The Show Goes On, We Are Canadian – Rush

At first it appeared that the spirit of that bloody storm had resurrected itself and threatened to take this show down; a spiteful wraith bound and determined to end the evening’s proceedings. For a band and crew that pride themselves on precision, the hour long delay was unheard of. A local radio personality came out twice to say there were technical problems and we would have to wait a little longer to ‘hear an awesome concert’ and ‘see an awesome show’. His adjective of choice may have been ‘excellent’ instead of ‘awesome’, but this hyperbole, repeated twice grated more than informed. The audience didn’t seem to mind, giving them ample opportunity to check out the merch booths; the special edition Rush for Flood Relief t-shirts, of which all sales profits would be added to the grand donation, were few when the doors opened, but continued to multiply as the delay continued.

Three young men from Okotoks, who had not been affected by the flood, were more than pumped while waiting in line for the doors to open. Sounding like huge fans, it was curious to note that they had only seen the band a few times. Whether by choice or just a matter of circumstance, they were doing their utmost to catch up. One doubts that the delay dampened this trio’s enthusiasm. If anything, it probably heightened their expectation to the point of ecstasy when the show ignited.

A local man had been in Calgary on the day of the flood, attending the Sled Island music festival. He barely exited the city before the district where he was staying was wrapped in the muddy flood waters. He found the experience both exhilarating and terrifying, but was grateful he survived with minimal damage. Besides buying a ticket for this show, he forfeited asking Sled Island for a refund, thinking it better that the festival survives and returns for another year. His contribution to flood relief?–being a nice guy.

Enmax Centrium, Red Deer | July 24, 2013
Photography by: Charles Hope

And speaking of nice guys, when Messrs. Lee, Lifeson, and Peart finally took to the stage, they proceeded to burn, though not without further issues. Lifeson appeared a little under the weather and wasn’t his usually animated self for the first half of the set. One could say he looked pale if one could make out his true skin colour under the intense barrage of light. One could speculate that this was the cause for the delay, but it probably wasn’t.

Lee never articulated the cause or reason for the delay, but given the intense activity around the monitor equipment on stage left before the show, plus Lee’s apparent problem with hearing his voice during the show, it was more likely the technical glitch that Mr. Awesome had noted earlier. Perhaps the delay put Lifeson off his stride, but it was great to see his energy increase with every song and see that trickster with the sly grin surface.

Even Peart, that controlled master of the drum kit, was having issues. It is rare to see any tech on stage for more than a few seconds during a show, but Peart’s drum tech was in front of the his kit for close to a minute struggling with something. After the song ended, Peart quickly removed himself from behind the kit and in the dark flashlights could be seen moving to and fro around the bass drum. Yes, it appeared that that storm spirit was indeed wreaking havoc.

One element unaffected this night was the Clockwork Angels String Ensemble, performing during the second set. Whether it was because of the low ceiling within the arena or a different organization of the sound system, the ensemble sound was crystal clear in the sonic texture. On the group’s earlier swing through Alberta in 2012, the ensemble’s subtleties were lost and somewhat muddled, so it was great to hear the strings adding to the overall experience.

Early in the show Lee made the only reference to the flood and the benefit show by thanking everyone for coming out to support the process because, “We’re Canadians. We’re all neighbours.” A fine statement of truth; we do what we need to be because we do.

Epilogue: Rush recently announced that $575,000 would be donated to Alberta Flood Relief through the Canadian Red Cross. Yes, we are Canadian, and proud of it.

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