Photo by Kris Knowles, The Kansas City Star
You could tell several things from Rush's show Thursday at Verizon:
* Rush’s fans are mostly older men who grew up in the band’s heyday in the late 70s/early 80s. At some concerts, it's hard to spot many people over 40. This show was the opposite. Not surprisingly, the band’s older classics brought the biggest response.
* The band members may be getting old, but on this night it certainly didn’t detract from their enthusiasm, virtuoso musical skills and especially stamina. They started shortly after 8 p.m. and played until 11:15, with a 20-minute intermission.
* Verizon Amphitheater needs a bigger stage and — this is old news — better video screens. Rush brought an outstanding stage setup with three of their own large video-screens and a variety of great lights. But it was apparent that the height of the Verizon stage was a real limitation, as the band’s lighting had to hang so low that some of it got in the way of the video screens. It wasn’t a problem for people in the lower-level front seats, but farther up the hill the view was partially blocked.
This show didn’t seem to be close to a sell-out. Both sections of reserved seats seemed full, but the lawn area was pretty sparse.
Still, for a band that doesn't get much radio play of its most recent music, it was a solid crowd. Rush still has plenty of drawing power as a sort of Led Zeppelin of a certain generation.
The band inflicted a few too many songs from its new album, but considering that the show was nearly three hours, there was plenty of time for favorites. Songs that really got the crowd moving and brought the biggest responses included “The Spirit of the Radio,” “Tom Sawyer,” “YYZ,” “Witch Hunt,” and “Subdivisions.”
Another standout was the instrumental “Malignant Narcissism.” But a string of other songs from the new album created a lull in the middle of the show. People in the front section mostly stayed standing but with less rocking, and a lot of people in the second tier were sitting. The show felt a little leisurely during that stretch.
The video screens were put to great use, with one or two screens devoted at times to close-ups of guitar or drum handiwork. This was especially valuable during Neil Peart’s drum solo, when the viewing angles included views from the front, top, over the shoulders and side, with closeups on the snare and even a bass-drum foot. I can’t think of a better use of technology to fully appreciate one of rock’s greatest drummers.
The screens were also used for graphics, videos and lighting effects to go with the music, and they showed a video of “Lil Rush” which had the characters of “South Park” performing “Tom Sawyer.”
This show continued Rush's tradition of great lighting, including some green lazers from the 1980s. (Why did those go away? It's still cool to watch the beams soar through the sky. )
Sound quality at the sound board was mostly great, sometimes superb. Better than most Rush albums, especially the live ones. It's odd that they can never seem to capture how good they really are live.