Rush: The Time Machine Tour

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Perhaps continuing the Canadian theme, I used to liken Rush to hockey fans. That is, there are only 15,000 hockey fans in every city, but they go to every game. Similarly, there are only 15,000 Rush fans in every city, but they go to every tour.

I had to rethink that on Saturday night at their show at Virginia’s Jiffy Lube Live (a parody of venue naming rights). Rush seems to be having a moment now, thanks to Colbert, “I Love You, Man,” and their first ever feature in Rolling Stone (f’ing Jann Wenner). Thus, the crowd seemed a bit more robust even than usual. We arrived before the gates opened to find a huge crowd swelling 100 feet back in all directions. And once inside, there wasn’t a seat to be had in the pavilion. A few thousand more took up on the lawn.

Despite this being my 12th show, you know exactly what you’re going to get at a Rush show. And I mean that literally. You get nearly three hours of music with no opener, but you also get a very well-rehearsed show that’s nearly a carbon copy of the night before and the night before that. They’re a famously left-brained band that would rather deliver a good show every night than take chances and produce a great show one night and a mediocre show the next, a la The Dead.

A few years back, however, that trend seemed to pass not just from show to show, but from tour to tour. Which is to say, with fans clamoring for deeper and deeper cuts, they delivered a similar set list in each tour. All that changed three years ago with the Snakes and Arrows Tour, when they dusted off several chestnuts, some of them never played live. They continued that trend with this tour, assembling the first set from an almost bizarre collection of album cuts like “Marathon,” “Presto,” and “Time Stand Still,” many of which hadn’t been played since their debut tour, or at least for decades.

The opening of the second set saw the centerpiece of the show–the now 30-year-old Moving Pictures album, played in its entirety. Five of its seven songs had actually been in regular rotation on recent tours (though not all at once), but it was the other two, the disc-closing “Vital Signs” and the 11-minute “The Camera Eye” that got people most excited. Fans have been clamoring for “Camera Eye,” Rush’s last song of that length on any album, really since the advent of the Internet and fan message boards. It was worth the wait–a soaring rock opus with keys and guitars trading off.

From there, it was onto more familiar territory–a reimagined, but no less spectacular drum solo from Peart, “Closer to the Heart,” the “2112” overture and an encore featuring the long instrumental epic “La Villa Strangiato” and “Working Man.”

They also debuted two very heavy songs from their upcoming disc, which means a longer tour next summer. If only they wouldn’t play Live Nation venues…

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