In Music Reviews

Rush played the Marcus Amphitheater last night. (PHOTO: David Bernacchi)

Rush rocks like "Clockwork" at Summerfest

With the possible exception of the Grateful Dead, Rush has got to be the biggest "cult" band on the planet.

A quick scan of the 20,000 Rush fans in attendance on Thursday night at the Marcus Amphitheater – a crowd that spanned pre-teens to seniors – shows that "cult" clearly continues to grow – aided by the fact that the band produces compelling new music like their latest release "Clockwork Angels," which was featured prominently on Thursday night.

But that was the second part of "An Evening with Rush" – three hours of intricate, thundering, intellectually challenging hard rock. No opening act required – or desired – by anyone in the house.

Despite the fact they've been at it for 40 years and have sold more than 40 million records worldwide, Rush's (Geddy Lee, Alex Lifeson, and Neil Peart) stunningly precise and vigorous performance last night at Summerfest demonstrated that Canada's most popular rock trio has lost little over the decades.

To a certain extent, you really do need to be part of the Rush "cult" to fully appreciate a Rush show in 2013. It's definitely not a "greatest hits" type of performance. The first set focused heavily on their mid to late '80s output – songs like "Analog Kid," "Big Money" and "Force Ten" which got little (if any) radio support – but were greeted with enthusiastic roars from the crowd.

Peart is one of rock's most revered drummers and his solos are traditionally a highlight of any Rush concert. But instead of giving the crowd the requisite 15-minute drum solo – on Thursday – he offered a number of shorter solo breaks – during "Where's My Thing," "Headlong Flight," and even a third called "The Percussor." A nice change-up and well received.

While many Rush songs address serious social issues – the band clearly has a blast playing live and brings a little levity to the proceedings via a series of humorous video vignettes featuring themselves as a variety of wacky characters. This time, a trio of impetuous gnomes took center stage to skewer a hapless tax collector in steampunk themed clips with heavy nods to the Wizard of Oz as well as the Three Stooges.

For the second set, the band brought the "Clockwork Angels String Ensemble" to the stage to beautifully flesh out a hefty dose of selections from the new record like "Caravan," "Carnies," and the intricate title track.

For many acts with a history as long as Rush, "new" songs tend to send throngs of fans to beer stands or bathroom breaks – but the tracks from Clockwork Angels are excellent additions to the Rush canon and proved to be even stronger live. The fact that fans embrace and enjoy the new Rush music as much as the band enjoys playing it, is key to the success and growth of the "cult" of Rush.

Of course, the final portion of the show brought a parade of crowd-pleasing "hits" including "YYZ" (named for the Airport ID code in Toronto), "The Spirit of the Radio" and a fully satisfying encore of "Tom Sawyer" as well as a good portion of the "2112 Suite."

As a drained yet fully satiated crowd headed for the exits, it was clear that the "cult" had absolutely brought in quite a few new recruits.


Set 1:

The Big Money
Force Ten
Grand Designs
The Body Electric
The Analog Kid
Where's My Thing? (drum solo)
Far Cry

Set 2: (with Clockwork Angels String Ensemble)

Clockwork Angels
The Anarchist
The Wreckers
Headlong Flight (drum solo)
Halo Effect (guitar solo intro)
Seven Cities of Gold
The Garden
Manhattan Project
Drum Solo (The Percussor)
Red Sector A
The Spirit of Radio


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


Angelmom | July 5, 2013 at 12:47 p.m. (report)

My first Rush show ever. I have to say, it was amazing! The energy, the quality of the music, and Getty sounds just like he does on the records. We happened to be sitting next to the music critic and he is absolutely correct in his description of the evening. I'm glad I went!

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