It will be a long time before I forget January 22, 2015. I was a couple hours into work, on my second coffee and buzzing along that Thursday morning. I got a desktop notification that I glanced up at and caught the keyword “RUSH,” which made me drop what I was doing and see what was going on. An email with the subject line “Rush Announce R40 Live 40th Anniversary Tour” was the news from a press release. YES! I quickly scanned the list of dates to make sure my city was on the tour. It was. (Thank goodness.)
The important info digested, I went on to scan the details of the release. Then I read the line I had been dreading for years: “[This] will most likely be their last major tour of this magnitude.” My Rush-high came crashing down to a low I hadn’t experienced since Feedback was released. Last major tour? Ouch.
Back to the tour dates. What other dates could I make? The very first night, Tulsa, Oklahoma, was a possibility but I had a conflict. So I set my sights on night two: Lincoln, Nebraska. I’d never been there, but I was going. On night two.
To make the night more memorable, I was going to take my thirteen-year-old son to his first real rock concert. (Point of argument: He’s seen Weird Al twice now, but I’m not sure it really counts because you don’t really need ear protection for Weird Al.) This was a controversial move because we were going to have to leave early in the day, on Mother’s Day, to see this show. We got sign-off on that transgression and faced the next hurdle. He was going to miss a half day of school on Monday, but some things are more important than school sometimes. Seeing Rush’s (potentially) last tour as your first big rock show? That qualifies.
Tickets secured, we waited. We filled the time quizzing each other with Rush tidbits. We made up playlists of what we thought the R40 tour would sound like and we waited some more. The days leading up to Tulsa were torture. We couldn’t wait to hear what was played in Oklahoma and, more than that, we couldn’t wait for Lincoln.
We followed the updates on Friday’s show in Tulsa and got excited about the setlist, which featured a lot of songs seldom heard in concert. More than any recent tour, this was a hardcore fan’s setlist. We were pumped.
The day arrived and we drove the three hours to Lincoln in driving rain and bumper-to-bumper traffic. But we arrived safe and checked into our hotel, a couple blocks from the arena. We dropped our bags in our room and then began to wander the small area surrounding the state university. There were lots of Rush fans walking around in good spirits, sharing a friendly word when another Rush t-shirt was spotted.
Finally, the doors opened and we made our way to our seats (after buying the requisite shirts). The show started a few minutes late, but the crowd in the smallish Pinnacle Bank Arena was ready.
The concert started with an opening video that showcased their career from start to present, before launching into a concert that did the exact opposite, moving from new to old. The setlist was different in a few ways from Friday’s opening Tulsa show. Lincoln’s setlist went like this: The Anarchist, The Wreckers, Headlong Flight (mini solo), Far Cry, Main Monkey Business, How It Is, Animate, Roll the Bones, Between the Wheels, Subdivisions.
Then came the intermission, followed by Tom Sawyer, Camera Eye, The Spirit of Radio, Jacob’s Ladder, Cygnus X-1, Book Two and One with a drum solo, Closer to the Heart, Xanadu, and most of 2112. Alex moved to Geddy’s microphone and did a screeching impersonation of him toward the end. After a short film, they came back for an encore, which featured Lakeside Park, Anthem, What You’re Doing, and a rocking version of Working Man.
Additionally, there was a great light show, some funny video clips, and a stage show that deconstructed, piece by piece, while the music moved back. The instruments matched the retro march and, by the time the trio launched into the finale, Working Man, it almost felt like you were in a high school gym with them, as the backdrop suggested.
It was amazing. I’ve seen a lot of older bands and many of them just play a bit slower than in their prime. Rush is still operating on all engines, and hitting (almost) all the same notes. Pretty impressive for a band in their 41st year. I was especially thrilled to have been able to share this experience as my son’s first concert. “It was really fun,” said my son, with a big, goofy grin on his face. “But I couldn’t believe how loud it was!”
My only complaint is that a good portion of the Lincoln audience spent the whole show in their seats or running out to grab a beer – during some of the best songs. Get on your feet, people! But all in all, it was a great show and one befitting a possible last major tour. If you live close enough to one of the dates, try to see Rush on the R40 tour. You won’t regret it.
By the way, I’ll be in St. Louis on Thursday for Geekway to the West, the same night that the holy triumvirate plays the Gateway city. If anyone has an extra ticket, let me know. I’m definitely a buyer!