Rush - Chicago concert review

Last month when I posted about the awesome Rush show at Red Rocks, I threatened to go catch the show again before the tour went to Europe. This last weekend I got it all together and made a quick trip to Chicago to catch the Snakes & Arrows tour at the forgettably named "First Midwest Bank Amphitheatre" (formerly the Tweeter Center)".

Rush Concert - Chicago
Photo courtesy Dakota Debonai

I didn't really know what to expect from the venue, as the photos from Google earth made it look like a rock quarry. Turns out the venue was actually kind'a cool. It's a weird combination of outdoor Amphitheatre with a roof and skyboxes suspended from the ceiling a couple hundred feet above the floor.

Rush Concert - Chicago
Photo courtesy Dakota Debonai

It has a grass general admission area beyond the covered part that actually looks under the skyboxes. It holds an amazing 30K people and from where I was (the 18th row) it looked full. When I was a kid I wanted to be a live sound "front of house" engineer and have always been interested in live sound setups. My best friend in High School (John Kerns), went on to live that dream. When I entered the venue, I thought to myself, wow the sound is either going to be good, or really bad, here. I suspect through the years, quite of few of each kind of show has been heard there.

From where I was the sound was quite good. I was on-axis with the stage left sound reinforcement stack, so any weird sound artifacts didn't make it to me, thankfully. Not surprising the mix sounded much different than the Rush show at Red Rocks. The two venues could not be more different, as Red Rocks has what has to be the steepest seating angle of any venue, is narrow and deep, and only holds about half the people as the former Tweeter Center. I found the mix to have much more low-end then the Redrocks show, which is good with a band like Rush with such solid Bass lines in combination with perfectly mic'd drums. This was without a doubt the best drum sound reinforcement I have ever heard at any show, anywhere.

Rush Concert - Chicago
Photo courtesy Dakota Debonai

The concert was tight, opening with "Limelight" after a hilarious dream sequence video at the beginning. I missed the opening at Red Rocks so it was good to see the entire show from front to back. I really like the new album so I was happy that most of the new songs made it into the show. At Redrocks, I thought the strongest song was "Workin' them Angels". With the Chicago show, interestingly it was my least favorite song. (after "Circumstances" from Hemospheres). It seemed to me that the pace of the song was much slower in Chicago and it lost a little something. At the Chicago show I thought "Armor and Sword" was by far the strongest song. I think this had to do with the incredible low-end of the sound system or simply the mix that night. Interestingly, I haven't given that song unusual airtime in my car, but I have to go back now as a result of that amazing sound. The bottom line is you simply have to play "Armor and Sword" loud and with a good stereo setup to appreciate it. It's one of those songs that are magic when performed live. "The Main Monkey Business" was just a great instrumental piece with the same energy and excitement as the Redrocks show. As with Redrocks, a guest chef came out during that song and basted the chickens in Geddy's Hen House Roasters "bass cabinets", although in the Chicago show another chef made a second appearance later during a different song (there must have been two celebrities to appease that night :-)

The big surprise for me was the inclusion of "Natural Science" in the play list. For some reason I thought that was a kind of personal top ten Rush song of mine but maybe not other Rush fans. However, after the song the guy next to me high fived the two 14 year old guys next to me and yelled "It doesn't get any fu***ng better then that". Well said, old dude that only drove 20 miles to the show (as oppose to my 880 mile plane flight).

I have read several of Neil Peart's books, completing "Traveling Music" on this trip. In one of the books Neil outlines his amazement for the age demographic that follows Rush. I have experienced this first hand, now, myself with these two shows. There are a good number of teenage boys in the 14-15 age bracket that were in the audience. I can also verify that the ones around me were all musicians of some kind/level, also confirming what Neil said in his book "Traveling Music". Don't get me wrong, a full 50 percent of the audience is 35-45 year old guys like me. If I had to guess however, I would say most of the audience discovered Rush post "Moving Pictures" – 1981, based on their excitement levels about various songs. They aren't "old school like me" :-) This is also confirmed by Neil as "Moving Pictures" had twice the public appeal of any Rush album prior (maybe even since). The younger people were likely brought to this show or earlier ones by their parents. There were a lot of kids there with their parents, and it made me feel guilty that I didn't bring Darby to the show (either one).

The encores were what I think is standard for this tour, "One Little Victory", "A Passage to Bangkok" and "YYZ". What surprised me at both shows was how well "A Passage to Bangkok" fits in with later generation Rush songs on 'Snakes & Arrows.' "A Passage to Bangkok" was released relatively early in their discography on the 2112 album in 1976. Personally, I find it unusual when old Rush and new Rush sound good back-to-back. After hearing this ordering, I think that song was a bit of foreshadowing of "Rush to come".

I couldn't get my camera into this Chicago show like I did the Red Rocks show. But a quick flickr search revealed that Dakota seemed to just fine. I don't know Dakota but I thank Dakota for lending the photos to this blog post. The full set can be seen here and they are awesome!

It was a great show, and worth the trip to Chicago. I would go again, but I'm getting dangerously close to stalker behavior so I think this is it for this tour. I look forward to the next tour. I think I will take Darby with me to that one.

By: Todd Vernon

Posted by permission via The Grateful Web, from Todd Vernon's blog, False Precision

Related: Rush live at Red Rocks review

More music: Jenny May music

Music News Twitter

About Guest Music Blogger

Guest Music Bloggers are various bands, musicians, readers contributing music blog entries on
This entry was posted in Albums, Bands, Music, Reviews and Commentary and tagged , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.
Subscribe to blog entries by Email | RSS Feed

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *


You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <strike> <strong>