Monday, October 4, 2010

Concert review: RUSH at Ask-Gary Amphitheatre in Tampa (with photos)

Posted By on Mon, Oct 4, 2010 at 9:31 AM

Having been a follower of progressive rock trio Rush for more than three decades, I’ve learned one concrete fact: expect the unexpected. This fact gained a bit more credibility Friday night when Rush brought their "Time Machine Tour" tour -- featuring skits, short comedy videos, a dazzling light show and pyrotechnics -- to Tampa's Ask-Gary Amphitheatre. They even managed to squeeze in a little music, too. [

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Geddy Lee pictured above. All images by Jeff O'Kelley; see the rest along with the review after the jump

If not for the Gefilter...

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The evening began with a humorous video montage titled, The "Real" History of Rush, Vol. 2, that starred bassist/singer Geddy Lee as toupee-wearing cook, drummer Neil Peart as a cop with an Irish accent and guitarist Alex Lifeson as an overweight restaurant patron. It told the story of Rush’s beginning as a tuba/accordion/drum trio named “RASH,” depicted by three teen musicians who bore a close resemblance to the real band. The video took place in a sausage house restaurant and featured the fictional “RASH” playing a polka version of “The Spirit of Radio.” Alex’s character, looking much like Mike Myer’s “Fat Bastard” character, was convinced to demonstrate his scientific-music invention, the “Gefilter”, in an effort to make the band sound better. With this machine he could transport the band through time and alter their sound. Switching on the device initiated the transformation of “RASH” into Rush and brought the first appearance of the real band onstage.

No more tubas

As guitarist Alex Lifeson launched into the opening riff of “The Spirit of Radio”, black sheets covering the equipment and drums were removed, revealing exacted what most of the sold-out amphitheatre audience expected; the unexpected. Behind Alex were three, large contraptions made of wood and brass, covered in knobs, dials and lights. They looked more like a cross between an antique radio and a washing machine. To the right of Neil, directly behind Geddy, was another contraption of similar construction which also included several clocks, brass horns, rotating pieces and lights that indicated “Real Time”, “Half Time”, “Bass Time” and “Sausage Time”.  At one point during the show, someone dressed like Geddy Lee’s character from the video came out, pushing a shopping cart full of rubber chickens, and proceeded to feed them to the machine. As with past tours, Rush doesn’t fill the stage with amplifiers and other boring stuff.

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During the first set, Rush mixed in older tunes like “Free Will”, “Time Stand Still” and “Subdivisions” with some newer songs like “Workin’ Them Angels” from 2007’s Snakes & Arrows and “BU2B” from their forthcoming release Clockwork Angels (scheduled for release in spring 2011). Vocalist Geddy Lee announced a short break with “Because we are about 100 years old, you know.”

Moving Pitchers

The second set began with another short video, this time depicting the reinvented Rush filming a music video. During the skit, three buxom Barvarian girls carrying large pitchers of beer kept walking through the set. When the video director asked what they were doing, Lifeson’s character replied “Moving pitchers.”

As promised, Rush then performed the Moving Pictures album in its entirety. “Tom Sawyer”, “YYZ” and “Vital Signs” were as solid and powerful as they were when I saw Rush in 1981. Rush is one of those bands who seem to defy aging and always sound great. The second set also included the first single from the upcoming Clockwork Angels, a hard-rocking track called “Caravan”. It was a bit heavier then much of the bands previous stuff, but it fit right in with the rest. An epic Neil Peart drum solo and the Overture section of “2112” reinforced the band’s place as one of the best rock bands in history.

My, what pretty lights

Rush has always gone all out when it comes to stage shows, and this tour is no exception. In addition to all the quirky props, the stage also featured a large video screen and enough lights to operating both JFK and LaGuardia airports during a snowstorm. The flying light truss resembled a cross between a UFO and a carnival ride, with moving arms that enabled a nearly endless choice of lighting design. As if that were not enough, large columns of fire reached nearly to the lighting rigs during several tunes. My favorite effect of the evening was the use of low-altitude fireworks, launched from behind Peart’s massive drum set. They offered an unexpected and amazing visual.

Slapping da bass

After an encore featuring “La Villa Strangiato” and “Working Man”, Rush exited the stage as the video screen displayed the message “Meanwhile, somewhere backstage”. Yet another video short followed featuring actors Paul Rudd and Jason Segel reviving their characters from 2009’s I Love You, Man. Rudd and Segel are caught in the band’s dressing room with faked backstage passes and proceed to eat the bands food, beg Geddy Lee to autograph Rudd’s 9-string bass and even question the pronunciation of Neil Peart’s last name. It was a very funny end to a fun evening.

My take

I’ve seen Rush numerous times over their career and they’ve never failed to offer a great show. They’re one of those bands who understand that audiences expect more than just a no-frills, regurgitation of studio work. A Rush concert is more like a theatrical event then a concert, which makes ever-rising ticket prices somewhat more acceptable. Last night’s show will rank as one of my favorite concerts of the year and I look forward to their next visit to the Tampa area.

Rush wraps up the U.S. portion of the Time Machine tour in West Palm Beach, Florida on Oct. 2nd.

For a complete setlist from this show, check out Jeff's All Access Blog.

(Gallery images by Jeff O'Kelley)

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