Southern Man

Saturday, April 26, 2008

Concert Review - RUSH

It's been a good decade and a half since Southern Man's seen his all-time favorite band in concert, so when he learned that Rush would return to the city for the first time in ten years he wasted no time in procuring a couple of tickets. The concert was earlier tonight, and Southern Man was not disappointed. While singer/bassist Geddy Lee's voice might not have quite the stratospheric reach it did in the seventies, he was in fine fom; drummer/lyricist Neil Peart (winner of seven consecutive "Drummer of the Year" awards, among many others) put on an amazing display of percussive virtuosity, and guitarist Alex Lifeson was simply amazing. The band played a fine, long set - well over an hour, then a half-hour break ("We're not spring chickens anymore,"quoth Geddy), then another hour-plus followed by a fifteen-minute encore - that included most of Southern Man's favorite songs. The only downer of the evening is that Southern Man's sixteen-year-old son wasn't feeling well and bailed out at the last minute, leaving Southern Man to go it alone.

If you're already a Rush fan, the rest of this post is preaching to the choir; for the rest of y'all, Southern Man will attempt to relate why Rush is, and has always been, his favorite band.

The first is extraordinary musicmanship and composition. All three members are at the top of their professions - and the music of Rush is packed with elegant melodic lines, innovative harmonics, and unusual time signatures. Southern Man's bedtime jazz mix is centered on bands like the Dave Brubeck Quartet, a group also well known for innovative combinations of time signatures. On reflection, Southern Man knew he always like Rush but didn't understand that this was one of the reasons until much later in his musical education.

The second is Neil Peart's thought-provoking, often insightful, and always original lyrics. Take, for example, the first few lines of Red Barchetta:

My uncle owns a country place that no one knows about;
he says it used to be a farm, before the Motor Law.
On Sundays I elude the Eyes and hop the turbine freight
to far outside the Wire where my white-haired uncle waits...
In a few sparse lines Peart deftly paints a vivid picture of a bleak dysutopian future that could serve as the back story for a science-fiction novel. If Peart ever writes one, Southern Man will read it. And then Red Barchetta develops into one of the all-time great driving songs, one that all but demands that the listener puts the tachometer in the red and the sound system at eleven.

Natural Science opens with poetic prose rarely heard from a rock band:

When the ebbing tide retreats along the rocky shoreline,
it leaves a trail of tidal pools in a short-lived galaxy -
each microcosmic planet a complete society...
And the biting commentary on the balance of science and nature could easily have been written yesterday instead of twenty years ago:

Wheels within wheels in a spiral array, a pattern so grand and complex!
Time after time, we lose sight of the way; our causes can't see their effects...

Social commentary in The Trees is also as fresh today as when it was first written:

There is unrest in the forest; there is trouble with the trees
for the maples want more sunlight and the oaks ignore their pleas...

And the solution?

Now there's no more oak oppression, for they cast a noble law;
the trees are now kept equal - by hatchet, ax, and saw.

And while it's a stretch to credit a rock song with too much, Southern Man wishes that his troubled son could hear the words of Subdivisions and know that he's not the only kid in the universe who feels like (or, like his dad, felt like) he'd never fit in, would never find peace or happiness or comfort or love...

Nowhere is the dreamer or the misfit so alone...
In the high-school halls, in the shopping malls: be cool or be cast out;
In the basement bars, in the backs of cars: conform or be cast out...

And finally here's one from Entre Nous for gf, who is struggling with issues of her own and has backed away somewhat from our former relationship:

Just between us, I think it's time for us to recognize
the spaces in between leave room
for you and I to grow
Southern Man (who also has issues) recognizes that we both need room to grow. And if this post makes her a bit more of a Rush fan - mission accomplished!


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