Kael Moffat


City: Bonner Springs, Kansas
Venue: Verizon Amphitheater
Date: 2002-08-01
As my wife and I waited in line to get into the show, we struck up a conversation with the couple in front of us, Richard and Laura of Joplin, Missouri. Richard and I discovered that we both became irrationally devoted Rush fans in the same year, 1981, and, like many Rush fans, Richard has seen the band several times over the years -- eight, to be exact. When I told him this was my first show, he looked at me with a slightly shocked and amused expression. "Oh, you're going to love this," he predicted, then made a joke about me being a Rush fan longer than quite a number of the other people in line had been alive -- made me feel old. But Richard hit the nail right on the head, and I must say that my 21-year wait to see my favorite band was completely worth it! The current tour in support of their highly-acclaimed album Vapor Trails, is Rush's first after an involuntary five-year hiatus stemming from the deaths of drummer/lyricist Neil Peart's daughter and wife. The double tragedy, understandably, shook Peart up so much that the band's future was in question; but, after his remarriage and a little more than a year in the studio, Rush roared back into the music world in May of this year and began an ambitious tour in June. Bassist/keyboardist/vocalist Geddy Lee said that the band wanted to reciprocate their fans' support, encouragement, and patience, thus they are touring without an opening act and they've dug deep into their repertoire, playing songs from 14 of their 17 studio albums. When the band hit the stage at 8:00 p.m., the temperature was still over 100 degrees and menacing thunderheads were building in the distance over Kansas City. The Canadian trio entered stage left to their signature processional, the theme from The Three Stooges, and were met with a hearty and (I dare say) affectionate standing ovation. They grabbed their instruments and sprang immediately at the jugular, opening with their classic anthem of resistance and idealism, "Tom Sawyer". After the second number, "Distant Early Warning", a riveting expression of skepticism about the nuclear age and the inane policy of nuclear deterrence, Lee thanked the crowd for attending and for sticking out the hiatus with them. "And," he continued, "we are going to punish you tonight with way too many songs." Of course, most of us would have been happy with more punishment, but they did put us through a three-hour show (minus a 15 minute break), a show that clipped along at a blistering pace, as the 50-year-old Canucks cranked out songs with more energy, power, and precision than most 20-something bands could even dream of. After the fourth song, "Roll the Bones", a heavy indictment of the notion that "good work leads to good fortune" at the expense of the needy and the "innocent children," Lee looked out at the crowd and asked, "How do you people live in this heat? Up north, we don't have it so hot." But, damn if the greater heat wasn't coming from the stage! Over the years, Rush has been known for their virtuosity and technically rigorous music, and this has lead to complaints that they are overly philosophical and under-ly emotional. While it could be argued that this might have been the case with some early albums, this complaint withers in the face of their more recent work, ignores the almost maniacal devotion of many Rush fans, and is completely deaf, dumb, and mute in the face of a crowd at one of their concerts. For years, both casual and ravenous fans have sworn that Rush concerts are among the best they've ever experienced by virtue of the band's music, their stage shows, and an intense sense of community among the crowd. This communal experience emerges in the way fans cheer anticipated licks from guitarist Alex Lifeson, or the way an unusually large portion of the crowd sings every song along with Geddy Lee (even the ones that go back to their albums released in the early '70s), or go simultaneously nuts at Peart's mind-blowing drum fills, or in how fans will travel hundreds of miles and attend shows with friends they met at previous shows, or in how parents bring their 3- and 4-year-olds along with their 15 and 16 year olds to shows. Having experienced that first hand now, I understand why Rush fans invariably talk about "the next time" they see the band -- my wife, as a matter of fact, turned to me and said, "Ok, next time we're getting first- or second-row seats." (She's a casual fan, by the way.) The show was filled with so many highlights that if I enumerated them all, I would exceed my word limit and bore you to tears, but a couple should be noted. One of the more poignant moments in the show came as the band performed "Big Money", a song from their 1986 album Power Windows, an eerily prophetic song thanks to the alchemical math of Arthur Anderson, Enron, WorldCom, Bristol Myers, et al. The crowd erupted in a communal shout with Lee as he sang the immortal line, "Big money got no soul." This song also contained another highlight when all three paused for a Monty Python clip from Holy Grail, the Taunting Frenchman's famous, "Your mother was a hamster and your father smelt of elderberries." A core highlight of any Rush concert is Peart's drum solo, which on this tour is an engrossing ten minutes long. Peart, widely regarded as one of the premier drummers in the world, combines unbelievable power and finesse, with a penchant for jaw-dropping rhythmic variation and innovation. Peart's solos are mesmerizing, as you watch him play separate rhythms with each foot and a vastly different rhythm with his hands, perform crossovers with his hands between four or five different drums, or scramble over his seat as the riser beneath him rotates to reveal a set of electronic drums that compliments his standard set, and he doesn't miss a beat. If all of this is a bit technical, let me sum it up like this: Neil Peart's drum solo is absolutely mind boggling for both drummers and non-drummers alike. On this tour he has even added a two-minute tribute to the great big band drummer, Buddy Rich, by accompanying a recording of a Rich composition, "Cotton Tail" (if I remember correctly). Following Peart's solo, Lee and Lifeson played a marvelous acoustic version of "Resist", a song about pausing our everyday lives to pay attention to plights of others and to the mystery and beauty of existence. Make no mistake, Rush is, as Peart has eloquently written, "ba-a-a-ack!" and their punishment is pure ecstasy.

In Americana music the present is female. Two-thirds of our year-end list is comprised of albums by women. Here, then, are the women (and a few men) who represented the best in Americana in 2017.

If a single moment best illustrates the current divide between Americana music and mainstream country music, it was Sturgill Simpson busking in the street outside the CMA Awards in Nashville. While Simpson played his guitar and sang in a sort of renegade-outsider protest, Garth Brooks was onstage lip-syncindg his way to Entertainer of the Year. Americana music is, of course, a sprawling range of roots genres that incorporates traditional aspects of country, blues, soul, bluegrass, etc., but often represents an amalgamation or reconstitution of those styles. But one common aspect of the music that Simpson appeared to be championing during his bit of street theater is the independence, artistic purity, and authenticity at the heart of Americana music. Clearly, that spirit is alive and well in the hundreds of releases each year that could be filed under Americana's vast umbrella.

Keep reading... Show less

From genre-busting electronic music to new highs in the ever-evolving R&B scene, from hip-hop and Americana to rock and pop, 2017's music scenes bestowed an embarrassment of riches upon us.

60. White Hills - Stop Mute Defeat (Thrill Jockey)

White Hills epic '80s callback Stop Mute Defeat is a determined march against encroaching imperial darkness; their eyes boring into the shadows for danger but they're aware that blinding lights can kill and distort truth. From "Overlord's" dark stomp casting nets for totalitarian warnings to "Attack Mode", which roars in with the tribal certainty that we can survive the madness if we keep our wits, the record is a true and timely win for Dave W. and Ego Sensation. Martin Bisi and the poster band's mysterious but relevant cool make a great team and deliver one of their least psych yet most mind destroying records to date. Much like the first time you heard Joy Division or early Pigface, for example, you'll experience being startled at first before becoming addicted to the band's unique microcosm of dystopia that is simultaneously corrupting and seducing your ears. - Morgan Y. Evans

Keep reading... Show less

This week on our games podcast, Nick and Eric talk about the joy and frustration of killing Nazis in Wolfenstein: The New Order.

This week, Nick and Eric talk about the joy and frustration of killing Nazis in Wolfenstein: The New Order.

Keep reading... Show less

Which is the draw, the art or the artist? Critic Rachel Corbett examines the intertwined lives of two artists of two different generations and nationalities who worked in two starkly different media.

Artist biographies written for a popular audience necessarily involve compromise. On the one hand, we are only interested in the lives of artists because we are intrigued, engaged, and moved by their work. The confrontation with a work of art is an uncanny experience. We are drawn to, enraptured and entranced by, absorbed in the contemplation of an object. Even the performative arts (music, theater, dance) have an objective quality to them. In watching a play, we are not simply watching people do things; we are attending to the play as a thing that is more than the collection of actions performed. The play seems to have an existence beyond the human endeavor that instantiates it. It is simultaneously more and less than human: more because it's superordinate to human action and less because it's a mere object, lacking the evident subjectivity we prize in the human being.

Keep reading... Show less

Gabin's Maigret lets everyone else emote, sometimes hysterically, until he vents his own anger in the final revelations.

France's most celebrated home-grown detective character is Georges Simenon's Inspector Jules Maigret, an aging Paris homicide detective who, phlegmatically and unflappably, tracks down murderers to their lairs at the center of the human heart. He's invariably icon-ified as a shadowy figure smoking an eternal pipe, less fancy than Sherlock Holmes' curvy calabash but getting the job done in its laconic, unpretentious, middle-class manner.

Keep reading... Show less
Pop Ten
Mixed Media
PM Picks

© 1999-2017 All rights reserved.
Popmatters is wholly independently owned and operated.