MGM Grand Garden Arena, Nov. 23

At a time when it’s in vogue for veteran rockers to revisit past glories and play their most popular albums in their entirety, Rush continues to cut against the grain. Oh sure, the Canadian trio has done the flashback bit before, playing all of 1981’s Moving Pictures on its last tour. But this time around, Rush delivered generous portions of both old and new material.

With the show broken into two sets plus an encore, Rush delved deeply into its back catalog in the first half, with singer Geddy Lee playing both bass and synthesizer on rarities “Grand Designs” and “Territories” from 1985’s Power Windows. Alex Lifeson demonstrated why CBC Radio recently named him Canada’s greatest guitarist ever with a fiery solo on “The Analog Kid,” while drummer extraordinaire Neil Peart was as precise as ever, performing the first of two solos on his rotating kit during the instrumental “Where’s My Thing?”

Following an intermission, Rush played nine songs off its newest album, Clockwork Angels, something no other band could pull off nearly 40 years into its career—even if it had the balls to attempt it in the first place. An eight-piece string section joined the band for the second set, enhancing hard-rocking tunes such as “Caravan,” “Headlong Flight” and “Seven Cities of Gold,” and providing added texture to the softer “Halo Effect” and “The Garden.” Vibrant steampunk-themed backdrops provided visual enhancement to the songs, while flames and pyrotechnics completed the arena-rock experience.

Peart’s masterful second solo would have fit in at Electric Daisy Carnival with the drums emitting harmonious beeps and blips. The band then shifted into classic-rock overdrive, concluding the set with longtime hits “YYZ” and “The Spirit of Radio” before returning for an encore of “Tom Sawyer” and the beginning and closing portions of the epic “2112.”

Performing before a nearly packed arena, which included older fans wearing vintage tour T-shirts, teens getting their first glimpse of the band and even entire families attending together, Rush continues to be, in the words of Lee, the world’s biggest cult band. And even approaching the trio’s fourth decade together, that cult appears to still be gaining followers—and deservedly so. ★★★★★

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Concert Review


There’s been a growing trend in recent years of bands eschewing the traditional hit-packed concert format in favor of playing an album in its entirety. It’s a marketing strategy that’s as brilliant (“Hey fans, come hear songs you haven’t heard live in decades—if ever!”) as it is dangerous (“Oh, shit, do we know what we’re doing here?”) That danger quotient is multiplied when the set list features not one, but two albums.