I wouldn’t consider myself an Überfan on par with the likes of Dave Grohl or Jack Black or the dude out there who lives their life by the lyrics to A Farewell to Kings, but I’m fan enough to fully appreciate the fact that this year marks my 20th year seeing Rush live in concert. Having broke my cherry on the Roll the Bones tour in the fall of 1991 at the Knickerbocker Arena in Albany, NY, during my senior year in high school, I have caught every tour since shy of their 2010 run. I guess it pays to have a friend growing up who is an uncompromising freak for the band, someone who makes Jason Segal from I Love You, Man look like a total poser, who has been in constant need for a ride to the gig for two decades strong.

The Canadian power trio’s April 10th stop at Madison Square Garden on their acclaimed Time Machine tour was the first Rush show I have ever attended without my concert-going pal, something that definitely instilled a strange void upon entering the hallowed halls of the Garden on this otherwise gorgeous Sunday evening without him leading the charge up to the Will Call booth, preprinted set list in hand ready to follow and check off like a nebbish, OCD freak. And I’m sure he’ll be cursing me something fierce after he finds out that the tickets I wound up scoring were 14th row center on the floor this time out, LOL.

Nevertheless, this Garden show proved to be quite a memorable performance, especially given the fact that bassist/frontman Geddy Lee, guitarist Alex Lifeson (still to this day the most underrated axe master in rock and roll) and drum god Neil Peart are just a creative cycle away from senior citizenship. Despite a couple of technical glitches on the digital end of the band’s elaborate Doc Brown from Back to the Future ¬-meets-Nicola Tesla stage setting, including a false start of the goofy opening film vignette on the “Real” history of Rush and a door-sized patch of digital snow that would appear intermittently on the giant center screen throughout the course of the three-hour-plus show, the band indeed delivered the goods for the New York City area crowd on their only stop in the Tri-State area on this second leg of the tour.

The first set saw the threesome playing close to the chest of the last 30 years of their catalog with a diverse cache of tunes that ranged from the obvious to the obscure. After kicking off with a pair of tried and true concert warhorses in their Permanent Waves AOR staple “The Spirit of Radio” and the Aimee Mann-assisted Hold Your Fire hit “Time Stand Still,” Rush dug deep to dole out a real gem, the rarely played title cut to their 1989 return to guitar rock Presto, much to the delight of the more scholarly fans in attendance who have been waiting 21 years to hear it performed live. Appreciators of 1993’s Counterparts were undoubtedly pleased by the inclusion of two of that album’s finest tracks in the hard-charging second cut “Stick It Out” and the instrumental “Leave That Thing Alone”, while supporters of the trio’s controversial synth era surely loved the back-to-back keyboard anthems in “Marathon” from 1985’s Power Windows and “Subdivisions” from their 1982 new wave classic Signals before the intermission.

When Rush returned from break, they unveiled the crown jewel of the Time Machine tour, a complete performance of their 1981 masterpiece Moving Pictures, considered by many to be one of the single greatest hard rock albums in history. And though the LP’s first four tracks—“Tom Sawyer”, “Red Barchetta”, “YYZ” and “Limelight”—have been avid staples at their concerts for decades now, it was the honor to hear the last three tracks off the record—“The Camera Eye,” “Witch Hunt” and “Vital Signs”—performed live and in succession that was indeed the true highlight of the evening for just about every fan on hand.

Shortly thereafter, the trio introduced a new song, “Caravan”, from their forthcoming album, Clockwork Angels, the second track of the night from the trio’s yet-to-be-released 20th studio effort (they played the song “BU2B” during the first set). Needless to say, the new material stands as some of the group’s heaviest work to date, harking back to the no-frills ferocity of their eponymous 1974 debut. Of course, you had to have the obligatory Peart drum solo to sate all the Zildjian dweebs in the crowd. And the man universally hailed as rock’s very best behind the kit gave them exactly what they wanted, even though it was pretty much a carbon copy of the solo he’s been doing onstage for what seems like years now (arguably speaking, of course).

The second set closed out with the return of the group’s classic power ballad “Closer to the Heart” into the concert rotation for the first time since the Vapor Trails tour, the first two parts of the 2112 suite, “Overture” and “Temples of Syrinx”, and “Far Cry” off Snakes and Arrows before returning to the stage for a two-song encore consisting of the Hemispheres instrumental epic “La Villa Strangiato” and an absolutely slaying spin on “Working Man” from their first album, complete with a wild reggae-style reading of the first verse.

“The New York Knicks are NBA playoff bound. Since no one expected this, Madison Square Garden booked Rush during the first round of the playoffs,” joked David Letterman a few nights before the concert on The Late Show. Who knows whether or not the city’s embattled basketball greats will still be in the running for championship glory by press time. But with the impending release of a new album and the 40th anniversary of their first one looming in the shadows, one can bet their bottom dollar that Rush will indeed be back at the Garden for another victorious journey through their storied catalog before long. And, like I’ve been doing for the last 20-odd years of my existence, you can count on me being right there in the stands air drumming with the best of them.


Set I: The Spirit of Radio, Time Stand Still, Presto, Stick It Out, Workin’ Them Angels, Leave That Thing Alone, Faithless, BU2B, Freewill, Marathon, Subdivisions

Set II: Tom Sawyer, Red Barchetta, YYZ, Limelight, The Camera Eye, Witch Hunt, Vital Signs, Caravan, Drum Solo, Acoustic Guitar Solo, Closer to the Heart, 2112 Overture/Temples of Syrinx, Far Cry

Enc: La Villa Strangiato, Working Man