Just me talking about costume-y kind of stuff
This was supposed to be a blog about the Zilker Park/Austin Shakespeare production of Taming of the Shrew, but due to Mother Nature's fury and some I-35 road closures, it just wasn't meant to be. I offer you instead a blog about a rock concert. Not just any rock concert, but a Gesamtkunstwerk, a German term which Wagner used to mean a synthesis of many art forms.
If you are not familiar with Rush, they are a Canadian power trio that has been around for 40+ years now. Geddy Lee, bass and vocals, and Alex Lifeson, guitars, formed the band in 1968 when they were fourteen years old and still in junior high school. Neil Peart, drummer, joined them in 1974 when their original drummer, John Rutsey, left the band for health reasons as his diabetes was completely out of control and management feared that touring would kill him. They have produced 20 studio albums as well as numerous live albums and compilations. They have been awarded 24 gold, 14 platinum, and 3 multi-platinum albums, and have been nominated for seven Grammys. They were inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 2013. Over their careers, the members of Rush have been acknowledged as some of the most proficient players on their respective instruments, with each band member winning numerous awards in magazine readers' polls. Due to their advancing age, all three members are in their early 60's, the band has announced that this 40th Anniversary tour will be their last large scale tour.
With that in mind you should know that I own all their albums, I have seen almost all their tours since I was allowed to go to Austin as a high school student in 1985 and see a concert. I have seen them in Austin, Houston, Dallas, San Antonio, Las Cruces, NM, and Inglewood, CA. Some tours I have seen twice. One tour I saw twice while pregnant. That should clue you into the rabidity of my fandom. And it's not just me. All their fan base is this dedicated to the band. And all of us are great with sorrow that this may be the last time we will ever see them perform live.
The brilliant thing about this concert and why I'm using the term Gesamtkunstwerk, is that not only did this one show encompass their entire musical career it also combined film, video, art, scenery, projected scenery, costumes, extras, robotic lighting, lasers, and smoke in order to tell the story of their band from the present day back through time to the beginning where they got their start by playing high school dances in the gym. There were three screens onstage, a large one in the center flanked by two skinny ones on either side. Above and off stage there were two more large screen on either side of the stage. If you were not already aware, the giant stacks of Marshall amps that you normally see at rock concerts these days are all fake. Sound is run through the PA and not through a stack of 20 Marshall amps. Rush pokes fun at this convention by using various props instead of a stack of Marshall amps because they are funny guys and like to make fun of the industry and themselves. Onstage for the beginning of the show were steam punk set pieces from the last tour, Clockwork Angels. As the band moved backward through time with their set list, the stage crew, dressed in bright red coveralls, began removing set pieces and/or transforming them into different set pieces from earlier tours. The steam punk backline gave way to the time machine backline from the Time Machine tour, then the chicken rotisserie backline from the Snakes and Arrows tour, which gave way to the dryers backline from the Vapour Trails tour, which gave way to the Marshall stack backline which is what they used through the Test for Echo tour.
At the same time that the stage crew were changing the physical scenery, the projected scenery was also changing to reflect the earlier tours' scenery. For Roll the Bones, the projected scenery formed a wall of dice that stacked itself from the ground up. The lighting was just what you'd expect these days: all robotic and probably controlled from an engineer's ipad. The light show was fantastic. The interesting thing about the technical aspect of the show was that it started out very high tech and as they got further back in time they were using their 21st century tech to simulate less high tech of the late 20th century, and then in Act II, there was a projected proscenium arch and red curtains on the three screens at the beginning but by the end we were watching the concert from bleachers in a high school gym decorated for a dance with an actual giant disco ball. The two remaining amps were now sitting on school chairs. Geddy introduced the last song by saying, "We're going to play a song for your from our debut album."
I mentioned film earlier but I haven't talked about it yet. As a pre-show treat, Rush has been making short films for us. They've been doing this for the last several tours now. Their films are always funny and make fun of themselves. The Time Machine tour film, The Real History of Rush, was especially funny with Geddy playing the Italian owner of a diner, Gershon's Haus of Sausage, Alex as an obese sausage-eating mad scientist with a time machine, and Neil as O'Malley, an Irish cop. All of them wear silly costumes and even sillier moustaches. Younger versions of themselves, dressed in lederhosen, are called Rash and are a polka band, with "Alex" playing an accordion and "Geddy" playing a tuba. Alex uses his time machine to "help" the boys find a new sound as it takes them forward through time from polka to country to disco to the prog rock band they were when they recorded Spirit of Radio in 1979. As the pre-show film ends, the band takes their places and starts the show. For R40, they gave us a pre-show film, an intermission film, and a post-show film. The pre-show film is animated and takes a time machine approach where their characters change costumes and moustaches as they go forward through time to arrive in Austin. There are a ton of references to their albums, song titles, and personal lives. The intermission film is just a bunch of outtakes and bloopers from their previous films for the Clockwork Angels, Time Machine, Snakes and Arrows, and R30 tours. The post-show film is what supposedly happens after they leave the stage. They are "not on the list" for the after party being held by their album art characters in their own dressing rooms. I've included all three videos below thanks to edgeofthewind's youtube channel.
pre-show short film
intermission short film
post-show short film
set list from the Austin 360 show
Video/Animation Vignette:The World Is...The World Is
The Main Monkey Business
How It Is
Roll the Bones
Between the Wheels
Video/Animation Vignette: No Country for Old Hens
The Camera Eye
The Spirit of Radio
Cygnus X-1 Book II: Hemispheres Part I: Prelude
Cygnus X-1 (The Voyage Part 1 & 3 with Neil Peart drum solo)
Closer to the Heart
2112 Part I: Overture
2112 Part II: The Temples of Syrinx
2112 Part IV: Presentation
2112 Part VII: Grand Finale
What You're Doing
Working Man (with "Garden Road" outro)
the entire concert
If you want to see the entire show, all 3 hours, here is the link to edgeofthewind's channel. She includes pre-show, intermission, and post-show footage. It's an incredibly complete-ist documentation of the experience.
Total cost of the event: 2 tickets $100.