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Wembley Arena,London 8 September 2004

Well I have to admit that I'm an unashamedly 'Old-school' Rush Fan and when I say 'old-school' I mean I really enjoy their material up to Permanent Waves when they kinda lost me, but having received a copy of the Rush in Rio DVD last Christmas, it rather ignited my passion in listening to the band's material again. Sure I love the old classics like By-Tor and the Snow Dog, Bastille Day etc and of course Xanadu, but some of their output from the 1980s which I'd never heard before, sounded pretty decent too.

I was therefore quite pleased when they announced an Arena tour of the UK, but having dawdled over buying tickets the moment they went on sale, it was not until last weekend that I picked up some tickets for the Wembley gig, from a friend who could no longer make it.

Walking up to the venue last night you could hear the bass booming for quite some distance away. The band were well into their set and playing 'Earthshine' when I finally got inside. To be honest the sound wasn't too bad at all, certainly it was better than it was at my previous concert experiences at the same venue. It was definately very loud, but overall quite well balanced, although one or two of Alex's solos did struggle to be heard above the sound that the other musicians were making.

The visual aspect of the show was fantastic with both the lighting and use of the video screen stuff being very impressive, as was that of the careful use of lasers later in the show. Even the figures on stage at the far end of the venue didn't seem to be that tiny, but the light show was so impressive that one had a tendency to admire the changes of colour and back projections and rather forget the musicians responsible for making all the noise.

Even tunes like 'Red Barchetta' and 'Roll The Bones' sounded pretty good, but the crowd really got excited as they moved into 'YYZ' and the video screen showed Alex, Geddy ane Neil one by one in close up. Then it was big favourite 'The Trees' - which was far more my kind of thing.

After a 20 minute or so break, the second half of the show began with the 'That Darned Dragon' cartoon which has the intrepid trio saving some big city from some Godzilla-like Dragon. The closing music links neatly with the intro to 'Tom Sawyer' and the return of our heroes on stage.

From there, the band moved into playing a string of tunes from the albums that they produced in the 1980s and 1990s, which, with the exception of the very engaging 'Red Sector A' (and accompanying video) I found no more than 'OK'.

No Rush concert (that I've ever attended) is complete without a Neal Peart drum solo, but even though one could see that it was technically excellent, I'd be quite happy if I never saw another drum solo in my life.

While Neal took a break, Alex and Geddy entertained us on acoustic for a couple of tunes, before a rousing run of 'old classics' to end the set. A shortened but still excellent '2112' (Oh how i love to hear that 'we have assumed control' ending), 'La Villa strangiato' with Alex's always orgasmic solo (I can't think of many much better than this), 'By-Tor' and 'Xanadu' which all take me back to a time when I was leaping about my bedroom with a tennis racket as guitar. Then 'Working Man' closed out the set, neatly reminding us that these guys have been at it for 30 years.

Of course there were a couple of encores, but half-way through 'Limelight' it was time to beat the rush and head home.

Overall, a great visual and sonic experience. It was great to see the band for the first time in almost 25 years and I think that every Rush fan will find that it's well worth the 30 quid that the tickets cost. 2 and a half hours of great music, fantastic visuals and light show, great sound and a run through some of the finest music ever produced.

If you haven't got a ticket, the touts outside Wembley last night couldn't get rid of their spares, even at half price, so if you hang around one of the venues over the next week, you might just get yourself a bargain.

Anyone curious about the full setlist, can find it here - the band are playing the same setlist each night of the tour.

Review: Charlie Farrell

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