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Concert Reviews:
Rush digs deep at The Palace

for Journal Register Newspapers

Posted: Wednesday, September 19, 2012

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AUBURN HILLS -- It's been awhile -- five years -- since Rush has released an album of new material.

Fans haven't necessarily minded, of course, as they've trooped out to hear the Canadian trio play its greatest hits and even a full recitation of 1981's landmark "Moving Pictures" album during the 2010-11 Time Machine Tour. But this year Rush is using the arrival of its Top 5 "Clockwork Angels" to recast its stage show -- in an aurally and visually arresting manner designed to thrill true Rush aficionados as much as the T-shirts the band members threw into the crowd before its encores.

Over the course of three hours -- including a 15-minute intermission -- and 28 songs, Rush not only gave "Clockwork Angels" its due (with a nine-song, hour-long set bolstered by an eight-piece string section) but put most of its biggest radio hits on ice to instead dig deep into its repertoire to fill the night with long-idled favorites. The show's first set, in fact, was primarily devoted to Rush's 80s albums, and while the night opened with the familiar "Subdivisions" from 1982's "Signals," it was deep cuts such as "Force Ten," "Grand Designs," "Middletown Dreams," "Territories" and "The Analog Kid" -- with elaborately produced videos and occasional pyrotechnics accompanying the songs' intricate, virtuostic arrangements -- that made the evening special from the outset.

The Palace crowd also heeded frontman Geddy Lee's request for indulgence during the protracted "Clockwork Angels" segment, and Rush -- coming back from a three-day break that allowed Lee to celebrate the Jewish new year, Rosh (or Rush) Hashana -- rewarded that attention with fierce performances of "Caravan," "Carnies" and a particularly dynamic "Headlong Flight," as well as more melodic pieces such as "Halo Effect," "Wish Them Well" and the majestic "The Garden." The strings, meanwhile, stuck around to add texture and dimension to older fare such as "Dreamline," "Red Sector A" (which was preceded by drummer Neil Peart's second solo of the night) and the Grammy Award-winning instrumental "YYZ."

After Lee offered a "farewell to strings," Rush finished the show as a trio, starting "Working Man" as a reggae tune before morphing it into the leaden rock of the group's 1974 debut album and encoring with "Tom Sawyer" and the opening and closing segments of its 1976 rock opera "2112." It felt like a bit of a payoff to the fans for letting Rush do what it wanted earlier, but you'd be hard-pressed to complain about a show that celebrated the group's formidable depth as well as its freshest material.

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