Category Archives: Music

Posts related to Rob’s interests in music.

Today’s Tom Sawyer

In a few hours, I will be in the Scottrade Center getting ready to watch Rush. This will be something like 24-25 times for me. More than many, but nowhere close to a few.

This may be their last tour, and while I am saddened to hear this, I completely understand. Every single Rush concert I have seen has been tremendous. I’m not simply saying this because of my pro-Rush bias, but also because I’ve seen a goodly number of concerts now. Others may have a few songs that are better for live shows, but no one ever consistently puts out such a powerful show top to bottom.

They give us everything they got, both on the night of the show and in preparation. It’s no surprise that at their age, they just can’t give out that energy over a tour like they could when we were all much younger.

Part of the reason is that, unlike many rock stars, Geddy, Alex, and Neil have never taken themselves too seriously. They have taken their skill and their art extremely seriously, but not themselves.

They’ve also played their own music, and was glad when a bunch of us liked it. However, they’ve never made music for us, rather, they made music that they liked and which challenged their skill. That’s why there’s no one really like Rush. Oh, Dream Theater has its Rush-like moments. Triumph was seen as Rush-lite at one point. Metallica and others have acknowledged their debt to Rush. But, no one else ever captured that same independence, intelligence, and brilliance.

I’ve grown up to Rush. When I struggled in high school, Subdivisions and Tom Sawyer helped me make it through. I listened to Countdown after the Challenger exploded. I read Coleridge and Rand and a bunch of others because of Rush. I’ve never been “normal,” and I knew they weren’t either. They helped me realize normal is a chimera, a mythical beast that can only bring bad things whether or not you track it down.

I’ll never forget hearing One Little Victory live for the first time. This was the tour that many of us, including Rush themselves, wondered if it would ever happen. Neil had lost his daughter and then his wife in a six-month period, and music just wasn’t important to him. But then Vapor Trails came out, and One Little Victory spoke directly to overcoming that loss. I am weeping as I am writing my memory of Rush pouring that emotion out to us at Molson Amphitheatre in Toronto.

I plan on seeing them again in Kansas City. Tonight may be my penultimate Rush show. Ask me in July after the KC show how I feel about that.

What I feel about tonight, though, is great excitement. Time to go watch them make the donuts.

In The Secret Wells Of Emotion

I was introduced to Rush in 1981 by Ted Shellhamer in 7th grade. I remember listening to Moving Pictures in his basement, and then Permanent Waves and Signals and Hemispheres and so on. His mom made so much macaroni and cheese for us while we talked sports and listened.

It’s hard to explain how Rush exploded into my consciousness, and how important Witch Hunt, Camera Eye, Subdivisions, Natural Science and all the rest of these amazing songs meant to me.

What I can say is that this is my 30th year of listening to Rush and their music is the one constant other than my parents in my life since Ted played Moving Pictures for me.

And their music has filled my secret wells of emotion ever since.

I remember vividly listening to One Little Victory in 2002 on and weeping. It had been four years, four years that we all sort of thought we might not hear anything else from Rush. Four years wishing we could tell Neil that we wanted to help him after his wife and daughter died.

And then there was One Little Victory. To paraphrase Alex, One Little Victory my ass, it was an amazing accomplishment to recover after their deaths.

I wept the first time I heard the song. I wept the first time I saw them on that tour. And I wept tonight watching them talk about it.

Tonight I saw their rockumentary, Rush: Beyond the Lighted Stage, and it was better than I expected. I sort of expected to see all sorts of interesting things and enjoy myself, but I didn’t expect seeing the people and personalities quite so much. I expected the story, but got the humanity.

Neil, Alex, and Geddy have never been big media guys. They’ve had interviews, but the mainstream music media have never cared for them. I’ve seen most of those interviews. This, however, was nearly 2 hours of stuff, including probably more from Neil than he had ever had done in interviews before. Part of this were all three of the guys talking about what was going on in their heads in that horrible time after Neil’s family died. I never expected to see him ever discuss his headspace after that time. Very powerful.

And it was funny as hell. Geddy’s mom saying she didn’t particularly care about their music in the 1960s. Jack Black was hilarious. And the dinner scene as the credits were rolling was just too much.

I have, of course, already purchased the two new singles from the new album. Listening to a new Rush album is different than listening to any other new album. You never know what you’re going to get. You never know what styles and images they will project and I have not loved every Rush album the first time I’ve listened to it.

But I’ve never picked up a Rush album and not gone: “Wow, I didn’t remember how good this album was.” I’ve never listened to a Rush song after a period away from the song and not gone: “Wow, there’s something there I never got before.” There’s so much going on I know I’ll never hear everything. It’s amazing that the more I’ve listened to what these three guys have done the more I’ve liked it. The music of these three has never gotten old, and I can’t imagine that they will.

Three pretty regular guys whose passion is music, who delivered that passion, that emotion, to millions of fans for decades. A band who is becoming more popular now than they have ever been because we fans have continued to listen to them because the music has continued to mean something to us.

That’s the story. And that’s the emotion that made me weep. Because their music is the soundtrack of over 70% of my life and their story and their humanity is part of my story and my humanity.

Right to the heart of the matter
Right to the beautiful part
Illusions are painfully shattered
Right where discovery starts
In the secret wells of emotion
Buried deep in our hearts

Magic Music Making My Morning Mood

I saw my 18th or 19th Rush concert on Saturday.

I have seen at least one show from every tour since the Grace Under Pressure tour in 1982.

I have loved every one of them.

But I think this was the best show I have ever seen from them.

Rush put out a new album last year and toured last summer. I saw them in Raleigh with my nephews (their first concert ever) and St. Louis with Ted, who got me into Rush in the first place near 30 years ago. This time was with Malachi, who hadn’t been to a Rush concert in 25 years or so.

However, the demographic at Rush concerts is essentially the same people each time. Not everyone likes Rush, but those who do REALLY like Rush. They use many of the same video add-ons for the same songs each time, making Rush concerts exhilarating and comforting at the same time.

But this show was different. Their set list last year and this year were pretty close. They played in front of the same people as last year, basically. And they knew this. And so they added a bunch of tweaks and extra artistic flourishes to their songs. I especially liked the point in Red Barcheta when Alex stopped playing and Geddy and Neil simply played the bass and drum portions of the bridge. I hadn’t recalled them ever doing that, and it seems to have really resonated with Rush fans on the blogs and lists.

Usually, they take a great deal of pride in playing their songs note for note, but this show they seemed more relaxed than I have ever seen them before. They’ve always been comfortable not taking themselves seriously, but while they take their music very seriously, they have gotten to the point where they’re comfortable playing around with stuff.

I loved it.

Random Music

One of the longest running and most enjoyable bloggers out there is Aaron Gleeman ( Yesterday he randomized his IPod and listed the first 40 songs that were shown. I don’t have an IPod, but WinAmp can do the same thing, so, here are my 40 random songs.

Van Halen – Top Jimmy
Ekova – Starlight in Daden (Aurora Remix)
Eddie Van Halen and Brian May – Starfleet
Bob Marley – Jamming
Wolgemut – Processional
Altramar – O Columba insignis signifer
King’s X – I Can’t Help It
Judas Priest – Breaking The Law
Dream Theater – War Inside My Head
Peter Tosh – Mega Dog
CSN & Y – Teach Your Children Well
The Cult – Big Neon Glitter
Michael Longcor (Duke Moonwulf) – The Irish Guard
Stevie Nicks – Landslide
Peter Gabriel – Solsbury Hill
Yngwie Malmsteen – The Sails of Charon
Blind Melon – No Rain
Beatles – While My Guitar Gently Weeps
Kingston Air Force – There’s a Riot Gwaan
B-52s – Love Shack
Smashing Pumpkins – Bury Me
The Clancy Brothers and Tommy Makem – Whack Fol The Diddle Oh
Korn – Blind
The Calais Consort – Cuckolds All A Row
Wolgemut – Schottish
Led Zeppelin – Rain Song
Conn MacNeill – Echoes
Gordon Lightfoot – The Wreck of the Edmund Fitzgerald
King’s X – Skeptical Winds
Enya – Caribbean Blue
Ozzy Osbourne (with Randy Rhoads) – Paranoid
Blues Brothers – Rubber Biscuit
Rush – Something For Nothing
Flogging Molly – To Youth (My Sweet Roisin Dubh)
Guns N’ Roses – Sweet Child O’ Mine
The Ealdormere Bardic College – Lifeblood
David Munrow; Early Music Consort Of London – Je ne puis – Amors me tienent – Veritatem
Smashing Pumpkins – Landslide
Dropkick Murphys – Time To Go
The Who – Squeeze Box

Leave me comments and I’m curious what you all came up with.