Why I Hope Rush Doesn’t Make the Rock Hall of Fame

I like Rush, but I am not a Huge Rush Fan. I liked them back in high school, respect them as musicians, and still like some of their old albums, but basically stopped listening to them after 1987’s too-mellow Hold Your Fire. The lyrics to some of their songs are embarrassingly earnest. (But I will choose freewill.) Their newer material has some amazing heavy riffs, but always seems to include a cheesy synth-laden chorus that ruins it.

I have to state that because HRFs love every Rush album, see them on every tour, and think the band has never taken a wrong step in its 33-year existence, with the possible exception of 1997’s Test for Echo which nobody seems to love. If you’re in a room with an HRF and the discussion turns to music, eventually the big injustice comes up: despite 33 consecutive years as a working band (no overpriced reunion tours), encompassing 18 studio albums and a handful of live records and a major North American tour with every single album; despite 23 gold records, 14 platinum albums, and more than 24 million records sold; despite their influence on hundreds of thousands of young musicians (especially drummers), they’ve never been inducted to the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in Cleveland, Ohio.

I saw Rush on Saturday night for the first time in 13 years. As said, I haven’t really listened to them in a long time, but my brother’s a bona fide HRF, we’d never seen them together, and he was visiting from out of town, so I figured why not.

They ruled. Three hours of music, not including the 20-minute intermission. They had drawn some criticism on their last R30 tour (I get all this info from my brother) for their lack of setlist creativity–always the same song or two from each of their old albums–so this time they dug deep and played songs they’ve rarely or never played live.

[For the Rush-knowledgable: “Entre Nous” (?!?) and “Natural Science” (heavy, bizarre, with one of the best prog-metal riffs of all time) from Permanent Waves, “Circumstances” (another amazing riff, that one between the verse and chorus) from Hemispheres, “Between the Wheels” (my personal favorite Rush song and much better than the usual ones they dig up from Grace Under Pressure), “Digital Man” and “Subdivisions” from Signals (the first Rush album I ever heard), Witch Hunt (the most obscure song from their most famous album, Moving Pictures), and “Passage to Bangkok,” their homage to herb from 2112. Complete with video. Dude!]

They also dug out enough classic hits to leave the semi-fans reasonably happy, although this reviewer obviously missed the last tour and didn’t recognize any of the old songs they did play. As they always do, they showed off a lot (7 9, actually) of songs from their new album, some of which were pretty awesome…or at least had great parts. But even if I didn’t love those songs, I respect them for putting out albums they actually believe in, rather than acting like the Stones and putting out an album simply to justify a tour. And as great as Roger Waters is in concert, he hasn’t put out a new record in 15 years, which basically means he’s a nostalgia act.

At the age of 55, Neil Peart’s drum solo is still a clinic, while being unusually musical and listenable for a drum solo. (I usually hate drum solos–bathroom breaks.) And they’re funny: bassist Geddy Lee, who goes direct into the PA at every show and therefore doesn’t need big amps on stage, had a bank of Kenny Rogers roasters behind him (a chef came out a couple times to turn them), and before playing their most famous song, “Tom Sawyer” (the one you’ve heard if you ever listen to classic rock radio), they played a South Park skit making fun of their most famous song. (Peart is apparently friendly with one of the South Park creators.)

During the show, it occurred to me that these guys are way too iconoclastic, clever, creative, and interesting to be alongside vapid pop twinks like Billy Joel or TV jingle writers like Bob Seger. John Lydon had it right.

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9 Responses to Why I Hope Rush Doesn’t Make the Rock Hall of Fame

  1. Isorski says:

    This is one of the best posts I have read from this tour. Great observations all around. I saw Waters recently and felt like it was the best Floyd tribute band I have ever seen, and that was not necessarily a compliment. Rush is still as vital today as ever and it’s cool to hear perspectives like yours, from NON HRFs.

    I was at the Portland show as well and posted a review at http://isorski.blogspot.com/. Enjoy!

    I also reviewed Roger Waters at http://isorski.blogspot.com/2007/06/concert-review-roger-waters.html if you are interested.

  2. mattydread says:

    Thanks Isorski, I enjoyed reading your reviews of both shows and our opinions match quite closely.

    You are correct that the Rog shows in 1999-2002 were better than the 2007, especially the Gorge show (which commenced with a jet plane buzzing the arena)…Dogs > Sheep….Doyle definitely > than Kilmister…Amused > Leaving Beirut. Plus he was just back from a 7-year hiatus…now he’s been back for 8 more years and STILL no album. But yeah, the visuals were better in 2007. And I love the material.

    Regarding Rush, they’re 2/4 for me. The 1984 Grace Show was marred by a crazy audience on the floor of the Tacoma Dome–Geddy stopped the show twice to tell them to chill out–and they didn’t seem into it, show was just over 90 minutes. 1990’s Presto in the Seattle Coliseum was fantastic. 1994’s Counterparts in the Cow Palace in SF sucked, mainly because the acoustics are like playing in a huge concrete bunker. But this show blew them all away.

    FWIW, my brother, the HRF, said this was the best of the *13* shows he’s seen.

  3. scooter59 says:

    Nice objective review. I’m seeing more and more of this type of post, due in large part I think to the strong writing on the most recent album, which has motivated the band to such levels of performance so late in their career. I really don’t think there’s precedent for it in rock music. I saw almost as much energy at the recent Irvine show as I’ve seen at Mars Volta shows.

    A minor point (from a true HRF): They actually played 9 of the 13 tracks from the new album, which is something they haven’t done in 17 years, since the Presto tour in 1990.

    I completely agree with your brother. My first Rush show was in 1977, and I’ve been to more shows than I can count. I was front row on the Hemispheres tour in 1978 and at Radio City Music Hall in 2004, but neither were as good as the shows I’ve seen this tour. I think Sting, Phil Collins, and a few others on the 401K tour circuit could get a few pointers.

  4. mattydread says:

    Corrected as noted, Scooter–I wasn’t thinking of the two instrumentals.
    I thought The Police put on a very good show–they could have just gone out and done the hits as they were on the album, at least they were creative about it…they could have used some more practice, but credit to them for trying. Phil Collins…yech.

  5. Isorski says:

    Yes, I caught the Police in Seattle near the start of the tour and while they were rusty, it was DIFFERENT. They put a new spin on almost all of their material, which pissed a lot of people off but I thought it was great.

    I saw the Grace Under Pressure tour and in the Bay Area it was great. Presto tour seemed lackluster. So I had the flip flop experience of yours there. The Cow Palace just sucks ass – horrible, horrible place. I don’t even think they do music anymore there but I have seen a ton of shows at that crap hole.

  6. I noticed this posting and I appreciated the objectivity (although, I skipped through the set list [I am going to the show in Houston on 8/14 and I don’t want to spoil any surprises]). There are two types of people – those who love Rush and those who hate Rush. I, like your brother, am a HRF and I belong in the former category (much to my wife’s chagrin).

    My first Rush show was in Cleveland, OH, during the ‘A Farewell to Kings’ tour in 1977 – my first rock concert, too. Sublime! I have seen them on every tour since (much to my accountant’s chagrin!).

    I am really enjoying the new CD – it shows a maturity in lyrics and songwriting that is missing in most of the stuff out today. They broke away from prior molds and ventured into new territories while cultivating their roots – “Armor and Sword” is a perfect example.

    As for the Hall of Fame, well, I would have to agree with Johnny Lydon’s sentiments. It serves no real purpose for this band to inducted. Those who love Rush understand their importance in modern popluar music. Those who don’t, well, that’s ok, too. It does say something about the Hall of Fame that Bob Seger (shudder) is inducted along with a whole host of other mediocre talents. Guess it’s who you know. Thanks for the post, keep on rockin’ (maybe in the free world, too) and if all else fails, turn it up a little more and drive on down the road!

    jvb

  7. mattydread says:

    Right on, John.

    I’m actually in a third category–I neither love nor hate Rush. I’m all over the map. I’ve spent pleasurable time listening to side 1 of 2112, “Xanadu,” side 2 of “Hemispheres,” Moving Pictures, and Grace Under Pressure. I’ve enjoyed bits and pieces of other albums, while hating others. Generally, when Alex shines, I love them. When he’s in the background, I get bored. Neil Peart’s unquestionably the best technician in the rock drum world, but he’s put a lot of bad ideas–ride cymbal, tom rolls–into a lot of bad drummers’ minds. (Like Robert Plant with singing and Flea with bass.) I could never in a million years do what Geddy does, but I wouldn’t want to try.

    Funny thing is, I’m the same way with the Dead–another band that tends to polarize people.

    Who do I love unabashedly? Zeppelin and Floyd. Who do I hate with no holds barred? Journey.

  8. Ah, a man after my own heart!!! I play guitar and often have tried to copy Lifeson’s style only to end in countless hours in therapy (or drinking beer). A true lover of music I am, too, though I am mostly miss then hit on the Dead. Saw them in concert and I have to say it was one of the worst shows I ever saw. The sound was terrible (through no fault of theirs), the crowd was uninspired (again, through no fault of theirs), and the performances were lack-luster. Well, see ya later.

    jvb

    ps: Long live Journey! (Stop yelling at me!)

  9. […] it home. The guy is simply amazing, he doesn’t play anything too showy–he’s not Neil Peart or some jazzbo–but his ears are amazing and his tempo is perfect, speeding and slowing to […]

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