Review + Photos + Setlist: Rush Shows 'Em How It's Done at the Verizon Wireless Amphitheater, Sunday, August 22

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Rush's Geddy Lee. More photos from the show here. - Todd Owyoung
Todd Owyoung
Rush's Geddy Lee. More photos from the show here.

Rush shows are a marathon, not a sprint. They're also not for the faint of heart or for the casual fan: Over forty years into its career, the Canadian trio still plays for close to three hours. Last night at the Verizon Wireless Amphitheater, the prog innovators delivered exactly the kind of set its die-hard fans have come to expect.

View an entire slideshow of photos from Rush's Verizon Wireless Amphitheater Concert.

The show - part of what's dubbed the "Time Machine" tour -- opened with a beloved song, 1980's "The Spirit of Radio." The tune is quintessential Rush: Guitarist Alex Lifeson's beehive-quivering riffs claw at the air, as Neil Peart's clanking rhythms and Geddy Lee's helium yelps swirl around. Parts interlock where necessary or push against each other to create tension; space-rock tendencies linger but never overwhelm. From there, the band jumped eras and albums. Highlights included the Counterparts cut "Leave That Thing Alone" - an instrumental driven by Lee's chunky funk bass and airy, evocative Lifeson riffs - and a killer version of Permanent Waves' thinkpiece, "Freewill." (Much crowd fist-pumping ensued when the title popped up in the lyrics.) Peart's spotlight drum solo - which let him show off a rotating drumkit and genres ranging from jazz to "Rush rave" - was also impressive, of course. (And easily defined as "prog porn.")

Later in the night, Lifeson played delicate acoustic guitar to open a superb "Closer to the Heart," a tune functioning as an apertif for another show highlight. As 2112's iconic Starman logo sailed into view on a video screen, the crowd cheered for nerd-rock heaven: "2112: Part I (Overture)" and "2112: Part II (The Temples of Syrinx)." As the band started playing, hellmouths opened. Wizards cast spells. Black holes swallowed galaxies. Knights slayed dragons. In short, the song lived up to expectations.

Rush drummer Neil Peart. More photos from the show here. - Todd Owyoung
Todd Owyoung
Rush drummer Neil Peart. More photos from the show here.

As the years have progressed, Rush's music has become of the time, without trend-jumping. (Perhaps it's more correct to say that the band inhabits its own musical universe without being ignorant of prevailing trends.) The grunge-leaning Counterparts single "Stick It Out" aligned well with two songs slated to appear on a new Rush album, Clockwork Angels, which was co-produced by Nick Raskulinecz (Queens of the Stone Age, Foo Fighters). "Caravan" certainly recalled QOTSA's rumbling low-end - and had enough pyro and a gorgeous Pixar-like backdrop to keep the crowd entertained - while the dark, textured, midtempo "BU2B" recalled Faith No More's evil moments. Really, there's no reason Rush songs in 2010 should sound this good - but they did.

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