Concert review

Rush delivers a 3-hour rock odyssey

Updated: 2013-08-06T16:45:20Z

By TIMOTHY FINN

The Kansas City Star

A typical Rush concert is an exercise in endurance and indulgence.

Sunday night’s show at the Sprint Center was no exception.

For three hours, including a 20-minute intermission, the progressive-rock trio from Toronto took a crowd of more than 8,000 fans on an odyssey that included an array of visual stimulants, some pyrotechnics, a manic seven-piece string section, a cameo by a movie star and a barrage of epic prog-rock arias rife with key changes, cockeyed time signatures and the inimitable, bittersweet voice of Geddy Lee.

The show was the final of the band’s Clockwork Angels Tour, which spanned 70 shows in North America and Europe over 11 months. The tour is named after Rush’s most recent album, “Clockwork Angels,” which was the centerpiece of the second part of Sunday’s show.

The first part was an hour of songs from other eras, starting with “Subdivisions,” the hit off the “Signals” album, now more than 30 years old. For this set, Lee, who played bass and keyboards, was accompanied only by Alex Lifeson, guitarist and occasional background singer, and the demonstrative Neil Peart, who was surrounded by so many drums it looked as if he was hoarding them.

The crowd gave each song a loud and prolonged response, but by far the biggest moment was “Limelight,” from the band’s most popular album, “Moving Pictures.”

Lee turned 60 in late July, but he can still deliver vocals that resemble the way he recorded them. And he can do it for three hours a night, which is even more impressive.

A large video screen behind the stage broadcast close-ups of the band and videos that accompanied the songs. The stage was populated with several props, including a popcorn machine, that, along with many of the videos, supported a general steampunk theme. Several times during the show, flashpots and fireworks detonated, and heavy gusts of steam were exhausted.

Peart showed off his herculean drum skills during a solo that exceeded four minutes. A camera gave the crowd several birds-eye views of his massive kit. The solo was part of “Where’s My Thing,” another highlight of the first set.

As the second set began, a seven-piece string section took perch on a platform behind Peart. The strings would add significant energy and heft to much of the set, which started with nine of the 12 songs on “Clockwork Angels.”

During this phase of the show, the crowd watched as much as it listened, witnessing the band’s whirlwind mix of precision and virtuosity.

Lifeson’s guitar solo during “Headlong Flight” got a big response. So did his intro to “Halo Effect.”

Lee said “The Garden” was one of the band’s favorite songs on “Angels,” and they performed it like it was. During “Wish Them Well,” about a half dozen costumed characters (one was a gorilla) bounded on stage and danced around very briefly, as if Rush had taken a page out of the Flaming Lips’ playbook. The levity was appreciated.

The string section remained beyond the “Angels” songs, including the exhilarating instrumental “YYZ.” During that song, actor Paul Rudd, a former Overland Park resident, jumped in and conducted the strings. It was novel and slightly random (Rudd starred in a movie about two Rush devotees), and it seemed to get lost on most of the crowd, at least until Lee introduced Rudd as he and the string players left.

The band opened the encore with the epic and legendary “Tom Sawyer,” then closed with three tracks from the “2112” album, including “Grand Finale,” which lived up to its name.

More flashpots would detonate and fireworks would explode, and Lee and Lifeson would toss a bunch of what looked like T-shirts into the crowd — just rewards for indulging for three hours in music that can be as demanding as it is rewarding.

To reach Timothy Finn, call 816-234-4781 or send email to tfinn@kcstar.com. Follow him at Twitter.com/phinnagain. Read more from him at our music blog, Back to Rockville, at KansasCity.com.

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