Maybe its memory playing tricks and everything seeming better when you were a kid, but when we think of Arena Rock shows, we think of big, brash spectacles, fireworks and ridiculous stage props.
Perhaps it’s the gigs we go to these days, but even in arenas recently it is has been plug-in-play-the-songs-and-get off, thank goodness, then, that at least one band thinks to itself, let’s give them something to watch.
Rush are a group that works on the principle that if less is more, then just think how much more more could be. So during the course of the three hours (including interval) they are onstage, we get a giant video wall, an incredible light show, a string ensemble, three (count em three!) drum solos and more bangs than the average Guy Fawkes night – oh and some extremely fine prog rock songs while they are at it.
Of course there are reasons for the Rush approach, not least of which is that the three piece are not the most exciting of blokes and rather like Iron Maiden giving themselves Eddie in the early days to give the group a focal point then the extraneous stuff does the same for Geddy, Neil and Alex.
Last time they were in these parts it was for the Time Machine show, a sprawling gig that included “Moving Pictures” being played in full. Since then, the group of put out the magnificent “Clockwork Angels” record and have radically altered the set to keep things fresh.
The first thing RTM notices is Geddy Lee’s distinctive voice sounds in better fettle than a couple of years back, the second is just how good the band sounds. Beginning with “Subdivisions” – which along with “The Analog Kid” remind us all just how good the “Signals” album is, the first half is an hour long romp through 10 songs, with the “Far Cry” worth the admission on its own.
There is a break afterwards (“we have to, we are about 100” says Geddy), before they return, with the aforementioned string ensemble to reel off nine songs from the new album one after the other. Some people balk at new tracks, some people go to gigs looking for a Greatest Hits set – RTM isn’t one of em, and thankfully neither are Rush. Given the extra push of the orchestral arrangements songs like “Caravan,” “Carnies,” which is complete with a stunning light show and “Headlong Flight” sound absolutely incredible.
The strings disappear for set closer “Spirit of Radio” which sends the LG bouncing, before if possible the encore takes things up a notch, “Tom Sawyer” is its singalong best and “2112” is given more of an airing than it was last time, with around half of it played.
There are a couple of moments with this evening dips. Any gig of over three hours would, quite why Neil Peart needs three drum solos who knows? And whisper it quietly but we could do without the “funny” videos which begin each section of the gig. You can see what they are trying to do, but for our money they don’t quite work. “The Watchmaker” one at the start of the second half was just bewildering.
For the most part, though, this was a total and utter triumph. To paraphrase the band themselves: The meek shall inherit the (prog rock) earth.