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RUSH Live At The Ottawa Bluesfest

By Andrew Depedro, Ottawa Corespondent
Monday, August 5, 2013 @ 9:29 AM

KNAC.COM's Hardest Working Man Up North Celebrates His Birthday With RUSH At The Ottawa Bluesfest, July 8, 2013

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Few bands prompt me to actually bypass an OH3 pool party on one of the warmest days of the year and especially on my birthday. Especially when I'm one of the recently-elected beer wenches in charge of distributing the sacred vessels full of the golden nectar into the circle to the guilty parties in the center for crimes committed on trail. But in this case I was able to get a reprieve from beer wench duty (though I kept up my skills during Bluesfest as an alternate as I was based at the beer tents during most of the festival) and got to catch Canada's famous prog-rock power trio for the second time.

.....though having gotten the schedule wrong I ended up catching ska/punk legends THE SPECIALS wrapping up their set first. And getting to see their frontman almost lose his mind about "how fucking clean" Lebreton Flats and Ottawa in general was. Right after "Ghost Town" he was actually telling people to "please throw something on the ground before I go fucking mad". I'm surprised he wasn't upset over the fact his band was opening up for one of punk and ska's most loathed purveyors of 70's progressive rock. Straight up, this pairing wouldn't have gone down well in the UK in 1978. Good to know times have changed.

With that said, THE SPECIALS put on an awesome show but they were no match for headliners RUSH that evening and once the throbbing keyboard intro to the opening number "Subdivisions" started the crowd were quickly mesmerized with the rhythm. Granted, parts of the setlist and stage design were similar to what I saw when Geddy, Alex and Neil last headlined Bluesfest four summers ago (http://www.knac.com/article.asp?ArticleID=7643) but this time the intro to the show was more focused on the concept behind last year's Clockwork Angels (the band's 19th studio album), for which renowned science fiction author Kevin J. Anderson (a close friend of Neil Peart's) best summed it up: A man's quest to follow his dreams as he is caught between order and chaos, travelling across a lavish and colorful world of steampunk and alchemy, with lost cities, pirates, anarchists, lost carnivals, and a rigid Watchmaker who imposes precision on every aspect of daily life.

And that would also explain why rarely-performed RUSH classics like "The Big Money", "Grand Designs" and "The Analog Kid" would find their way into the setlist for the concert that day if one really listens to the lyrics closely to discover that they reflect exactly what Clockwork Angels' concept and reason for being was. Even if the aforementioned songs were released a good 30 years before Clockwork Angels.

Another rare addition to RUSH's stage show is that they've reigned in some new players to join them on their current tour: The Clockwork Angels String Ensemble, an 8-piece group of talented string musicians (6 violinists and 2 cellists) led by renowned composer David Campbell (father of 90's alt-rock troubadour Beck "Devil's Haircut" Hansen) who managed to convince even the most skeptical of very traditional RUSH fans that they were just as in sync with the well-crafted musical intricacies and eccentricities of RUSH's catalogue past and present as the band members themselves were. For the harder-sounding songs like "The Anarchist", "Headlong Flight" (followed by Neil Peart's impeccable drum work) and the title track the backing ensemble provided a sonic landscape of disturbing calm before the impeding storm which was then accompanied by lots of pyro and fireworks. For more mellow-sounding material such as "The Garden" the ensemble's role grew more within the standard RUSH sound and you could actually hear both groups mature musically right before your very eyes. And while other classics like "Red Sector A", "YYZ" and "The Spirit Of Radio" don't normally have much room to allow symphonic interludes within them it didn't stop the Clockwork Angels from trying to work themselves into those songs - and even succeed.

Cue some more pyro - at which point somewhere during rehearsals for TRANS-SIBERIAN ORCHESTRA's upcoming tour you could sense Jeff Scott Soto having just watched a YouTube clip of this same performance and turn to Chris Caffery and Alex Skolnick and declare "shit just got real" - and then Geddy Lee introduces the Clockwork Angels String Quartet one by one. More animated alchemic steampunk brilliance reigns supreme on the two giant screens located on both sides of the stage and then the show closes with solid renditions of "Tom Sawyer" and "2112: Overture/The Temples Of Syrinx/Grande Finale".

Another RUSH show ends and it ran like clockwork. "Swing Low Sweet Chariot" just could not compete on that scale that evening.



  • "Subdivisions"
  • "The Big Money"
  • "Grand Designs"
  • "Limelight"
  • "The Analog Kid"
  • "Where's My Thing?"
  • Neil Peart drum solo
  • "Far Cry" (with the Clockwork Angels String Ensemble)
  • "Caravan"
  • "Clockwork Angels"
  • "The Anarchist"
  • "Carnies"
  • "The Wreckers"
  • "Headlong Flight"
  • Neil Peart drum solo
  • "The Garden"
  • "Red Sector A"
  • "YYZ"
  • "The Spirit Of Radio"
  • "Tom Sawyer"
  • "2112: Overture/The Temples Of Syrinx/Grand Finale"

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