Last night I saw Rush at the Fabulous Forum in Los Angeles on the last night of their 40th anniversary tour. It’s entirely possible that it’s the last time they’ll ever take the stage like that and that it was the last time I’ll ever see them play live. And it’s really okay.
Not okay in the sense that they seem tired. Last night’s show was among the best of their performances I’ve ever seen. And I’ve seen a lot of them, starting when I was a teenager and the skull beneath the flesh of my driver’s license photo hadn’t yet fused. These three guys are powerful musicians, and they sounded like they were going out at the top of their game.
The band did a nice bit of theater with their onstage gear. As the show went on, roadies kept stripping down the stage. What started with elaborate steam punk contraptions and oversized clothes driers ended up with a couple of amps sitting on wooden school chairs. It was a nice, physical expression of moving back in time.
So, for almost three hours, I stood in the bombardment of Geddy’s bass and Neil’s drums and Alex’s guitars, smiling joyfully. I thought of all the times I’d heard those songs on the radio, on vinyl, on my boom box or off-brand Walkman.
“In a world where I feel so small, I can’t stop thinking big.” — Caravan, Rush
Last night, as with all the other shows, I got to experience it with some of the most important people in my life. This time it was Lisa, and my friend since childhood, Todd, and Todd’s wife, Lori. Some of my favorite shows were with my friend, Bob, with whom I shed blood for many years in Arizona.
I thought of sitting in some random parking lot in Todd’s Toyota Tercel and being exulted by the tone of Geddy Lee’s Fender Jazz bass. I thought of being depressed on a bench on my college campus, and deciding my time would be better spent listening to Moving Pictures than sitting in some giant, dark lecture hall for two hours of art history. I remember a show on the Roll The Bones tour when they sent thousands of miniature spot lights over the crowd during “Bravado,” literally sharing their light and inspiration with all of us, and I almost wanted to leave the concert so I could sit with my yellow legal pad and write stories.
I get sentimental while I’m making the devil sign with both hands.
Several months ago Kevin J. Anderson invited me to submit to 2113, an anthology of short stories inspired by the music of Rush. Neil Peart had given a nod of approval for the project, so of course I wrote a story. Of course I did. Art executed with care and technical expertise has an enormous capacity to make the audience feel. Rush taught me that, and I don’t know if I’d be a writer without them.
I’m thinking about this Dr. Seuss quote: “Don’t cry because it’s over, smile because it happened.” As Geddy said before leaving the stage, I hope to see them again. If not, thanks for decades of smiles, guys.
When the dust has cleared
And victory denied
A summit too lofty
River a little too wide
If we keep our pride
Though paradise is lost
We will pay the price
But we will not count the cost
— Bravado, Rush