Four years ago, I sat in the packed Palace of Auburn Hills, waiting for its three kings to arrive. After years of waiting, I finally had the chance to see the philosophers of rock, the greatest band in the world, the almighty Rush.
My dad practically raised me with the trio blaring from the stereo. I’m sure I heard the wicked bass line vibrations and wailing vocals of Geddy Lee from inside the womb. My dad listened to them for decades, attending countless concerts. There was no way he was going to let me live without them.
Looking around at the full house of the Palace, I could see thousands of diehard fans like my father but also a heavy sprinkling of people from a younger, newer generation like myself, all waiting for the best three hours music could offer. There were nearly no women, though. Lady Rush fans are about as hard to come by as a Rock and Roll Hall of Fame nomination is to the band.
Hall of Fame nominations, however, didn’t matter, (although they did get one) because as soon as the colored lights blazed on with the deep throbbing of “Subdivision’s” synthesizer chords, I immediately knew why the Canadian trio had 24 gold, 14 platinum and three multi-platinum records. I was reminded why they won nine separate Junos, received six Grammy nominations and why each musician was considered the best in his field and a pioneer in their respective instruments.
As soon as Alex Lifeson joined Geddy on the guitar and Neil Peart hopped in on drums, the group suddenly became one. I realized how godly this band had become over the years. They began as working men, finding their way through a hailstorm of negativity, critical reviews and contracts. They were on different strings, separate hemispheres than most of the musical world, spinning fifteen minute epics and intricate progressive rock anthems based on Greek myths, Ayn Rand and Lord of the Rings.
Through time, however, they found the spirit of radio, their massive popularity and airtime, and suddenly they were basking in the limelight, the universal dream. Permanent Waves, Moving Pictures, Signals … album after album was met with massive appeal. “Tom Sawyer,” “YYZ,” “Roll the Bones” … each single became a rock station staple. They went from blues riffs to prog rock randomness to synthesizer sound to guitar groove to amp-aching alternative. They played about the Cold War, AIDS and the follies and beauty of the world. Thirty-seven years, 19 albums and 165 songs later, I was watching that history unfold in one magical night.
Despite the time that passed, I doubted little changed. There were still the whack job humor and South Park references. There was still the crazy 10/8 time signatures. Peart was still pounding through three five-minute drum solos, his 360 degree kit spinning around just so he could hit every chime, cymbal and timpani. Lifeson was still making his instrument scream and sing during each song’s masterful guitar solo. And Lee was still hitting every high note while slapping through each intricate bassline, all the while stepping on a dizzying array of synth pedals.
So the guitar chords wailed and the bass hummed; the snares shattered ears while a string ensemble dipped in rhythm, as four massive jets of fire burst up behind the musicians. The heat surged through the crowd in tandem with its shouts and cheers, and I realized that although these kings would soon be stepping down from their thrones, just to witness them perform was the perfect farewell to them.
Beau’s Top Five Rush Songs
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