Working Man

Posted: October 18, 2021 in Body Count, Fridge Note, Music nobody listens to, Shovels

I’ve never made a secret of my long experience with these three Canuckistanoids. I first saw them when in high school, at the Madison Coliseum, known derogatorily as The Clamshell, obviously:

This was the Permanent Waves tour, and opening was either Rory Erickson or Max Webster — this was still when they had opening acts. And they were still allowed to use lasers! It was overwhelming, and my Permanent Waves t-shirt was worn to pieces. And this was before I even knew much at all of the band or their music. Well, I caught up, pretty damn quickly…

Then I went away to cowtown land-grant college, and I became known as a Punk, because I was into the Cars and Elvis Costello and the Clash. But I met a girl. And I saw that Rush was playing their new tour, Signals, in Madison, so asked The Girl. Not realizing at that point that she had never seen a for-real big time rock show. It was at that same damn clamshell (incidentally, I also saw ZZTop there). /

As ever with Rush, the show was overwhelming. Outside of the opening act, Rush played for maybe 100 or 120 minutes. As opposed to tonight, where Concert Buddy and I sat in comfortable theater seats for 2 1/2 hours, back then we were young and could stand for the entire show. And after the show, we had an 85 minute drive back to campus, and The Girl was kind of quiet. I worried that I had miscalculated, and she was not into the rock show. I was worried. But I felt a bit better when The Girl was wearing the Signals t-shirt I bought for her the next day. Maybe it was OK….

Not long after, these Iron Rockers released Moving Pictures, which changed their careers in so many ways, and changed rock music too, showing how new wave and punk aesthetic could be integrated into complex prog music without losing the edge OR the melodicism. I was on a dorm floor at the time, and one of my neighbors borrowed the album almost as soon as I bought it, and he didn’t give it back until the end of the semester and it was a wreck when he gave it back.

But it was OK. Because when I approached The Girl, and asked her if she still wanted to go to That Damn Clamshell again to see the Moving Pictures Tour, she said OK. Maybe not as enthusiastically as I would have liked. I took it. We went.

And it was next-level over the top; Rush was escalating their skills and their showmanship to an unparalleled level. And I was coming off seeing Genesis on the abacab tour, but this was next level. This band was rapidly becoming one of my favorites, even while in most other music I was going deep into punk, new wave and avant grade.

During the drive back from the Damn Clamshell, we talked and the Girl admitted that after that first show, she had been simply overwhelmed. The onslaught of massed humanity (she was from a farming community and had never seen that number of people in one place) not to mention the onslaught of sound and lights had kind of tripped all her circuit breakers. She dealt with the Moving Pictures tour better, having a better idea of what to expect.

So after all was done and said, The Girl became my wife. She’s normally very smart, I figure those concerts bent her brain. Incidentally she wore that Signals t-shirt until it was threadbare.

Maybe some of you three people who still read this tripe may not know, but then there was a time when Neil Peart’s daughter and his wife died in rapid succession. So what he did was the only thing he could think to do; he withdrew (I relate) and he climbed on his motorcycle and went on what the Aussies would call a walkabout. He did, at least, promise his bandmates to stay in touch. His travels and how he worked through his emotions are written out in the book Ghost Rider. His bandmates were both agreed: if and when he is ever ready to come back, we will be here. but if not they were willing to say it was a good run, and no one could argue it, And after he drove over all of North and South America, he came back, he found a new life, and they did decide to try again.

And holy shit, did they ever, with the amazing album Vapor Trails. The cover is of a fireball, which is appropriate, because the album is fiery and vital, a band who is exulting in still being together and alive as they can be, and it’s no accident that the mascot on the tour was a fire breathing dragon.

We were close enough that when they blew those flame pots, we felt the heat.  And we also felt the heat of a reinvigorated band, who were completely committed to playing this way again.  The seemed unstoppable, they played for three hours.  It was amazing, especially considering that Neil Perat recovered from such terrible personal loss to come back to the group.  It was everything I ever wanted from this band.

Their next tour, the retrospective R30 tour, we took our son to it,, great seats, but this was when they were doing 2 set show, and son got a bit bored.  I don’t think he knew what he was looking at. We also took him to lots of theater and other stuff.  One just hopes some of it kind of germinated.

One of the things i have to respect of the band is that they will not do the same thing over and over.  Their final album, Clockwork Angels, was a full-on science fiction concept album that Peart co-authored and accompanying book, and the stage show was so over the top it was almost silly.  They also, for the first time, included other musicians on stage, a specially formed string ensemble that played in front of the flamepots.  The only thing missing was an 18 inch tall Stonehenge prop.

I learned later that Peart was suffering from increasing difficulties in his physical abilities. And also, that Alex Lifeson had some forms of arthritis looming over him (brothers, my tribe!). But they were able to afford physical therapy, and Neil had a designated guide and PT that rode along with him on motorcycles as they traveled. So fortunate that they had been so financially successful to tour the way they did, with the shows they did (although thanks to Genesis for paying for development of this swivel spotlights!) and who could fucking begrudge them? The killed themselves and built their fanbase from Cleveland to the world.

So we saw this band, the Rush Tribute Project. Because, Neil Peart has tragically passed, and the others have expressed that they have less than zero interest in revisiting the old days, and are aged in their own right and dammit, do they not deserve to rest on their laurels? I believe they do.

But this band is a heart favorite of mine, like Genesis, and I have spent much time seeing a Genesis tribute band called the Musical box, and like with Rush, the music they are playing will never be played by the creators ever again. We find there are people who are completely devoted to this music as we are, and they played it in an amazing hard heart show, for 150 minutes.

No, they weren’t Rush. And nothing will ever, for me, equal the show when Peart came back on the Vapor Trails tour which was completely explosive. A discussion on BookHell was about the Tribute band will never be as good. But brother, that is not the point.Theatrical groups do not bring Shakespeare back from the dead. The point is the creation that we can again see. And I admit that at least 5 times during the show, I was crying in joy. So yea, maybe Rush would have been better, but they aren’t touring and I could never afford tenth row seats if they did.

But sisters and capybaras, this still felt fucking good.

Go ahead, tell me how I fucked up this time.

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