I enjoy seeing rock shows, but I’d hardly call myself a frequent concert-goer. I kinda wonder if that might change a bit as I get older, especially after Martha and I become empty-nesters. I’m not particularly into the whole geezer band circuit (for instance, I have no interest in watching the husks of REO Speedwagon, Foreigner, Journey, Styx, and the like perform), but I enjoyed Dylan immensely two years ago, and I’m looking forward to seeing McCartney next year. I suspect there are a decent number of current performers that would be good to catch should they come to our area; guess we’ll see.
The acts I’ve seen more than once are pretty few and far between, and it feels a little incongruous with my overall musical tastes to say that the one I’ve seen most often is Rush. Make no mistake—I loved both “The Spirit of Radio” and “Tom Sawyer” back in high school, and I kept track of their radio hits throughout the 80s. Nonetheless, I wouldn’t rank them among my favorite bands of all time. So how did I come to see them four times?
10/21/84: Grace Under Pressure tour. According to setlist.fm (I’m linking to their lists for all four concerts), this is the final time Rush performed in Lexington (they had also been at Rupp Arena exactly two weeks after this weekend’s featured 82 show). I went with Sarah, a first-year student at Transy I’d met through Wind Ensemble, and her high school boyfriend, who was at UK (Sarah is the friend I mentioned a few months ago who had a son on my 28th birthday). It’s one of the very few Sunday evening concerts I’ve attended. Yes, that show occurred 34 years ago today; it also happened to be the day my maternal grandmother turned 75.
3/29/86: Power Windows tour. This was in Cincinnati, at what’s now known as US Bank Arena—back then it was called Riverfront Coliseum. I saw this one with Warren. Our families both lived in the area; it was easy for me to dart home for the show (it was on a Saturday). Like in Lexington, I wasn’t on the floor, but in the first level of seats left of the stage. Favorite memory is seeing Warren getting stoked when he recognized 2112 firing up at the beginning of the encore.
7/2/13: Clockwork Angels tour. Brennen, the boy who grew up next door, listened to a lot of classic rock in his teen years, and Rush is one of the bands he really liked. I’ve noted before that my son, who’s four years younger, looked up to Brennen, so it’s no surprise Ben adopted some of his musical tastes (though I’ll take a little credit on Rush—it could have started when I pointed out the “All the world’s a stage” inscription on a statue of Shakespeare we encountered near the Philadelphia Museum of Art on a vacation back in 2010). Brennen, then 16, saw that Geddy, Alex, and Neil were going to play an outdoor show in early July 2013 at Riverbend, just to the east of Cincy. Trevor, Brennen’s dad, and I went in on four lawn tickets. We decided to surprise Ben. When the day of the show arrived, fathers and sons loaded into my car. Obviously, Ben was curious about the destination—the big reveal came when I stuck a CD in the slot and “Subdivisions” started playing.
It was an excellent evening. I was somewhat surprised to enjoy Rush’s recent output as much as I did. I bought Ben a T-shirt, and the weather was awesome for being on the lawn. On the car ride home, I heard on the radio that, just down the river, Homer Bailey had pitched his second no-hitter for the Reds, this one against the defending World Champion San Francisco Giants.
6/8/15: R-40 tour. After the Riverbend show, Brennen kept on the lookout for news of Rush’s next time on the road. (In the meantime, Ben received the poster at the top of this post and a replica Hemispheres tour T-shirt as Christmas/birthday gifts from our neighbors.) The closest their 40th anniversary (and as it turns out, final) tour came was Nationwide Arena in Columbus. Now 18, Brennen initially made plans to drive up with Ben and a couple other friends and spend the night with a cousin who lived nearby. We were a little reluctant about that plan, so I had no problem jumping into the mix when one of the friends bailed. Eventually, it morphed into another father-and-son event. We had a fab dinner at a Buca di Beppo near the arena. Our seats were nice: in the back, just a few rows up from the floor. This time, they played songs from the entirety of their career, though in reverse chronological order— they ended with “Working Man.” It was a long night (didn’t get back home until around 2am), but well worth it. Seeing Rush twice with Ben will always be a treasured memory.
“New World Man” got played only at the two 80s concerts I saw. While it doesn’t quite rank up there for me with the best of Permanent Waves or Moving Pictures, or even “Subdivisions,” it’s probably around the bottom of my personal Rush top 10. It sure doesn’t seem like it should be their sole AT40 hit, though. It rocketed up to #21 in its fourth week on the show (it’s #27 on this countdown). There were a couple of weeks in early November 82 when I expected to see it pop up in the top 20 upon opening my Sunday Lexington paper; I was sorely disappointed.
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