The event I attended on Friday, August 13th, was a rock concert in Irvine at the Verizon Wireless Amphitheater, formerly known as the Irvine Meadows. The ensemble performing was the legendary rock trio Rush.
Rush is a band known for their progressive style which incorporates odd meters, classical structures, jazz improvisation and heavy metal riffing. Rush was founded in the 1970s and became recognized for their conceptual compositions and album structures. The most impressive aspect of Rush as a group is the fact that they are a trio which utilizes a wide variety of instrumentation.
The venue where they performed is located west of the Interstate 5 freeway in the foothills of Southern California. This venue utilizes the slopes of the hills to structure a natural amphitheater which allows the sound to carry throughout the entire audience. Generally speaking, there is not a bad seat in the house acoustically.
The projection of the venue allowed the complex compositions of Rush to shine. Though most progressive rock is known for its multi- instrumentation, Rush is able to simplify the instrumentation with the various tones of drums, bass, guitar, and keyboard synthesizer. The compositions rely heavily on the variations of tones between the instruments. The drummer not only employs acoustic drums but also electronic drum pads that trigger an array of tones and samples. The bass player performs a majority of the compositional functions; as lead vocalist, he also handles duties on the bass guitar and keyboard synthesizer. The guitarist’s ability to switch between chord-based harmony and linear melody is underscored by his appropriation of amplified tones. Unified, the sound of all three musicians is larger than the average heavy metal or hard rock ensemble.
Rush performs an entire set of original compositions. The instrumentation is compounded by odd metered rhythms and unusual scales. The lyrical content is authored by the drummer/percussionist and rooted in American literature. As artisans, they are recognized for their depth of composition, both musically and lyrically.
They are also known for incorporating a multi-media experience during their performances. On this particular night, they began their performance with a video that was a humorous reference to their progressive relativity to popular music throughout their career. As they began to play, it was apparent that the visual aspect was as important to their performance as the complexity of their compositions. While the guitarist and drummer were surrounded by seemingly functional equipment, the bass player utilized a display of futuristic front-loading appliances that were more appropriated to a laundry mat or kitchen.
They began their set with one of their most popular compositions, titled “The Spirit of Radio”. Over the roar of the audience it became evident that these three musicians would command the entire crowd with ease. Each musician displayed proficiency on their instrument beyond a typical rock concert; the high pitch of the vocals, the soaring melody of the guitar and thundering rhythm of bass and drums came together to create a hypnotic soundscape worthy of the 20,000 seated within the venue. United with the laser and light show, the syncopation of the music became more profound.
The drums were an integral part of the performance. The drummer’s limbs were everywhere. It seemed as though every piece of the drum set, from the high hat to the cymbals and every drum in between were ringing. Though the beats sounded complex they provided the perfect time and structure for the music through effortless motions by the drummer. The underlying sound was huge and full, filling the spaces vacated by bass and guitar. The entire set climaxed with a drum solo.
I do not consider myself a “concert person”. And though my husband had introduced me to Rush via CD and video, I was skeptical of attending this particular show. But thankfully I allowed myself to attend this performance and have an open mind to a style of music that I do not normally listen to. I was overwhelmed not only by the band’s astonishing performance but also by the response of the audience which was as enthusiastic as I was.
Rush gave an exciting performance yet maintained their composure throughout as if simply rehearsing or improvising in their own garage. Every lyric, beat, and guitar solo was as heart felt as if it was being written in that moment. The band members obviously realized their responsibility to every person in the audience and did not disappoint. The audience in return provided energy and exhilaration deserved of such a well rehearsed band.
Rush is one of the most respected rock ensembles of modern times and continues to sell out concerts throughout the globe. They are also respected for their ability to sell records and top the billboard charts. Their performance exemplified this royalty within the history of rock and roll and affected me as a music lover.
Rush’s performance was unexpected and I find it hard to put into words just how awesome and mind blowing they are. The flashiest review does not even do them justice. Until you see them live, the amount of sound produced is not only incomprehensible but absolutely amazing.