Rush At The Bell Center In Montreal June 21, 2015
Words by Tim Lewis.
It was the longest day of the year. It was the summer solstice. It was Father’s Day. It was RUSH in Montreal.
I woke up around 9am and met mom, dad, and Ken for lunch at 12:30. We ate and chatted for an hour then mom and dad headed off. Ken and I took the other car, and after a slight detour, I drove north. The drive up went smooth, but as we approached the border, there was a huge line of cars waiting to cross. We arrived around 3, and made it through just before 4:30. The rest of the trip into Montreal was uneventful and we quickly found parking downtown. I knew of a potential get together with Elephants of Scotland at Brutopia, but must have arrived too late. We grabbed a quick bite then headed to Centre Bell for the show.
Our floor seats towards the back, on the right side facing the stage, were fine, and we patiently waited for showtime. About 7:45 the lights went down and an animated film of the band began to play. It started with them when they were young and showed then aging and many of their logos and symbols and the way their facial hair changed over the years. There was one sign that said Montreal bring back the Expos, which got a nice cheer. As the video wound down, the screen rose and Rush charged into The Anarchist. The band was perfectly on, as always, and rocking hard. They continued on with two more from Clockwork Angels, including the title song and Headlong Flight, which had a quick and bombastic Neil Peart drum solo. After those three they went back in time for Far Cry, which had some cool fireworks going off, and jammed out The Main Monkey Business. From there, they went back in time for a killer version of One Little Victory, which Geddy said was very important to them, and featured a video of the dragon, which breathed pillars of real fire onto the back of the stage. From there, they went back in time. As the show progressed the stage slowly and continuously changed. A couple of workmen moved items in and out, making the stage look like it did on the tour for whichever album they were playing. The effect in the moment was subtle, but the effect from the beginning of the show to the end was quite tremendous. Animate followed and rocked hard. The crowd sang along with the chorus as the words flashed on the background screen. They went back in time for Roll The Bones, which had a fun video for the rap part. Several people appeared in it but the ones with the biggest cheers were Peter Dinklage and the Trailer Park Boys. Again, they went back in time. As Geddy announced Distant Early Warning, the place erupted with the loudest cheer of the night. The lights had changed from the robotic lights from the beginning part of the show to the round circle of lights that lowered and changed angles, like they did when the song was new. The old video played with the boy riding the missile. They went back one more time for a killer Subdivisions and wrapped up the 75 minute set just about 9.
Ken and I just hung out at our seats and waited and around 9:20 the lights wend down and a movie started playing on the screen. No Country For Old Hens seemed to be a bunch of outtakes from all the videos they’ve used during their shows over the years. As it wrapped up, the screen rose and Rush lit int Tom Sawyer. The place went nuts and everyone was having a great time. They followed with Red Barchetta and Alex Lifeson’s guitar took us on a high speed ride through wandering roads. From there, they went back in time. Wide lasers filled the room as they played a killer version of Spirit Of Radio. They followed with a version of Jacob’s Ladder that was just dropped from the sky. They stepped back in time again, and let the songs run long and deep as they pulled out the prelude to Cygnus X-1 Book II and let it go into most of Cygnus X-1. It was a long and joyfully adventurous ride through the essence of Rush. Neil had another bombastic drum solo and the audience was through the roof. Everyone pulled out their best singing voices for Closer To The Heart, then the band launched another epic with a beautifully long version of Xanadu. From there, they stepped back in time. Shimmering lasers filled the room as they worked their way through a chunk of 2112. They did the full Overture and Priests then went into the “Another toy will help destroy the elder race of man” part, then jammed it into the Grand Finale. Wow, that was up there with the best sets of music I’ve ever seen a band play.
The band left the stage and the screen dropped down. They went back in time, from 2112, with a video of Eugene Levy introducing this new band who were really something. These kids had even opened for Kiss. Sure, they are just a trio, and that does not a rock band make, but maybe they will add some horns in the future. That’s not exactly what he said, but pretty close. The screen raised and Rush drove into Lakeside Park with red curtain as a background and white lights illuminating the band. They dropped it into Anthem and the crowd rocked right along. Then, they went back in time. The red curtain parted to show the background of a high school gymnasium and they closed the night with What You’re Doing and Working Man. The screen came down the final time and a video showed the band heading back to the dressing room, only to be denied entry by the characters from all of their album covers.
As we headed our of the Bell Center, just about 11pm, there was a long bunched up group of people looking towards the exits but not moving at all, We found an exit near the metro that worked nicely and made it back to the car, as a light rain fell. There is a great road that goes out of downtown that will take you along the river and put you on the Champlain. Unfortunately, there was construction, and three lanes had to merge into one. It took forever to get through, but once on the highway, I thought I was all set. As we approached the bridge traffic was stopped. The Champlain was having work done and they merged three lanes of traffic into one and it took forever to get through. About 90 minutes after leaving downtown, we were finally on the other side of the bridge and beginning the long ride home. There was a wait at the US border, maybe 10 cars or so, but it went smoothly. I drove to Shelburne and dropped Ken at home. I drove back to Burlington and got in just about 3:30. Wired from the road, I hung out a bit and saw the world begin to light up at 4:15am. What a long and lovely day.
I had a great time seeing music last night. Friday’s are always hard. I never get enough sleep Thursday night, so always want to take it easy. Of course, when I have a song running through my head all day, sometimes I have to force myself.
I got out of work at 7, went home and ate a quick dinner then headed down to Signal Kitchen. I got in and settled and almost immediately Maryse Smith began to play. She was joined by Brennan Gregory Mangan, and I couldn’t tell what instrument he was playing on the first song, but he played drums on all the others. Maryse played a bunch of new songs on a green electric guitar, and it was cool to hear her songs a bit more orchestrated, since I’m used to hearing her play solo on acoustic. They opened with The Way It Is, then played a bunch of lovely songs I did not know. I’m not sure if I need to play all of her music again to see which ones they are, but really think most were brand new. Either way, it was fun to just listen close and try and follow along. She has a great voice and a super cool structure to her songs. Her lyrics get intensely personal, and sometimes remind you of thoughts and feelings deep inside yourself. They played nicely together, and the music they made had a nice sweep to it. I went in with high expectations and was completely blown away. When they finished the lovely set, she checked on time and had enough for one more, but said that is all they had worked out. After the intense concentration of playing together she unleashed a solo version of Liar that seemed to effortlessly roll out of her. I love that song and she did a killer version. I’m so glad I put in the effort.
There were two more bands playing, but I started the night tired and headed out. I wandered up Church st and headed over to Radio Bean. There was a band billed as dream pop that I thought might be fun, but my timing was off, and they were going on at 10. I hung out for a drink and caught a few songs by Questionable Company. They had a nice airy jazzy flow to them. The quartet was made up of a woman singer, a woman electric guitar player who sang also, a guy on stand up bass and a guy on a minimalist drum kit. It was easy to get into their groove and sway to the breezy songs. The vocal harmonies were quite lovely, but when they brought up another singer for one song, her voice mingled with the lead singer’s voice sounded eerily like Joe Adler‘s voice. It was kind of cool. A couple of songs later I recognized one and they did a great job with Skynyrd’s Simple Man. They played one more after that. I briefly though about staying for a bit, but weariness led me out the door for the smooth walk home through the twilight.
This post was originally published by Tim Lewis at his personal blog, https://timstriangletribune.wordpress.com.