As Rush’s 20-minute suite 2112 wound its way toward its bombastic conclusion Monday, the briefest flicker of images summed up the band almost better than nearly three hours of music could.
On the enormous screen, situated directly behind Neil Peart’s mammoth drum kit, it was possible to glimpse a bit of Peart’s foot working the kick drum like a maniac, or some of guitarist Alex Lifeson’s fingers, racing along the strings.
In essence, the moment served as a visual reminder that, for Rush, the sum is greater than the parts.
Together with bassist, vocalist and keyboardist Geddy Lee, Peart and Lifeson form Rush, the freshly minted Rock and Roll Hall of Fame inductees and unassailable kings of prog-rock, whose “R40 Live” tour is marking four decades in the music business, and, if reports are to be believed, also serving as a quasi-farewell.
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It’s understandable if the three men hang it up after this 34-city tour — Peart is 62, while Lifeson and Lee are 61 — but the three musicians certainly aren’t playing as if there’s scarcely any gas left in the tank.
While Rush’s music tends to appeal more to the head than the heart — Closer to the Heart notwithstanding — their complex, polyrhythmic rock songs require an almost unreal amount of focus — not for nothing was Peart’s face scrunched up in intense concentration all night long (whether it was enjoyable or excruciating was tough to tell).
Nor are the fans flagging: Judging from the near-capacity crowd’s rapturous response to tracks like Subdivisions, YYZ or Xanadu, Rush’s absence from the landscape would be keenly felt. (A line in Clockwork Angels — “The people raise their hands” — prompted almost everyone in sight to do exactly that.)
Monday’s epic performance, the band’s first North Texas gig in almost three years, was split into two sets totaling nearly three hours, each with its own customized stage design — the first favored bric-a-brac and sci-fi-themed accoutrements (a giant brain in a tank), while the second was more no frills, arena rock show, complete with multi-neck guitar and bass. (The encore furthered tweaked the set-up, leaving Rush like a hungry young garage band.)
The trio makes a fantastic, visceral sound, one bolstered by elements — lasers, pyro, a restless light display — as timeless as rock concerts themselves. Even if you don’t know your Headlong Flight from your Cygnus X-1, it’s tough not to be pulled in by the sheer musicianship on display.
Rush has quite the sense of humor about itself — I suppose after 40 years’ worth of snide remarks and snubs from the mainstream, you’d almost have to — and that impish, anarchic spirit filtered down into the interstitial videos (No Country for Old Hens, which played just prior to the second set, would’ve brought smiles to the faces of Monty Python), as well as Lee’s own demeanor. He often seemed to be having just as much fun as the screaming, singing fans arrayed before him.
Rush’s peculiar amalgam of fantasy, science fiction and almost mathematically precise music is unique among rock bands.
Spectacle in lockstep with skill, a deeply intellectual pursuit but also one inspiring tremendous emotion — even now, in the 21st century, there isn’t another act doing what Rush does so well.
Simply put, Rush is a singular creation, and seeing them live is, fittingly, a singular experience.
Preston Jones, 817-390-7713