Massive Rush

{mosimage}Last Monday
was an important day for rock fans in Finland. It was a day marked on the
calendar for many months. The Canadian prog rock trio Rush played in the
country for the first time in more than 30 years of career. The band didn’t
disappoint and it offered an extraordinary show at a sold out Hartwall Areena.
More than 12,000 people were happy.

Three years
ago, many Finns traveled to Stockholm. It was their only opportunity to see the
band’s 30th anniversary tour. It was a unique chance to see a band that does
not tour Europe very often. This year Rush were back and this time they didn’t
forget about those Finnish fans. “We didn’t know that we had so many fans
here”, says bassist Geddy Lee during the press conference before the show. “On
that show in Sweden, we realized that we needed to come and play here.”

Guitarist
Alex Lifeson
admits that they are having a lot of fun on this tour. “After
Neil’s [drummer Neil Peart] tragedy, we didn’t play for long. But that period
of absence made us realize how fragile life is. We love playing so as long as
we can plan well the tour and keep healthy, we’ll tour”.

The tragedy
Lifeson’s refers to dates back ten years. Within a few months, Neil Peart’s
only daughter and his wife died. He retired for four years. Peart was not
present at the press conference, but Geddy Lee said that “he hasn’t been
happier on a tour”. The drummer wrote a road book about his experiences and
feelings after that tragedy. He has written some more books about being on the
road with a car, a bike or a motorbike. He is planning to drive around Finland
after the tour. “We are not worried about him”, Lee says. “He is a very a safe
driver”.

The press
conference soon transforms into a friendly talk in which the musicians share
their memories and experiences. Both remember the first gig together. “We knew
only six or seven songs, so we played them over and over in front of 40 people.
We made 10 dollars”, tells Alex. “After the show we went to a diner nearby and
had french fries. We planned our future as musicians. It was so exciting”, adds
Geedy. “But of, course, it was very important our first show with Neil. We
opened for Uriah Heep and we had just 26 minutes to play”.

{sidebar id=35}Those 26
minutes are much different than the nearly three hours that a Rush gig lasts
nowadays. There was  a great atmosphere at
the ice hockey hall minutes before the show started. The merchandise stands
were crowded with hundreds of people buying t-shits, posters, pins, Neil
Peart’s books… Cash flow big time. A bit after 8pm, lights out and the intro
video was displayed

And the
trio started. They played loud, but crystal clear, although perhaps the guitar
was a bit too loud and drowned the vocals and the bass at some point. Audience
got excited and stood up. However, most of the people sat down for most of the
concert, the audience was pretty responsive and warm, at least for a typically
cold audience as the Finnish is.

Neil Peart,
Geddy Lee and Alex Lifeson are superb musicians. Even when they used the
support of prerecorded midi samples, their playing is top class, almost
perfect. Their music is complex. Songs travel through many places and create
many textures. It’s a massive sound.

As Lee had
confirmed, the show is pretty different from the previous tour. It started with
a set of songs from the early 
eighties, including Limelight, Digital Man and
Entre Nous. It took some minutes for the band to warm up, but soon the trio
works like a clockwork machine. “There’s not much room for improvising and
jamming on our set”, Lee explains. “It has a precise choreography”. Lifeson
adds that “we usually improvise in the rehearsals or the sound check and if we
hit some nice notes or arragement, we’ll add them to the show”.

Indeed, the stage production is part of the
magic of the Rush show. Lights, sound and video are perfectly synchronized. The
green lasers all over the venue created a great sci-fi atmosphere that fits so
well with the music and the synths parts of the songs. The videos add superb
animations and funny sketches (with Finnish subtitles) like the one with the
South Park kids introducing the hit Tom Sawyer.

But at the beginning of the second set,
something not on the script happened. Alex Lifeson blew up the amps and, Far
Cry
, the single of the latest album Snakes & Arrows, was finished with just
drums and bass. That felt kind of awkward as it took some minutes to fix the
problem.

The second set continued with four more
songs of Snakes & Arrows. That could be a bit too much for the fans waiting
to hear the classic. But this is the best release from Rush in many years.
Songs like Workin’ Them Angels, Armor and Sword or The Way the Wind Blows
proofed that it is possible to sound fresh and relevant after 30 years of career.

“This album was a lot of fun to record”,
tells Geddy Lee. “We felt like we could have continued composing and record for
a double album. It was a pity to stop that momentum”. Snakes & Arrows, as
previous albums, is not based on electronic sounds. “We intentionally decided
to write songs on acoustic guitar and bass”, continues Lee. “Electronics were
not involved. It’s something we used to do many years. We did a full circle
back”.

The three members seem to enjoy the time on
stage. Lifeson is an extraordinary guitarist and Neil Peart gave a clinic of
how to play drums and Geddy Lee, with a t-shirt from the museum that read
"kunnon kansalainen" (decent citizen, jumped and
sang beautifully. He keeps his voice in a very good shape, maybe thanks to the
soup he takes before every concert. “

There’s nothing much plan for the band
after this tour. As the guitarist confirms, they have recorded a couple of
shows in Rotterdam for a dvd released. “It is format that suits us very well and
it gives us the chance to see the show”, he laughs.

The press conference is over and reporters we
hurry to get some photos and autographs. We are a bunch of crazy fans, anyway.