Twenty seven years ten months and one day ago, Ronald Reagan was president, unleaded gasoline was a whopping 89¢ a gallon, the Dow Jones Industrial Average was around 2,500, Fatal Attraction and Hellraiser were new movies in theaters, and Pink Floyd was on tour in support of their latest album. I was 21 at the time, and Floyd was in Philadelphia at John F. Kennedy Stadium on their A Momentary Lapse of Reason Tour. My friend Mike and I were at that show at JFK — along with more than 120,000 other Floyd fans — trying in vain to stay dry during passing rain showers. The show sounded amazing and was visually awesome, only made better by the slight buzz from second-hand pot smoke we were enjoying. In my pocket was a RadioShack-supplied stereo tape recorder with tie clip microphones on each of the epaulettes of my white Members Only jacket. Hey, don’t judge me! It was 1987 and that shit was totally radical in the ’80s, man! Anyway, I bring this up because it was the last time I went to see a big-time concert.
That long 28 year dry spell of no concerts ended Sunday, July 19, 2015! In celebration of my 49th birthday this week, I went to see Rush with my good friend Ditech and his friend Doc when the legendary Canadian trio rolled into Seattle in support of their R40 Live Tour, and it was fanfuckingtastic!
The trek to Seattle
Since I wasn’t driving my truck to Seattle, I met up with Ditech in Mount Vernon, WA at 3:30pm. I left my truck (with its spectacular air conditioner) at a mutual friend’s house, because leaving a vehicle at a park and ride for 9+ hours is just asking for a stolen stereo. Of course, yesterday was hottest day of 2015! The National Weather Service in Seattle observed a record high of 96°F, breaking the old record of 88°F set in 2003… and the air conditioning in Ditech‘s car was as useless as a double mastectomy in New Orleans on Mardi Gras! Jesus Murphy, it was hotter than two furry woodland creatures humping in a wool sock, and my ass crack was a fuck-all sweat factory. I was sweating like a Mexican driving a van-load of illegals through the San Ysidro border crossing!
On the way down I-5, Ditech and I were enjoying life with our vaporizer pens, which of course made us hungry. Instead of some KFC, we stopped at the Alderwood MOD Pizza in Lynnwood, WA. We both admitted to never having their pizza before, so the concept of a “made on demand” pie similar to hoagies at Subway was new to us. Their pizza wasn’t bad. I had a MOD size (11-inch) barbecue chicken and bacon pizza with a lemonade. Ditech being his soy juice-drinking, vegetarian self ordered a Mega MOD — which doubled up the crusts — that resembled a giant slice of lime. I don’t remember all he had on it, but it was a bunch of pale green stuff on two 11-inch cracker crusts. It looked like Hello Kitty chowed down on some tall fescue in the backyard then regurgitated that foamy-green chunder onto a flour tortilla. To each his own, I guess, but I have to commend Ditech. He’s been a vegetarian for as long as I’ve known him, which is over a decade. I don’t think I’ve been that dedicated to anything for 10 years in a row.
After eating, Ditech talked to Doc and the working plan was changed. Doc was on his way back from a Jazz Festival in Portland, and stuck in stop-and-go traffic. So, instead of picking up Doc at his place or residence, the plan was for us to go directly to KeyArena and Doc will meet us there. Ditech and I were fighting stop-and-go traffic ourselves. Ditech wanted to exit I-5, but I talked him into remaining on the Interstate. I was pretty certain that the sheer number of traffic lights and slower-moving surface traffic on Aurora Avenue North would have made I-5 look like the Autobahn from Frankfurt to Bonn.
Finally across the Ship Canal Bridge, we took Exit 167 off I-5 and ran into “event traffic” on Mercer Avenue. Google Maps to the rescue! Google took us on a Sunday Drive of Seattle! It has us turn left up Fairview Avenue to Boren Avenue. A right off Boren put us on Stewart Street. We followed Stewart to another right onto 4th Avenue, then a left onto Cedar Street to 1st Avenue, which took us to our destination. The direct route down Mercer would have been a few feet more than a mile and a quarter. The route we took down Stewart was 2.3 miles… but Google ensured us it was the faster route.
Right at 6pm, Ditech dropped me off at 1st and Harrison Street — directly in front of KeyArena — while he found a place to park. I say “dropped me off,” but it was more like I jumped out of the car. I just knew my COPD-crippled ass wouldn’t be able to handle multi-block walk from a parking garage back to KeyArena, even though I had doubled up on my meds three days prior to Sunday. Surprisingly, Ditech found a parking garage a half block and an elevator ride away from 1st and Harrison.
While I was waiting for Ditech to return from parking the car, I spent the time hiding our vape pens. Consuming weed might be legal in Washington, but only in the privacy of your home, not in public. So, I had a small cinched pouch tied to the button on my jeans. I put the batteries and cartridges into the pouch and was able to hide the contraband in my pants, directly behind my belt buckle. Trust me, it wasn’t as gross as it might sound. The sack of cannabis concentrate was no where near my sac of testicles, which I’m sure was a huge relief to Ditech.
Ditech called Doc for an update. Apparently, Doc made it home from Portland, and wanted to spend a little time with his family and children. The new plan was for him to leave at 7 and meet us at KeyArena. Since Ditech had his ticket, we spent about 75 minutes in the summer heat watching scalpers hawk tickets. I decided it was a good time to buy a concert t-shirt. Holy shitballs! I know it’s been nearly 30 years since I attended an arena concert, but $50 for a t-shirt is a bit much. Fuck! I understand inflation but wasn’t expecting sticker shock on silk-screened garments! I called Tina and she agreed; a half a C note is too much for a t-shirt. Shit!
Another call to Doc changed the plans again. Now Ditech and I were going inside, and Doc would call when he arrived outside. So we made our way inside. At the door, KeyArena staff checked our tickets. And that was it! Goddammit! Had I known we weren’t going to be frisked, I wouldn’t have hovered our cartridges and 510 batteries above my junk… and I’d have brought a much nicer camera with me.
We made our way to an elevator, because climbing stairs to the upper levels would have had me panting like an asthmatic English Bulldog. I probably would have passed out and fallen down the stairs, causing other Rush fans to flee in terrified fear like Indian Jones running from the boulder in Raiders of the Lost Ark. After Ditech made a quick pit stop to a restroom, we forged a path Section 209 and found our seats!
As I looked around, Rush fans in attendance appeared to be middle-aged to flat-out old fuckers. Then I realized I am one of those middle-aged bastards AT A RUSH CONCERT! Days before the show, I was mildly worried that I would be out of place. Going to a live concert is, in my mind, a young person’s activity. But these Rush fans were laid back. They were there to enjoy the show just like me. In fact, it appeared that some of these quinquagenarians and sexagenarians brought their children to see the show! Awesome!
Rush was supposed to take the stage at 7:30pm. But at that time, Doc finally called Ditech from outside the main entrance to KeyArena. Ditech dashed down the stairs and was able to get Doc into the show. Luckily, they made it back to our section before the lights went out around 7:45pm!
Rush hits the stage
The lights went out and the crowd erupted in cheer as the opening video flickered across the curtain. When the Seattle roadsign appeared at the end of the opening video, the crowd cheered again and continued to cheer as the curtain was raised and the opening notes of “The Anarchist” blasted out.
The gig started out where Rush’s Clockwork Angels Tour left off and playing songs in reverse chronological order, spanning four decades of music from the current big-technology era of their most recent work to the band’s theater and gymnasium period of the early 1970s. The stage lighting also took a backwards stroll down Memory Lane, starting out with powerful video projectors, giant LED video screens, and dancing light pods on high-speed motors. As the show went on, the lighting effects got progressively more simple with lots of lasers and finishing with a giant disco ball and spot lights.
Even the stage design got in on the trip-through-time theme. The show started with the steampunk props resembling the Clockwork Angels Tour, which included the bassy, brainy, horny, and corny machines on stage. As the concert continued, technicians in red jumpsuits transformed the stage by swapping the steampunky bits with laundromat dryers. After intermission, we found the technicians had been busy and replaced the laundry equipment with outsized stacks of Marshall and Ampeg speakers and amps. By the end of the show, the giant video screens behind the stage were used to display images of small theaters and gymnasiums. Neil Peart was even playing his 1970s-era double bass drum kit!
The show seemed to start out slow, probably because the band started with three relatively unknown songs from Clockwork Angels, and I think fans (myself included) were a little unfamiliar with those tunes. If the band had opened with a couple of huge Rush hits, KeyArena would have needed to replace a blown-off roof on July 20. The energy picked up with “Far Cry,” “Animate,” and “Roll the Bones,” which featured video clips of lip-syncing celebrities, including Jason Segel, Peter Dinklage, Paul Rudd, and Tom Morello. The Key was rocking when the trio pumped out “Between The Wheels” and “Subdivisions,” but then Geddy Lee announced, “We need to take a short break to resuscitate.” And with that, Set 1 (“Contemporary Rush”) was over and many Seattle Rush fans lined up for $9 beers… and public toilets.
Set 2 (“Classic Rush”) started with a video called “No Country For Old Hens” — which looked like a blooper reel of videos from previous tours — featuring Geddy, Alex, and Neil dressed as pirates, munchkins, and chickens. The video ended with the South Park kids pretending they were Lil’ Rush. The curtain lifted and “Tom Sawyer” punched everyone in the chest; the audience sang “A modern-day warrior, mean mean stride. Today’s Tom Sawyer, mean mean pride.” right along with Geddy Lee! Sweet! “The Camera Eye” and “The Spirit of Radio” kept the place rocking!
Continuing the trek back through time, Rush dusted off several deep cuts, including the laser-filled “Jacob’s Ladder,” the two books of “Cygnus X-1,” and “Xanadu,” which featured Lee and Lifeson each playing double-necked guitars, just as they did in their earlier days. The epic Set 2 ended with the guys playing four of the lengthy, familiar parts of the seven-part “2112“, and the ominous warning, “We have assumed control. We have assumed control.”
The band exited, stage left (see what I did there?) for the encore. A video featuring Eugene Levy as Rockin’ Mel Slirrup, a tour promoter at Mel’s Rockpile from SCTV fame, was projected on the large curtain in front of the stage as he introduced the “opening band” Rush! The threesome returned to the stage, playing an abbreviated version of “Lakeside Park,” another deep cut, while the video backgrounds showed the typical red traveler curtain of an old theatrical stage. Maybe it was the cacophony of the Arena and the abuse my ear were taking, but even the sound system seemed crappier, like it may have been in the early days of touring. They played “Anthem” and “What You’re Doing” as video images reflected scenes from Rod Serling High School gymnasium, a tribute to some of Rush’s early gigs. The show, appropriately enough, ended where Rush began with “Working Man,” their first single from 1974 which pre-dated even Neil Peart.
The Canadian trio pounded out a killer show worthy of any and all praise they receive. The band played about 25 songs in over 3 hours, and seemed in prime form! If this is indeed their last big arena tour (and it appears so), they ended with a bang! I hope that someday in the future, they do tour again, even if it’s only in small legs at small venues.
Doc, Ditech, and I made our way through the throngs of people and managed to get out of KeyArena. My lung disease was kicking my ass by then, and I forced a rest stop under the KeyArena sign out front. Doc, being a surgeon, was concerned and was willing to hang around to make sure I made it to Ditech‘s car safely. But I’ve been dealing with this breathing bullshit for almost a decade now, and I know my limitations. I told him I appreciate the thought, but I’d be fine. Besides, it was after 11:00pm, and he should get home and be with his family.
The parking garage was literally a half block away, across the street, and down an elevator. Not wanting to walk a full block then another half block by using crosswalks, I “forced” Ditech to jaywalk across 1st Avenue. Finally at the car, I was breathing like that English Bulldog again, and sweating like a black man being pulled over by a white cop in South Carolina. It took us a good 10 minutes to make it out of the garage, and another 30 minutes to get to the northbound I-5 freeway entrance.
It was a little past midnight when we stopped at an ARCO am/pm for a much needed caffeine break. The driving, waiting, cannabis, and rocking was making me drowsy, and apparently Ditech was feeling it, too. We were back on the Interstate in no time, and arrived back where I parked my truck by 12:45am.
I knew Tina wouldn’t eat anything while I was gone, so I stopped at Jack in the Box for a really late dinner at 1:30am, and was safely back at home by 1:45am. Of course, the sun was actually coming up before I actually went to bed… and excitement and adrenalin of the concert kept me awake.
I thought about that last Pink Floyd show I saw in Philly all the way back in 1987. They did something similar with the setlist, but not so strictly. The first half of Floyd’s show was mostly songs from A Momentary Lapse of Reason; the second half consisted of the hits, like “Wish You Were Here,” “Us and Them,” “Money,” and “Comfortably Numb.”
Below is the setlist from Rush’s R40 concert in Seattle, July 19, 2015. The images I snapped with the crappy camera of my cell phone are also linked below…
Setlist and Pictures
Opening Video: “The World Is… The World Is…”
The Main Monkey Business
How It Is
Roll The Bones
Between The Wheels
Video: “No Country For Old Hens”
The Camera Eye
The Spirit of Radio
Cygnus X-1 Book Two: Hemispheres – Prelude
Cygnus X-1 Book One: The Voyage: Part 1
Cygnus X-1 Book One: The Voyage: Part 3
Closer To The Heart
2112 Part I: Overture
2112 Part II: The Temples of Syrinx
2112 Part IV: Presentation
2112 Part VII: Grand Finale
Video: “Mel’s Rockpile” (with Eugene Levy)
Lakeside Park (abbreviated)
What You’re Doing