INDIANAPOLIS - Allow me to gloat.
Here's the story. I call up Atlantic records on a Wednesday in an attempt to schmooze up some press passes for the Rush/Primus gig at Market Square on Saturday.
Well, Rachel, an angel from New York, says that she has no press passes left, because normally she needs two weeks notice, but she says there is a slight chance she could get me on the guest list. Of course, I'm deeply saddened, with no cash, in no mood for a nosebleed.
So I step in the door Friday afternoon, and there's a ticket on my desk. What's more, it's 10 rows up from the floor, to the side, near the left corner of the arena. And, get this: She sends me another ticket on Saturday.
Hey, you'd be excited too if Primus, the trio-surreal led by eclectic bass wizard Les Claypool, were opening for your favorite band, Rush, the legendary prog-rock trio that happens to be celebrating their 20th anniversary, promoting their 19th album, Counterparts.
Just a little background, for those of you who say, "Uh ... why is Primus opening for Rush?" Saturday, Les Claypool told the crowd his first concert was Rush, Hemispheres tour. As he's said in many an interview, his inspiration comes from none other than Rush's bass master, Geddy Lee.
It was a relief for Rush gurus who couldn't fathom suffering through another one of Mr. Big's big hair festivals. There were no boos, yawns, or distracting cat fights coming from Saturday's audience.
Instead, Primus hit the stage in a gruesome barrage of percussive bass melodies, elevated by Larry LaLoude's nouveau guitar abstracts.
Claypool directed the trio into a maniacal stomp through "American Life," from Sailing the Seas of Cheese. Then he brought out his invention, a custom-made upright bass that bellowed cosmic lows in a jazzy new instrumental.
But just as we were getting a taste of "Mud" and "Jeremy's ..." race car drivin', Primus rushed off the stage. Bogus? You're darn right! They only played for half an hour! You can blame Indiana's ridiculous law that says "lights out at eleven," but hey, if that's the case, they could've cranked it up at 7:30 instead of 8:00.
No matter, Rush soon dropped the crowd into the eye of the storm. They opened with "Dreamline," consuming the crowd in an epic wave of youthful energy and modern day 'fire and brimstone'.
Presto, the lasers, pyrotechnics, and anthems shot out from the core, but this was a new Rush, and band that consistently redefines its sound.
The Counterparts tour is refined. The stage has been simplified, but more important, the band is reveling in the celebration. On a panoramic screen that runs the length of the stage, they share their ever-growing avant-garde collection of video clips and animation. But it only complements the sentimental musical journey that takes fans through 20 years of philosophical dreams and fantastic views for mankind.
OK, so everything can't be described, but for two and a half hours "Time Stands Still." It's an artistic display that leaves fans awestruck. It's old fashioned, in that it's a magical ride that streaks back and forth between the ideal and the real.
Saturday, Toronto's technical wizards blasted through crowd pleasers with masterful grace, "Spirit of Radio," "Tom Sawyer," "The Trees," "Xanadu," and "Closer to the Heart," to name a few.
But the real proof was in their new material, songs from Counterparts that stand up and fight. "Stick It Out" and "Double Agent" both proved that Rush has enough spirit to outrock the very best.
What's left to consider? Alex Lifeson's long-awaited reunion with Marshall stacks and monster distortion. Geddy's return to the classic sounds of his Fender jazz bass, and Neil Peart's new and improved drum set and solo, whoa ... age has nothing to do with the will to rock.
Happy Birthday, Rush.