Will Preston

Is it too prog rock to play two consecutive sets?

by on May.27, 2011, under Gigs, Music, Review

My advice to anyone travelling into London to see a gig at the 02 Arena: Seriously think things through. Are the tubes working? Are you familiar with the overly elaborate London bus system? Do you have a mortgage on standby to pay for cab fair? And is the band really worth seeing so much that you’ll be fine to put up with the bastardised international airport that is the 02 Arena? Let’s just say that getting to the gig the other night felt like an uphill struggle where the hill is made of smelly marshmallows. And then when you finally get to the venue you feel like you’re checking into an airport. It looks like one and all. Never before had I felt like I needed to look for some duty free before a gig. Something’s not right here.

Bow down to Geddy's massive face

But this was Rush, so I was willing to crawl through all obstacles. After scaling the side of a small mountain of chairs, I sat into my seat and as soon as the gig started, a video played featuring the band dressed as characters in a random diner in the seventies. Geddy was the overly Jewish diner owner, Alex Lifeson was the fat inventor of a time machine and Neil ‘best drummer in the world’ Peart was an Irish copper. I won’t bore you with the bizarre details, but let’s just say that Rush have a very odd sense of humour that really didn’t feel out of place at the gig at all. Starting with the twiddlycore hit Spirit of Radio, the band seemed to show just as much energy as most young bands, despite clearly looking a fair bit older. There were no support acts. There was no need for support acts. Rush were playing two long sets. Now that’s what you call true progressive rock.

The first set was hit and miss. Whilst songs such as Freewill, Subdivisions and Stick it Out made the set go by, their decision to play some of the more middle of the road songs like Presto and Time Stands Still made me wonder when the better songs were going to make an appearance. It wasn’t until I realised they weren’t going to play some of my favourites such as The Trees and Xanadu, that I got a bit miffed. But it wasn’t a bad set, it just could have been a bit better. Around this time I also noticed that the sound in the 02 Arena itself was among the worst I have heard. It’s like the design was based on a tin can made of the most echoey material known to man. It was in danger of ruining the sound. I was glad I went with Orange for my mobile provider. If 02 can’t get the sound right at a rock concert, who knows what they’re call quality would be like. But at least it didn’t ruin the bands stage presence.

Canadians can't smile

The second set started with their 1981 album Moving Pictures played in its entirety. It was the 30th anniversary of the album and one of the main things I was looking forward to. Missed half of Tom Sawyer due to hot dog malfunction, but we all know how it goes. Hearing YYZ done live almost made me cry my hot dog out of my face. This was a perfect example of a prog rock instrumental that is totally accessible to an outsider. After the long run of Moving Picture, we had the obligatory drum solo from Neil Peart, who never lets me down. I’m a person who isn’t really compelled by drum solo’s but Neil Peart always turns my head (not in that way!). Ironically, I approved of them playing less of one of their songs in this set. Instead of playing 2112 in its entirety, they were a bit more economic and played the first two parts. Just to confirm, they shortened a twenty minute song to seven minutes. And that didn’t ruin it whatsoever.

For the encore, they okayed an unexpected instrumental (La Villa Strangiato) which has one of the best breakdowns in a prog rock song I’ve heard ever. Even thinking about it now causes my head to bob up and down like it’s try to gain independence. But for the last song, it took me a while to catch on to what it actually was. Turns out it was Working man done in a weird reggae sound at the beginning. After leaving the stage for the third and final time, we were treated with a video of Paul Rudd and Jason Segel (Yes, they were playing the characters from the film I Love You, Man) breaking into Rush’s backstage room. That’s open big band crossed off the list for me to see and hopefully the last time I have to venture to the giant shit tent known as the 02 Arena.

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2 Comments for this entry

  • n

    Use the Jubilee line (okay – so it does have a habit of stopping running at random intervals) – or shock horror, the DLR! No buses need to happen! DLR to Canary Wharf and you’re with in spitting distance.

  • SueP

    Darn it, Will. Does it mean my next xmas present of complimentary Cliff Richard tickets at the O2 will be firmly rejected???

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