After 40 years, the prog rock trio finally arrive in Ireland - and prove that punk had a downside
In ancient times, we celebrated ‘talent’ as a virtue, rather than something to be ashamed of. Then this thing called ‘punk’ came along, and ushered in the notion that to be good at something was an undesirable quality - a notion that has persisted to this day.
So, over 30 years after punk wiped out the dinosaurs, audiences worship band after band who have barely mastered the rudiments of music, because it’s not cool to be good. Rush are not cool.
In the 40 years that they have been performing music, Rush have suffered the slings and arrows of the music press, opting to carry on regardless. However, despite the perception of them as terminally unhip, Rush are an act that people have taken to their hearts.
They are the most successful band to ever come out of Canada, with figures placing them third behind The Beatles and The Rolling Stones for most consecutive gold or platinum albums by a rock band. They have developed an intensely loyal fanbase, many of whom make the trek to the O2 Arena in Dublin to catch the trio’s first ever Irish performance.
This tour finds the band playing a selection of some of their most loved songs, before their 1980 classic Moving Pictures in its entirety. As befitting a Rush concert, the stage is bedecked with all manner of eccentric items, amplifiers replaced by strange and wonderful steam-punk devices.
Throughout the show, bassist and vocalist Geddy Lee performs in front of a contraption that pumps out sausages and spews forth steam; guitarist Alex Lifeson has a row of nuclear powered 1950s televisions behind him; and drummer and lyricist Neil Peart dominates an incredibly ornate revolving drum kit. It’s pure showbiz hokum, and it’s what most have come here to see.
Opening with ‘Spirit of Radio’, they hit the ground running, churning out a blend of classics, recent material, and songs from their as yet unreleased album. It’s all delivered with confidence and precision befitting these veterans of the road.
These guys have serious chops, and each song is crafted as a showcase to best represent the various talents of the band. So, the drum parts are thunderously complex, the guitar solos wail, and the bass is earth shatteringly funky. But – crucially – it is never to the detriment of the songs. Whilst some of their peers could be accused of indulgence, Rush always deliver their instrumentals with a knowing sense of humour to sweeten the taste.
The main feast of the evening comes with a track by track run-through of Moving Pictures, arguably the band’s definitive LP. For an album that is now 31 years old, it sounds surprisingly sprightly, all new wave sheen and modern rock sleekness.
'Tom Sawyer’ sends the audience into a frenzy, whilst ‘Red Barchetta’ still sounds like the dynamic piece of futuristic rock music that it did all those years ago. The instrumental dexterity of ‘YYZ’ is simply staggering - the entire O2 is swept along on a wave.
For three men approaching 60, their energy levels rarely dip, Lee in particular running round the stage, alternating between goofing at the front and doing bass solos, dashing to the mic to deliver his vocals, and then running back over to play keyboards (frequently whilst playing bass at the same time).
Whilst his trademark Banshee wail can’t quite hit the high notes of yore, he still ploughs ahead regardless, cruising comfortably though classics like ‘Subdivisions’ and ‘Temples of Syrinx’.
It’s exactly what many of these Irish Rush fans have been waiting for. In essence, we spend three hours watching three men showing us something they’re incredibly good at. And if we’re able to cast our punk rock principles aside for a while, there’s nothing wrong with that at all.