with ‘The Real History of Rush’, a satirical documentary that presented a fictitious band called ‘Rash’, playing a polka version of ‘Spirit of Radio’ in the 60s, before being transported via a time machine to 1979 where I found Rush onstage at the O2 Arena, performing the much-loved song. You’ll note from my photographs, that Geddy Lee wore a ‘Rash’ T-shirt on the night.
The show was presented in two halves. In the first, Rush gave us stunning performances of tracks spanning their whole career. After a brief interval, came ‘Moving Pictures’, my favourite Rush album. All 7 songs were perfectly rendered before Neil Pert wowed the audience with his reinvented drumming style in a blistering drum solo exploring progressive rock and jazz themes. Throughout this stunning performance, his new drum kit revolved 360 degrees showcasing his virtuoso skill. Frankly, I have no idea where this man got the energy. In fact, all three members of Rush seemed to possess superhuman endurance. The skill, energy and concentration displayed during the show were mind-boggling. After a high-energy performance of ‘Far Cry’ the band left the stage to a rapturous standing ovation. Then, as if that wasn’t enough, they returned to perform an encore including the legendary ‘La Villa Strangiato’, one of the most technically-complex rock instrumentals ever made, clocking in at well over 9 minutes.
The pictures of the concert, on this blog, I took with a compact camera and my BlackBerry; ‘professional’ photographic equipment wasn’t allowed at the concert. There is no shortage of Rush imagery to be found, but nothing compares with the connection you have with pictures that you’ve taken yourself. Somehow, I managed to capture both Alex and Neil staring right at me. In this image-dominated world, Rush may not be as famous as some less skilled bands. They may not be considered ‘cool’ by the style police; but as far as I’m concerned, their skill as musicians is unrivalled, and I love them. ~ Wayne Gerard Trotman