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Concert Reviews:
Rush rocks The Palace with 40-plus years of music
 

By GARY GRAFF
Digital First Media, @GraffonMusic

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AUBURN HILLS -- Rush has certainly been on stranger to metro Detroit during the group's 41-year recording history.

And if Sunday's (June 14) show at The Palace proves to be its last, the Canadian trio is going out on a note as high as one of Geddy Lee's trademark vocal wails or Alex Lifeson's piercing guitar solos.

Dubbed R40 -- commemorating the 40th anniversary of drummer-lyricist Neil Peart joining the band -- Rush's tour has been accompanied by largely confirmed reports that it will be the group's last full-scale road trip. Matters of plain-old aging -- including arthritis and tendinitis -- and other life priorities are apparently bringing a curtain down on a particular phase of Rush's career, though the group members have talked about making more music together.

Sunday's three-hour, two-part show smartly reviewed all things Rush, from characteristically self-deprecating videos chronicling the group's history to a set list that touched on 15 of the group's albums in reverse chronological order, starting with a triplet from 2012's "Clockwork Angels" and rolling back to Rush's self-titled 1974 debut album. It's a testament to both the group's writing and its playing skill that even the oldest material -- the leaden rockers "What You're Doing" and "Working Man" -- sounded as fresh the most recent, and Rush also thrilled the sold-out Palace crowd by digging deep into its catalog for favorites that haven't been played in many years.

Chief among those were second-set opuses such as the "Cygnus X-1" suite that straddled 1977's "A Farewell To Kings" and 1978's "Hemispheres," "Xanadu" from "A Farewell..." and a truncated rendition of "2112's" side-long title piece -- tricky, complex works that the trio played with nimble virtuosity. There were also radio hits such as "Tom Sawyer," "Subdivisions," "Spirit of Radio" and "Closer to the Heart," as well as "deep cuts" like "Animate," "Jacob's Ladder," a muscled-up "Lakeside Park" and "Anthem," along with not one but two drum solos by Peart.

The staging, meanwhile, played up the anniversary angle in clever fashion. Red-suited crew members came and went throughout the show, gradually transitioning the settings -- de-volving them, if you will -- from hi-tech gimmickry down to a basic amps mounted on chairs, a mirror ball overhead and a high school gymnasium backdrop for the final two songs. Along the way Rush trooped out past props such as clothes dryers, a popcorn machine and old fashioned, gramophone horns, with lighting schemed that echoed the carefully evolving simplicity of the night -- though Rush got its money's worth out of the lasers during the second half.

There was little in the way of farewell sentimentality as Rush brought the show to a crashing end with "Working Man" and one final video. But when Lee sang in "2112's" "Presentation" "Listen to my music/And hear what it can do/There's something here as strong as life/I know that it will reach you," Peart's words rang particularly strong, and an arena full of fans exuberantly testified that they had been reached, many times over.



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