Rush | Motorpoint Arena | Sheffield | 28 May 2013

Rush roll back the years...

Canadian prog-stalwarts Rush are in the process of wrapping up their latest visit to these shores as part of their "Clockwork Angels" tour. Tuesday evening at Sheffield's Motorpoint Arena provided my first opportunity in many years to catch the band live and I have to confess it was an impressive and extravagant performance. In fact, that Newcastle City Hall performance was so long ago, I can't recall if guitarist Alex Lifeson and singer/bassist Geddy Lee actually did wear kimonos that night or whether my memory is playing tricks but I do recall Neil Peart's impressive mustache. Strange thing memory...

Rush have a rock solid fan base - if you like them, then chances are you REALLY like them, and the faithful (I'd estimate way over 90% were male) were out in force in Sheffield to witness what turned out to be a show of epic proportions. There was no support band, but frankly, no one was really interested in seeing one, especially when the main attraction were ready to lay on a three hour show. With Rush, it is also easy to see where your ticket money goes. The stage set is a steampunk mishmash of giant brains in jars, popcorn machines, surreal musical sculptures and video screens of various shapes and dimensions all topped off with a spectacular light show and plenty of pyrotechnics. Throw in Peart's drum kit - which must travel in its own truck it is so huge - and a string section as well and you no one can complain about not getting value for money.

The show consisted of two halves with show opener "Subdivisions" immediately setting a high standard, so much so in that the performance could have been used as the very definition of prog-rock with its layered keyboards and synths overlaid with Geddy Lee's plaintive vocals. The first half continued in this crowd pleasing vein, as various eighties and early nineties albums were mined for nuggets such as "Big Money", Middletown Dreams", "The Analog Kid" and "Territories". The evening's first drum solo occurred during "Where's My Thing", with a neat video effect framing Peart's efforts well on the big screen before the first half of the show closed with "Far Cry" performed to the accompaniment of another atmospheric video. Throughout the evening, the accompanying videos were an integral feature of the performance and were in turns atmospheric, bizarre, funny or simply unfathomable. But they were always interesting.

Another video, "The Appointment" (which features all three members as "g"nomes) preceded the band taking the stage for the start of the second set of the evening, and this time they were accompanied by a string section located behind Peart's drum riser. "Caravan" saw the return of the flame throwers and fireworks and the performance of most of the tracks from last year's well received "Clockwork Angels" album. Highlights tonight included Lifeson's guitar on "The Anarchist" which at one point led me to believe perhaps he was getting paid by the note, and the catchy "The Wreckers" and "Seven Cities Of Gold". The string section played their part too, adding nice touches of colour to the new material.

Crowd favourites like "Manhattan Project", another Peart drum solo "The Percussor" that led into "Red Sector A", "YYZ" and the "Spirit Of Radio" brought the second set to a close. No surprises during the encore with "Tom Sawyer" and "Overture", "The Temples of Syrinx" and "Grand Finale" from 1976's "2112" album providing a rousing climax to the show.

It may seem that Lifeson, Peart and Lee have been together for ever, but the quality of the "Clockwork Angels" album, and the sheer care and love that they put into their overall performance experience cannot be faulted and does them great credit this long into their career. If ever a band deserved to take their place in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame earlier this year it was Rush.

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