Saturday, April 14, 2012

No. 782 – O Baterista

Performer: Rush
Songwriter: Neil Peart
Original Release: Rush in Rio
Year: 2003
Definitive Version: None, a near identical version on the R30 DVD from 2005 was dubbed Der Trommler.

O Baterista, of course, is just another name for Neal’s well-known drum solo, originally titled The Rhythm Method. O Baterista marked the first time that Neal incorporated a full Big Band finale into it and the last time that he included parts from Scars, which is one of my favorite Rush songs. (Spoiler Alert!)

I wasn’t looking forward to my 40th birthday at all. Sure, on the one hand, I had a job that was a blast, my book was proceeding apace, and I had just finished a very liberating year in Cleveland.

On the other hand, however, I was about to turn 40 with no real income, no house, no wife, no family and no real accomplishments. I was living at home with my Dad and stepmom fer crissakes! You might as well just stamp “loser” across my forehead. In other words, I was embodying every tendency of my Gemini-ness: I wanted nothing, and I wanted everything all at once.

But one thing I definitely knew I wanted was for no one to make a big deal out of my birthday—and I made it quite clear. If I were delivered a bunch of black balloons and got a bunch of cards that made reference to being over the hill, I would not react with the good humor that such sentiments might be intended.

It turns out that I had one of my best—and certainly one of my most memorable—birthdays of all time. It consisted of two parts. The second part, on my actual birthday, involved getting just a single birthday card, from Laura, with a very low-key sentiment inside.

More important, it said that my presence that evening was required at my favorite restaurant in town—the late, very lamented Handke’s Cuisine—for a birthday dinner. It would be just me, Dad, Laura and Casey. It turns out that was the last time I ever went to Handke’s before it closed a few years ago.

Anyway, I had an awesome dinner. I think I had rack of lamb, but I know for sure I had two of my favorite things regardless of the entrée: Handke’s Caesar salad, which had the romaine, dressing and anchovies in a fried Parmesean basket. You broke apart the warm basket and it all spilled out over the plate.

The appetizer was literally my favorite food item in the world: a bowl of angel hair pasta with Handke’s morel-mushroom cream sauce and a generous helping of morels. If I were able to, I would eat a whole pot of that stuff.

It was just what I wanted for my birthday, although I suppose I could have done without the suspense that Dad caused when he complained of heart palpitations. He insisted he was fine—he said it merely was a reaction to the quality of the liver and onions he was enjoying—but it was unnerving. It turns out that it was the first attack of the arrhythmia that he was able to control with medication and finally a stent implant two years ago.

Aside from the possibility that Dad might be having a heart attack on my 40th birthday, it was as low-key as I had wanted my birthday celebration to be. The first part was wilder: It involved going to see Rush’s R30 show at Polaris two days before.

When Rush announced the date, Scott got tickets for me, Dad, himself, Casey and a friend of Casey’s. Casey and his friend had never seen Rush. Dad had seen them a couple times. Scott and I were running out of fingers on which to count the number of times we’d seen them. (It was No. 9 for me.)

Our seats were near to the back of the Amphitheater. In fact, we might have been in the last row, as I recall, but we weren’t in the grass, and we were more or less centerstage. For the occasion, I wore the only actual present that I got that year. Dave had stumbled upon some clearance major-league garb, so for a song, he picked up two authentic black Diamondbacks warmup jerseys with Randy Johnson’s name and number on the back. Johnson was one of my favorite players—maybe even my favorite for a while. Such glorious apparel deserved a notable debut, and what could be better than a Rush concert?

I won’t bore you with the details, but it was an excellent greatest hits show. It was, until further notice, the last time I’ve heard them do parts of Hemispheres and Xanadu, which is enough reason alone to sing a show’s praises.

And it was the first time I had heard O Baterista after Rush in Rio came out, so I was geeked for it. The version at the R30 show was particularly memorable, because it must have been punctuated by at least a half-dozen “oh my God” salutations from Casey.

Yeah, I remember my first Rush concert …

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