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Sunday, October 24, 2010

DVD Review - Fire on Ice: The Making of "The Hockey Theme"

I just received Neil Peart's new video yesterday, "Fire on Ice: The Making of 'The Hockey Theme'" and wanted to post a short review. You can order the video by clicking the following image:


The DVD shows the progression of Neil Peart's version of "The Hockey Theme," from early arrangements of the song to the final music video. In between is a fascinating behind-the-scenes glimpse into the creative process behind this one-minute song.

What I found particularly interesting were:

  • Neil and composer Matt Harris discussing the initial ideas of the arrangement
  • Neil playing to multiple demo versions of the song
  • Neil discussing drum set ideas with the folks at DW
  • DW artist Louis showing the process of painting the drums
  • Neil rehearsing with Cal State Northridge students (I'm sure those students had some stories to tell!)

Through all of this, you can see Neil Peart's passion for his work. I've never seen him so open about his creative process -- and I think a lot of it has to do with his reverence for "The Hockey Theme."

The Extras on the disc include extended scenes of creating the arrangement and the drum set. There's also some footage of the surprise visit of The Stanley Cup to the recording session. In all, there's over 90 minutes of footage on this disc.

If you want to read Neil's essay about this project, read "Fire on Ice" on his official website.

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posted by AndyO @ 8:24 PM   0 comments

Photos of the night - South America

Updated: The image of the 33 miners in Santiago was used during "Stick it Out." Thanks, SulfoCromico!


Here are all the "photos of the night" for the South American leg of the tour. Thanks to John Arrowsmith for taking these photos and sharing them. Click an image to go to the collection of those photos on John's website.

Sao Paulo





Two from Santiago. The first shows a woman with tears of happiness (probably one of the best images from the entire tour). The second shows that Rush added a graphic of the 33 miners rescued in Chile to the screen during "Stick it Out."



Buenos Aires


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posted by AndyO @ 10:35 AM   3 comments

Saturday, October 16, 2010

Rush - Las Vegas, Aug 14, 2010

Every Rush tour, I try to see a show with my friend Dan Martin in Phoenix. For this tour, the closest the band would get to Phoenix was Las Vegas. So we bought VIP tickets (I figured if we were traveling all that way, we might as well have great tickets).

This show came only a week after my first "Time Machine" show in Auburn, WA, which was one of the best Rush shows I'd ever seen. But I was curious if that had been a magic show -- or if the band was playing like this every night.

Seeing them in Las Vegas would help answer this question.

Flying to Phoenix

On Thursday, I flew down to Phoenix and Dan picked me up at the airport. Since the show was on Saturday, this gave us time to catch up. I got to visit with his wife Kim, his kids, and even do a little swimming. (I also had my face melted by the 110-115-degree heat.)

One funny anecdote: Alaska Airlines sent my luggage to Alaska instead of Phoenix. So we had to wait around at Dan and Kim's house on Friday for my luggage to be delivered. When it arrived, it had the following tag attached:

Rush tag

The road to Vegas

On Saturday, Dan woke me up at 5:00 a.m. and we headed out under a pastel dawn sky. (Dan wanted to wake me up at 4:30, but I told him that I didn't function very well before 5:00.)

The dawn sky of Phoenix

Having been friends since third grade, Dan and I had taken many trips together (including my first Rush concert in Tacoma, WA, in 1984). In addition to sharing a love of Rush and many other rock bands, we enjoyed talking about movies, technology, books, computer games, and many other subjects. This trip was no exception, except we ended up talking about our kids as much as the other subjects. 

As we drove closer to the Nevada border, the scenery changed from flat desert to dramatic mountains and rock formations.

 On the road to Vegas

We stopped at Hoover Dam, which I'd never seen before. Hoover dam is part of Highway 93 between Phoenix and Las Vegas. There were traffic jams before 9/11, but now with the security checks, the jams extended for miles on bad days. But we were crossing early in the morning (one of the reasons Dan wanted to leave early).

To the south, we saw the new bypass bridge that will be diverting cars around the dam in early November, 2010.

Hoover Dam

Checking into New York, New York

Dan and I arrived in Vegas around 12:30 p.m. and went directly to the hotel. We used the time before our room was available to eat lunch, gamble, and people watch. (Dan said, referring to our gambling luck, "It would be better to just give the hotel our money upon arrival to save time.")

This was the third Rush concert I'd seen in Las Vegas -- the last two being the Test for Echo tour in 1986 (at Thomas and Mack Center) and R30 in 2004 (at the MGM Grand). Once again, we'd be seeing Rush at the MGM Grand.

Once our room was available, we enjoyed spectacular views of the New York, New York, rollercoaster from our window. After that, we just relaxed -- because we knew it would be a long night of standing -- and we had gotten up damn early. (Once Dan tuned into golf on TV, I started to feel sleepy.)

New York, New York rollercoaster

New York, New York rollercoaster


Dan and I walked across the sky bridge between New York, New York, and the MGM Grand. Like the previous show, there was a current of people flowing to the arena -- and most of them wore Rush t-shirts. This current would sweep us past thousands of slot machines, the MGM lion habitat (about a month before a lion attacked a trainer), stores, restaurants, and finally the Box Office.

For some reason, we had to pick up our VIP tickets at the Box Office (as opposed to getting them in the mail). As we waited there with the other Rush fans, a parade of bikini-wearing young women walked by us (coming from the pool, I guess) -- as if it was normal to be walking in a "mall" with a bikini. It was entertaining to say the least.

Rush ticket

Once we were inside the arena, we were met by the tuxedo-wearing MGM ushers. These are professional ushers -- not the temp worker security people you see at other venues. At the last show, I watched them take out concertgoers who would have gotten away with murder at any other venue.

After we ate some food, we peered into the arena. A fog hung over the dimly-lit space that made everything look blurry from a distance. Dan and I walked down to our seats.

As many fans know, these seats were not cheap. Fortunately, I wasn't disappointed. Talk about a perfect sightline:

Before the show

While we still had an hour before the show, time passed quickly. I pointed out Rush crew members to Dan, including manager Ray Daniels, keyboard tech Jack Secret (he seemed to have quite a few friends in the crowd), and lightning director Howard Ungerleider. We talked to the usher in our section, who told us Lady Gaga had performed at the MGM the night before (it was a mad house).

Set 1

The lights went out, the crowd exploded with energy, and the intro film started up. Unlike the show I'd seen a week before, this was indoors -- so there was almost total darkness, unlike the pre-twilight of an amphitheater show. Dan loved the opening film. But what he loved more was that the owner of the seat to his left (which was on the aisle) hadn't shown up. This left us with a lot more room to spread out.

Rush playing at MGM Grand Arena

The band ripped through their set with the same intensity I'd seen in Auburn. Neil, in particular, was playing with the same controlled fire, and, if anything, seemed even more intense. The other thing I noticed was the sound was much better than it had been at my previous show. I could hear everything perfectly and didn't need earplugs.

There were a few downsides to being on an aisle. First, we watched the battle between the crowd and the ushers. Obviously many of these people didn't know they were dealing with professionals who weren't letting them pass without a ticket for the front section.

Second, there was the constant distraction of people making beer runs (funny how no one from our VIP section was making beer runs). We saw the same thing over and over (like a bad joke): A guy walks down the stairs with two beers; has to put his beer down to get his ticket; can't find his ticket; has to go find his girlfriend who happens to be rocking out near the front row.

Then there was the woman who wanted backstage. She got so violent, the police had to be called in.

There was one guy in the seats above us that Dan pointed out who practically made my night: As he was dancing around, he seemed to be miming the lyrical meaning of each song with hand gestures and body movement. It reminded me of something I'd seen at my only Grateful Dead concert. While I thought it was mostly entertaining to see someone displaying this type of musical interpretation, there was also something kind of pure about it.

Finally, the guy who owned the seat next to Dan showed up on the last song of the set. Dan and I were both wondering how someone who paid that much to see a show could arrive that late. I'm sure he had a good reason.

Through it all, the band played as well or better than the first set I'd seen in Auburn.

Set 2

As I watched Rush play all of Moving Pictures again, I realized that much of the magic from this tour was coming from the power of those songs. I think listening to those songs in order brings back strong memories for hardcore fans -- as well as people who just love that album. There's a feedback loop between band and crowd that grew in intensity with each song.

After it was all over, Dan turned to me and said, "That was incredible!"

Once Neil started his solo, I noticed a more improvisational flair than at the other show. It didn't hurt that we had a perfect view. I did see him throw in the double-hand crossover, which I hadn't seen in Auburn, which made me smile.

When Alex played his guitar solo, I took the opportunity to sit down for a moment (as many of the people did around us), and prepare for the final few songs and the encore. I was starting to feel my 5:00 a.m. wake-up time in my legs.

When the band got to their last song, "Working Man," I was more blown away than usual with Alex Lifeson's guitar solo. Alex isn't usually flashy, so when he starts shredding on an old song like this it becomes clear how underrated this guy really is. (And, hearing the Reggae version of "Working Man" again, I have to say it was growing on me even more.)

When the band was done, and the "I Still Love You, Man," outro completed, Dan said that he still hadn't seen that movie. I knew that we'd need to rent it before I flew back to Seattle (which we did).

As we walked out of the arena, I heard the polka version of "Closer to Heart," on the PA, which was starting to grow on me, too. I now had my answer about whether I had seen a magic show in Auburn or if the band was playing like this every night.

Dan agreed it was probably the best Rush show he'd ever seen.

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posted by AndyO @ 8:20 PM   1 comments

Friday, October 08, 2010

Two short Neil Peart interviews

There are two short interviews with Neil Peart that are worth a read.

The first is in the Guardian, where Neil discusses the lyrical background of "Xanadu":

Neil Peart, Rush

In 1975 I was trying to write a song inspired by the dark mood and subtle psychology of the film Citizen Kane, which features the opening lines of Kubla Khan by Samuel Taylor Coleridge. I looked up the poem and was overwhelmed by its imagery and emotional power. The song Xanadu was taken over by the poem in a way that has never happened since. I added the "adventure travel" aspect to the song's story before I'd travelled further than the rock clubs of North America. I portrayed Coleridge's idea of immortality as a grim curse -- Citizen Kane is the opposite: mortality as a punishment. There's a joke that goes, "Rush is what happens when you let the drummer write the songs", which is funny, but of course I only write the lyrics. The line in the song Animate -- "daughter of a demon lover" -- pays homage to these powerful lines from Kubla Khan: "As e'er beneath a waning moon was haunted/ By woman wailing for her demon lover." Now that's rock.

The second is part of author Mike Heppner's Man Talking Project. Neil's answers to questions are presented along with other writers in the "Talking" section.

Thanks to Rushisaband for the head's up.


posted by AndyO @ 4:03 PM   1 comments

Thursday, October 07, 2010 12 Geeky Reasons Rush should be in the RRHoF posted an article about the merits of Rush and why they should be in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.

Here's my own opinion:

Sure, it would be great for Rush to get more respect from the music industry. But for a while now, I've started to think that even if they did get nominated, they should reject it. I'm not sure why Rush would want to join an organization like this. If the RRHoF wanted to nominate/induct Rush, it should have happened years ago. If they nominate/induct Rush now, it would only be for the RRHoF's benefit.

I know that we've all signed petitions to get the band in, but it seems like it's time to direct our energy elsewhere. I think Rush should have their own museum in Toronto, where it all started.

What do you think?


posted by AndyO @ 12:12 AM   4 comments

Monday, October 04, 2010

Photo of the night - West Palm Beach, FL - Oct 2, 2010

Well, here it is: the last "Photo of the Night" from the Rush North American tour.

Next up: South America.


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posted by AndyO @ 1:30 AM   1 comments

Sunday, October 03, 2010

Three essential Rush videos

Having just watched the complete, unedited CNN interview with Rush (thanks, Rushisaband), I realized this video completes a modern picture of the band, along with Rush: Beyond the Lighted Stage and Classic Albums: 2112 and Moving Pictures.

The CNN interview, with John Roberts, has the missing piece: Neil Peart sitting with his two bandmates, answering questions about the band and life. (I can't remember the last time I saw all three members interviewed at the same time.) In many ways, this is a coda to Rush: Beyond the Lighted Stage, with the band reflecting on both their career and the reaction to the documentary.

While Geddy, Alex, and Neil might have theories about why they've continued rocking for this long, it's pretty clear that Rush is an anomaly in the music industry. It's a fascinating interview.

For all I know there might be more interviews coming like this, but if you haven't already I suggest watching these three videos together.


Rush: Beyond the Lighted Stage

Classic Albums: 2112 and Moving Pictures (not available yet but you can save to your queue)

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posted by AndyO @ 11:59 AM   0 comments

Saturday, October 02, 2010

Photo of the night - Tampa, FL - Oct 1, 2010

Update: 10/3/10

I'm adding this great shot of Neil, as I don't think I've seen one quite like this yet from this tour:



Photos by John Arrowsmith

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posted by AndyO @ 10:12 AM   0 comments