Rush – Skyreach Place, Edmonton Alberta (9.10.02)


This was a pretty momentous occasion for us here in Edmonton, as Rush

hadn’t been here since 1989 (on the Presto tour), but unfortunately it was

also an expensive one, as tickets for the floor were $85-$100

each. Thankfully, it proved to be worth every penny.

Jodes and myself were fourth-row center, with perfect line of sight. I’ve

been lucking out on concert seats lately, and this was no exception. I’m

sure I’ll end up being deaf at 35 as a result, but I’m willing to run that


Unfortunately, the high ticket prices resulted in a fairly small crowd —

3000 or so paid, with about 7000 in attendance total. Being Canadian and

old, it took a while for the crowd to really get into the spirit of things,

but once they did, you could tell.

The setlist was pretty much the same one as the other arena shows on this

tour — they started off with “Tom Sawyer”, which I thought was an odd

choice for an opener, but it served to get the crowd into the spirit

quickly. A couple more of the older songs — Distant Early Warning and New

World Man — had the bud-smoking baby-boomers around me going nuts. A

pleasant surprise was “Roll The Bones”, complete with pre-recorded rap

bridge, which I didn’t know they were playing. In fact, I kind of thought

that they’d ignore the entire early-90s period and only play old stuff and

the new album, but some nicely eclectic choices made it into the setlist,

even if not that many people bought the albums in question.

“Earthshine” was one of the obligatory tracks off the new album, and the

live version didn’t sell me on “Vapor Trails” any more than the album

version did. I just can’t get into the stuff on this album. It has the

hard-rocking guitar riffs, but the heart just doesn’t seem to be in

it. They followed with “YYZ”, the first of many instrumental breaks, and

the crowd ate it up. Remember that eclectic setlist I was talking

about? Next came “The Pass” and “Bravado” from the “Presto” album, which

kind of blew my mind because although I love that album, “Bravado” isn’t

exactly a crowd favorite. “The Pass” (written in 1989, about a suicidal

teenager) actually has a lot more resonance these days in the

post-Columbine world. I kind of which they had thrown “SuperConductor” or

“Show Don’t Tell” from that album in there, too, but that’s quibbling given

the volume of what they DID play.

After hitting “The Big Money” (complete with Matrix graphics on the big

screen), it was back to the surprising choices, as they pulled out “Between

Sun and Moon” from “Counterparts”, an album that NO ONE bought. I don’t

mind that album, so great. Unfortunately we weren’t part of the tour that

got “Freewill”, so instead we got more off the new album before they

finished off the first half with “Natural Science”, a long and epic rocker

from the “Permanent Waves” album. The first half of the show alone clocked

in at 1:10, which is more than some of these Blink-182 wannabe bands play

for an entire concert these days.

Back from the intermission, we got a CGI dragon video on the big screen,

complete with HUGE pyro to compliment the scenes of it spitting fire, which

introduced “One Little Victory”, the first single from their new

album. I’m not a big fan of it, but it was a hard rocker to get the crowd

back into things. Well, those not drunk and/or stoned, which one guy

appeared to be in spades (on both counts) in front of me. A couple more of

the new tracks were sandwiched around “Driven” from the “Test for Echo”

album, and this was pretty much the only low point of the concert, as all

the newer stuff took the crowd out of it for a few minutes.

However, everyone got back into the groove BIGTIME with “Dreamline” (the

first single from “Roll The Bones”), not just because of the song, but the

awesome laser light effects that lit up the arena. That shit never gets

old. “Red Sector A” led into another instrumental break (“Leave That Thing

Alone”, one of my favorites in fact), and then into the highlight of the

whole concert: The drum solo. Usually an acknowledged piss break for rock

shows, Neil Peart is a different matter entirely, as he managed to rock the

arena using only (apparently) sixteen arms and a drum kit. The solo got a

standing ovation and had the whole place roaring. It’s really great to see

Neil back into his art after the shit he’s been through in recent years.

Just to cool things down a bit (and probably give Neil a chance to replace

his bionic arms) Geddy and Alex did the acoustic “Resist” to a nice

response, and then it was the big bang to finish the set, as they blew into

“2112” and the entire place erupted. Never much of a crowd

interaction-band at the best of times, Geddy was getting everyone into

yelling at the appropriate time and everything. Next, the opening riff for

“Limelight” had everyone screaming again and the place was rocking by the

end. “La Villa Strangiato”, another instrumental, gave Alex a chance to do

his bizarre rant (this one about cowboys and beans and the Godfather

“Fredo…you know, that guy from Lord of the Rings”) , before they finished

off the second set with “The Spirit of Radio”, which was enough to have the

place eating out of Geddy’s hand.

Finally, for the encore, it was a medley of REALLY old stuff, as they broke

out a 15-minute melange of “By-Tor and the Snow Dog”, “Cygnus X-1” and

“Working Man”. The first song pretty much provided the best video screen

moment of the night, as cartoon robot version of Geddy and Alex had a

heated dance-off before a robot Neil squashed both of them. The show

finished off at almost exactly THREE HOURS total, although it felt more

like 90 minutes and they probably could have played longer.

My only disappointments (and this is VERY minor stuff) are that they

ignored “Hold Your Fire”, their best album of the 80s, in my opinion, and

put too much of the more recent stuff in there. Other than that, this was

probably the second-best concert I’ve been to, after AC/DC last year, and

was worth every cent of the ridiculous ticket price. As always, they were

incredibly tight, with I think MAYBE one missed note from Alex and a missed

line from Geddy, but other than that you won’t find a band more sonicly

perfect and faithful to the album than Rush. Some like that, some don’t.