I just got back from seeing Rush and Candlebox in concert. My ears are still trying to get adjusted to normal hearing, my throat is a bit sore from screaming along with the songs, and my t-shirt smells of smoke and alcohol. I had an awesome time.
Candlebox opened (duh!). They played about 6 tunes off of their one album including Jealousy, Changes, Don't You, and For You. Some people seem to get into them, but I always thought they were a rather mediocre band with a formula for their songs. This is fine as far as making records go, but as a live show, especially since the acoustics at the U.S. Air Arena suck, they fall below mediocricity. However, they were able to whip up the crowd to some degree by the end of their set (perhaps the crowd was just excited because Rush was gonna be on soon). They were cool about the crowd's reaction---they realised that they were opening for a band the crowd would rather hear than them and said they "would keep it short" so we could hear Rush.
Rush appeared with these nuts and bolts props (Counterparts) and planets filling this huge screen in the background. Rush is a conceptual band. All their albums are very intricate and well-crafted. Guitarist Alex Lifeson, drummer Neal Peart, nor bassist/keyboardist/vocalist Geddy Lee are not what I'd consider virtuosos in their field (contrary to popular opinion), but together with their thoughtfulness and combined ability they put on a pretty good show. The show wasn't as spectacular as it could've been, but that might partly be because of the acoustics and partly because of the way their music is made.
The carefully-crafted intricacy that has made Rush's albums famous, especially the ones with the science-fiction inspired themes such as 2112, makes for a less spectacular live show. The intricacies are no longer carefully combined and thus their musical talent is somewhat stretched. They do make up for this by adding stupendous visuals and some cool pyrotechnics.
The stretching of talent was most obvious during Neal Peart's drum solo. Again, the solo was well thought out and it sounded a lot better to the ears than most solos I have heard, but Peart seemed to struggle in order to keep up with the faster sections. This was seen throughout the concert---an intense amount of concentration was required (or so it seemed) on his part. Something that is uncommon for a live show---at least the ones I've been to.
Lifeson was okay with his guitar work. He did hit some high points. In particular, the instrumentals they performed were very well done.
Geddy Lee is an excellent bassist. And the vocals in their albums are really good, but again he seemed a bit stretched. He was off-key in a couple of songs (Closer to the Heart, and The Trees) and his voice broke more than once. There was rumour that he was sick the night before, and there could well be some truth to that. I personally feel it reflects his inability to raise his voice these days. The best vocals were seen in the stuff they played off of Counterparts. As with most bands which are past their prime, there is a distinct lack of "aggressiveness" in their later stuff.
I don't think, however, the little details above mattered to the crowd. I think everyone who came enjoyed everything about the concert---the set, the videos in the background, the pyrotechnics, and the two giant inflatable rabbits.
The Trees, which is my favourite Rush song, had the coolest video. Time Stand Still, Roll the Bones and Animate also had good videos. Tom Sawyer, Limelight, Cold Fire, Nobody's Hero, Roll the Bones, and Animate all had good vocal performances. I'm sure I've left out quite a few songs here. You should go see them and check it out if you are interested in Rush, even if only remotely---it is a definite experience that shouldn't be missed!
This is a song they didn't play, but which I'd have loved to see them do:
Subdivisions---Rush Sprawling on the fringes of the city Drawn like moths we drift into the city in geometric order, the timeless old attraction, an insulated border, cruising for the action, in between the bright lights lit up like a firefly and the far unlit unknown. just to feel the living night. Growing up it all seems so one-sided Some will sell their dreams for small opinions all provided, desires or lose the race to rats, The future pre-decided, get caught in ticking traps, detached and subdivided and start to dream of somewhere in the mass production zone. to relax their restless flight. Nowhere is the dreamer or the misfit so alone. Subdivisions: In the high school halls. In the shopping malls. Conform or be cast out. Subdivisions: In the basement bars. In the backs of cars. Be cool or be cast out. Any escape might help to smooth the unattractive truth. But the suburbs have no charms to soothe the restless dreams of youth. Somewhere out of a memory of lighted streets on quiet nights...
To me, a virtuoso in music is someone who is not only skilled in recording brilliant stuff in the studio, but also being able to pull it off live. Peart, who I consider the most talented of the three members in Rush, writes his drum parts out and sticks to them. Contrast this to someone like Tim Alexander of Primus who can not only perform some wicked stuff in the studio (check out his solo Laundry work) but can also shred live in a improvisational sense. See this note for further details on this. Other drummers high on my list include Bill Bruford, Pat Mastelotto, and Bob Muller. Lifeson was okay on the guitar, and Lee's vocals weren't very good (for whatever reasons). Other people who were at this specific show have agreed with me about his vocals. Thus I was not blown away by their live performance---I thought it was good, but not great.