Review: A rush of Rush at 1-800-Ask-Gary Amphitheatre in Tampa 

A review of the Sat., Nov. 3 show.

Rush fans are a loyal bunch. Closely sticking by and supporting the world's best-known Canadian power trio is no easy feat. Through decades, the fiercely dedicated throng of followers has stood proudly by the heavy prog-rockers through bad haircuts, fashion faux pas and the controversial gradual inclusion of keyboards in the music. Admittedly, being a Rush fan has gained a new level of hipness and notoriety these days thanks to a bevy of pop culture references but, for those who have stood their ground and hung with the favorite sons of the great white north through the years, I salute you. And I salute you for the impressive numbers in which you turn out to see Rush in concert; tour after tour, the fans continually jam arenas and stadiums to the brim worldwide. Saturday night at the 1-800-Ask-Gary Amphitheater was no exception. Locals turned out in droves to dig the inimitable sounds of Rush and it didn't sound like anyone in attendance was disappointed.

Rush took the stage right a little before 8 p.m. on a refreshingly cool Florida night, after a short comedic film shown on screens on either side of the mammoth stage (starring all three band members) entertained the sellout crowd. Opening with their signature anthem of alienation, 1982's "Subdivisions" got things off to a rousing start. Dressed comfortably and casually, lead singer and bassist Geddy Lee (who possesses one of the most unique and unmistakable voices in rock n' roll) made it look so easy as he belted out oodles of lyrics while switching from keyboards to his expert bass playing. Guitarist Alex Lifeson playfully mugged and cracked smiles at fans in the front rows while bending out solo after killer solo on his array of guitars he sports. And then there's the master...the wizard behind the behemoth drum kit, Neil Peart. Often regarded as the most clinical and precisely astounding drummer of any genre, Peart never disappoints. Watching Peart is as entertaining as any other part of a typical marathon Rush performance. Stone-faced and showing little to no emotion, Peart lets his handiwork and his sticks do the talking for him. It's not uncommon to see plenty of jaws agape in the crowd when Peart masterfully beats on his plethora of drums.

And the true affirmation of the level of loyalty of a Rush crowd? Their fascination, approval and warm reception for the band's newer material. While most audiences might scoff at less recognizable songs at a rock show, a Rush audience skewers that theory and greets the band's decision to feature current material with a rousing response. While the first of the two sets the band performed was more of a hodge-podge of material from the catalog, set two mostly consisted of material from the band's most current offering, the dynamic Clockwork Angels. A stupendous string section assisted in fleshing out the new material, which sounded even more powerful in a live setting than on record. The crowd not only cheered wildly at the new stuff, most of them even sang along with each number word-for-word.

Rush is well aware of their fans' loyalty and they gladly reciprocate the love by faithfully treating them to long shows that are clever mixes of hits, album cuts, humor and awe. A decade-long, passionate campaign to get Rush elected into the Rock n' Roll Hall of Fame by their faithful fans looks like it might be paying off; the band is eligible for induction this year ... an honor they most certainly deserve. Yeah, being a Rush fan has become pretty cool these days. Looking around at 10,000 people losing their minds while singing along to the band's signature song "Tom Sawyer" all of a sudden doesn't seem as geeky as it sounds while you're deep in the zone and grooving along to it. Rush has been a consistent machine for nearly 40 years and they show no signs of slowing down. And, on that note, the owl on the cover of my Fly By Night record is staring a hole through me and insisting that I slap the record on my turntable for the umpteenth time....

Set One
Subdivisions
The Big Money
Force Ten
Grand Designs
The Body Electric
Territories
The Analog Kid
Bravado
Where's My Thing? (with Drum Solo)
Far Cry

Set Two, with string section
Caravan
Clockwork Angels
The Anarchist
Carnies
The Wreckers
Headlong Flight (with Drum Solo)
Halo Effect (preceded by guitar solo)
Seven Cities of Gold
The Garden
Manhattan Project
Drum Solo
Red Sector A
YYZ
The Spirit of Radio

Encore:
Tom Sawyer
2112 Part I: Overture
2112 Part II: The Temples of Syrinx
2112 Part VII: Grand Finale

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