Happy Thirtieth, Boys!

Yesterday was completely different from my typical Saturday. I asked for the weekend off from the theatre. I also tried to sleep in, knowing I was going to have a late night. It didn’t work as well as I’d hoped, as I only managed to sleep to about 10 am. My plan was to wait for Don to arrive at my place at 3 pm, and do some other things in the meantime. There was vacuuming, dishes, an entry, and a few other things. Unfortunately, I could only apply myself enough to do one thing … the dishes. Why couldn’t I apply myself, you ask? The giddy excitement prevented even the simplest concentration on my part. The excitement being a direct result of our having tickets to the Montréal date of Rush’s 30th anniversary tour that very evening. I don’t feel an honest-to-goodness excitement leading up to many concerts, but Rush definitely is the one I look the most forward to.

The plan was for Don to get to my place, then we’d meet Kelly and Gord at her mom’s, and finally make our way to Montréal together. Interestingly enough, looking back at our last Rush concert, this was basically the same plan we had then. The only difference being the concert was on Saturday this time so we didn’t have to worry about scheduling around work. We could leave earlier, park the car and enjoy Montréal before the show. We had plenty of time to enjoy a beverage on a patio downtown.

Don (being a goof), Gord, and Kelly, enjoying perfect patio weather. Only afterwards did it occur to me that I should’ve set the camera’s self timer to capture a complete record on the participants!

Knowing there was no way I’d survive the evening without dinner (not having eaten lunch!), I encouraged the others to think about our going somewhere with a more substantial fare than the snack bar at the patio. Coincidentally, Lori mentioned Dunn’s Deli, and from my seat on the patio, I could see the Metcalf Street location. So after we finished our drinks, off we went. Having only an hour before the show started, we quickly ordered and asked for our bills as soon as the food arrived. And oh the food! I’m not sure I’ve been to Dunn’s before but I ordered the smoked meat sandwich and felt like I was in heaven as I ate it. It had a huge amount of lean meat packed between the two pieces of bread, and it tasted like perfection. Consider this a hearty recommendation if you find yourself anywhere near the Montréal or Ottawa locations.

“The Professor,” Neil Peart, offers up his obligatory and much-anticipated drum solo, to the delight of the crowd.

After we settled up and made a round of washroom breaks, we headed off to the Bell Centre. Of course it was jammed. We made our way inside to the shirt vendors. I was planning to get a hat and a program because I don’t wear t-shirts often and the prices of shirts are spiralling out of control. The programs were sold out so after borrowing $5 from Don, I got the hat for $25 and a golf shirt for $50. It’s expensive, but it’s made of Dupont’s Coolmax fabric so unless the stitching fails, it ought to last a long while. The time was drawing very near so Kelly and Gord went their separate way (we got better seats by settling for two pairs of tickets rather than four together). Don and I went into the entrance tunnel labelled with our section number and ended up at the wrong end of our row. We went back up the stairs, out to the lobby and back in the next tunnel. Unfortunately our timing was bad and we missed the very start because of this manoeuvre. This has never happened to me before. They had a new introductory video starring Jerry Stiller that was quite funny … and a little disturbing at times. But we quickly found our seats and settled in for some entertainment. And we were entertained!

It was great to see Alex bring his big white Gibson guitar he used in the late seventies.

Let me digress for an explanation. In the entry describing the Vapour Trails show, I simply scanned some photos of the band from the program, but this time I took them myself. At the last show in 2002, I was very surprised at the lack of scrutiny toward the concert goers by security. In earlier years, while we were having our tickets torn, security personnel would look through bags, and under coats. Heck, I was even patted down once. The first thing I thought at the last show was I could’ve easily brought my camera along. So this time I did. I slung it over my left shoulder then put on a light jacket. The result was a slight bulge on my side at the waist, but you’d never notice unless you were looking for it. Cameras are still frowned upon as the security floor staff told the picture takers they spotted to knock it off. Unfortunately our seats were the first row over an entry tunnel so I was in plain view the whole time. I just kept an eye on the security people and kept my photography as stealthy as I could.

Yea, the show was terrific. The guys don’t run and jump around as much as they might’ve in the past but this is to be expected. Geddy turned fifty-one last month and Alex has his fifty-first birthday this coming Friday. Knowing this, they seem quite spry! Regardless, the whole point is the music and in this regard they’ve suffered not one whit. Because this was not a tour in support of an album, but rather their thirtieth anniversary, the set list was more eclectic than has been typical. Every album but Presto had at least one song in the performance. It was particularly good to hear some favourites they’ve long since stopped performing, along with some minor changes they’ve made to other songs. I also hoped they wouldn’t play many (if any) of the covers from their new EP. I wrote recently that I just didn’t care for the covers, but seeing them play two of the tracks seems to have made the songs more their own. I particularly liked the acoustic version of The Yardbirds’ Heart Full of Soul. And any concert with both Xanadu and YYZ can’t be bad, no matter what!

The only bad thing we saw happened to the guy sitting beside Don. He left twice during the show for beer and seemed unable to hold his drink. By the second part of the concert, he didn’t look well. Despite being at a great concert, it was all he could do to hold the bar in front of his seat and rest his head on his hands. He did throw up but we were expecting him to let loose over the bar down into the people walking in and out of the access tunnel! His friends had to carry him out well before the end of the concert … sucks to be them.

The acoustic rendering of Heart Full of Soul. Note the dryers behind Alex, and the vending machine further right.

It was crystal clear the band’s sense of humour is still as strong as ever. Geddy has the same clothes dryers on his side of the stage. There are a number of concert shirts in each one. When the dryers stop, a roadie (or a pirate) comes out, inserts more change, and starts them up again. At the end of the show, they throw the shirts out to the audience. I’ve read they’re the same concert shirts with an additional printed message saying something like “I got this shirt from dryer number two during Rush’s 30th anniversary tour.” Neat! In addition, Geddy’s added a food vending machine for this tour.

Rush is absolutely not known for having guests, but they did have a short walk-on of sorts. In the middle of 2112: Overture, Ricky and Bubbles, from Trailer Park Boys, walked out onto stage. Bubbles had a look at the shirts in the dryers while Ricky seemed more interested in the dispensing machine, just as we’d expect from Ricky. Alex guest starred in an episode of Trailer Park Boys last year, and is a great fan of the program.

“Thank you very kindly, Montréal. Good Night!”

Even without an opening band, Rush played for well over three hours. They don’t tour as often as they used to, but they still put on a hell of a show. Rush didn’t come to Ottawa this tour, their last visit being in support of Test for Echo on July 4 1997, so like us, I imagine many Ottawa fans attended the Montréal show. On the way back, we stopped at a Tim Hortons only to see quite a line. Only one cashier was on duty, which isn’t surprising at it was about 1 am by this point. The line up almost went out the door and people were still arriving. I went in to use the washroom and was terribly amused to see a number of people in the queue wearing Rush concert shirts. Who would expect forty people to simultaneously descend on a coffee shop out in the middle of nowhere?

By the time I got home, after our returning to Kelly’s mom’s place for my car and then dropping Don off at his place, it was well past 3am. I wasn’t complaining though. I was still hyped up by the show.

It was Rush’s thirtieth anniversary tour, but we fans received the gift.

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