Saturday, April 20, 2013

No. 411 – Earthshine

Performer: Rush
Songwriters: Geddy Lee, Alex Lifeson, Neil Peart
Original Release: Vapor Trails
Year: 2002
Definitive Version: Vapor Trails Tour, Hartford, Conn., 2002

It’s hard to believe, but as I write this, it has become official: Rush is in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. I honestly thought it would never happen, because Jann Wenner and the old guard at Rolling Stone—who control the Hall electorate—hated Rush. Part of me thinks they relented just so all the Rush fans finally would shut up about the annual snub.

Before Vapor Trails released, not only had it been six years since the last Rush album, but both Geddy and Alex and released solo albums. It seemed Rush might be over. (I didn’t know at the time what led to the hiatus and that, at the time, it WAS over.)

Of course, anticipation also can lead to disappointment, and that’s how I felt when I heard Vapor Trails for the first time. Really? That’s it? I wasn’t alone. Scott and Dave—also hard-core Rushies—agreed with me. The mix was screwed up, and Geddy’s vocals were bad. The songs were weak.

That assessment, however, in no way affected whether I would go see them again when Rush toured the summer of 2002. They were coming to Columbus and Cincinnati, and I chose going to Cincy because I thought Scott would have better luck at getting tickets. It was Scott, Shani’s brother, John, and me.

Riverbend, Cincy’s outdoor amphitheater, is so named, of course, because it’s on the Ohio River. It can be a real pain in the butt to get to, but Scott had a route figured out. We ended up crossing the river into Kentucky and coming up from the south. I remember a bit of traffic backup, but nothing unusual for a concert at an outdoor venue.

The unusual thing was the weather. We were going to see Neil Peart not Neil Diamond (thank God), but it still was a hot August night and by hot, I mean oppressive. The temperature was 95+ and the humidity was 95+. Scott got great seats in the amphitheater, in the shade, but it didn’t matter. There was no breeze; it was just plain HOT. It probably was the hottest I ever was at a concert.

It was so hot in fact that during the intermission, John who had a beer early on went to get a drink and came back with waters for everyone. I almost never drink at concerts, because I don’t want to have to go to the bathroom and miss something, but I knew that wasn’t going to happen that day. After all the sweat, there was nothing left for whiz.

The show was great, simply because Rush is great, but it didn’t rank with previous shows. Maybe they were shaking off some rust. Three things stood out: One, the reaction for Dreamline was as loud as it was for anything except 2112. That surprised me. Two, I loved the pairing of The Pass and Bravado. I think those songs are different sides of the same coin, and it was cool to hear them back-to-back.

Three and most significant: The songs from Vapor Trails—and the band played five—were so much better live that it was incomparable. The mix was clean; the vocals were better with Alex singing backup instead of Geddy overdubbed. You could hear the songs better, and the songs were pretty good.

I haven’t listened to Vapor Trails since, even though I have two songs from that album on this here list, this being the second (Secret Touch, good ol, No. 678), because live versions are so much better. The truth is, it isn’t as strong as the two albums that have come since—Snakes & Arrows and Clockwork Angels, but it was great to just have Rush back in any capacity.

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