Concert Review: Rush at Red Rocks

A few weeks ago, my friend Jason and I saw our first show at Red RocksRush. Red Rocks is a great place for a show. Perfect weather, soft evening light on pink sandstone monoliths, and a great view out over the plains to the skyline of Denver made for a very pleasant evening. The venue was full without seeming too crowded.

The show itself was a good mix of tracks from their newest album (“Snakes and Arrows”), deep cuts from older albums, and enough “greatest hits” for my taste. Rush has been touring for over 30 years, and most bands that age just play their old standards, worn-out from decades of radio play. It was good to see an older band still making new music- still being relevant. (Rolling Stone gave their latest album 3 stars, with the additional remark: “If you are a Rush fan, add 2 stars. If not, subtract 2 stars.” Allmusic Guide gave it 4 stars out of 5.)

Here’s the set list [album name in brackets]:

Set #1

Limelight [Moving Pictures]

Digital Man [Signals]

Entre Nous [Permanent Waves]

Mission [Hold Your Fire]

Freewill [Permanent Waves] – one of my all-time favorite Rush songs:

You can choose a ready guide in some celestial voice
If you choose not to decide, you still have made a choice
You can choose from phantom fears and kindness that can kill
I will choose a path that’s clear
I will choose freewill

The Main Monkey Business [Snakes and Arrows] – in my mind the there are two kinds of bands in the world- those with the musical talent to pull off a successful instrumental, and those who wish they could.

The Larger Bowl [Snakes and Arrows]

Secret Touch [Vapor Trails]

Circumstances [Hemispheres]

Between the Wheels [Grace under Pressure]

Dreamline [Roll the Bones] – they pulled out the lasers on this one, shooting green beams out into the Rocky Mountains. At one point a helicopter, search lights trained down on the crowd, burst up unexpectedly from behind the stage. It felt like it perfectly in sync with the music, but we still don’t know if it was part of the show or not.


During the intermission we admired the Rush stage. A few years ago they started a trend by putting clothes dryers on the stage. This time they went with giant cabinets of rotisserie chickens. During several of the songs, crew members would come out, open the cabinets, and baste the chickens. Quite entertaining.

Set #2

Far Cry [Snakes and Arrows]

Workin’ Them Angels [Snakes and Arrows] – these first two were my favorite tracks from the new album, and sounded much better live than in the studio.

Armor and Sword [Snakes and Arrows]

The Way the Wind Blows [Snakes and Arrows]

Subdivisions [Signals] – my only complaint about this one was that Alex’s microphone was turned too low. I always liked the contrast between his loud bass boom “subdivisions” and Geddy’s standard shriek.

Natural Science [Permanent Waves]

Witch Hunt [Moving Pictures] – Moving Pictures has got to be one of the greatest rock albums of all time. This isn’t even one of the “A” songs on the album, and it’s still fantastic.

Malignant Narcissism [Snakes and Arrows] – another instrumental. This one transitioned into Neil Peart’s drum solo. First, let me just say that drum solos bore me to tears. This is where I check my watch, maybe sit down for a few minutes, talk to my friends, and mutter “enough already” under my breath. But… You know, there are many people who call Neil Peart the “greatest living rock drummer”- and there’s a reason for this. If I had been sitting I would have fallen out of my seat. There were a number of times where my eyes just popped out of my head: “You can DO that? That’s not possible!” The man’s hands and feet are just a blur, throwing down rhythms far too complex for my amateur ears to follow. Just simply amazing…

Hope [Snakes and Arrows]

Summertime Blues [Feedback] – their one and only cover. If you haven’t heard this one before, they make the old chestnut really rock. Lots of good audience participation.

The Spirit of Radio [Permanent Waves] – my favorite show of the concert.

For the words of the profits were written on the studio wall
Concert hall
And echoes with the sounds of salesmen
The line “Concert Hall” was, of course, sung by 9451 people, only one of whom had a microphone.

The next song was introduced by a South Park cartoon on the giant video screens behind the stage. The gang was dressed as the band, arguing over the lyrics to “Tom Sawyer”.
“Tom Sawyer went down the Mississippi on a boat with a black man. I read it in a book.”
“You dumbass, that was Huckleberry Finn. Now start it again, and this time get the lyrics right.”

And the instant the screens went black, the lights went on and the band played

Tom Sawyer [Moving Pictures]

And for the encore:

One Little Victory [Vapor Trails] – not their best known song, but I loved it ever since the Rush in Rio album, my favorite live album by any band ever.

A Passage to Bangkok [2112]

YYZ [Moving Pictures] – And to continue with my previous thread, you have to be really talented to end your show with an instrumental.

Over three hours of music were over, and it was time to go home. Great show, and I hope to see them again the next time they are in town.

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