Saturday, October 06, 2012

Rush - MTS Centre, September 26, 2012

Rush performed for 9000 fans, without any opening act.  This wasn't quite as many people as their 2008 show, which was their first performance in Winnipeg since their 1982 show at the old Arena (which drew a 50% capacity audience of 8000.)

Rush drummer Neil Peart.

With their 20th studio album out, Clockwork Angels, Rush simply do not know how to slow down.  Despite the fact that their non-hit material can take some effort to get in to, Rush have enough strong, popular material to allow them to tour until they decide to call it quits.

I found this quote from the MTS Centre's website. "The RIAA has certified Rush for the third most consecutive gold/platinum studio albums by a rock band, topped only by the Beatles and the Rolling Stones."

The first set saw them utilize material from four of their '80s albums, half of which was from the synth-heavy 1985 album Power Windows.  I could have done without most of the tracks from this album in favour of some of the older classics like "Closer To The Heart" (which they did not play during the 2007 Snakes & Arrows tour), "Red Barchetta," "Limelight," "Fly By Night" (not performed live since 1978), "Freewill," "Trees" and "Something For Nothing."

Geddy Lee (59) really looked like he was having fun.  When not playing the keyboards, he would strap on his bass guitar and playfully shuffle over to guitarist Alex Lifeson (59).

 I wasn't as crazy about the previous studio album, 2007's Snakes & Arrows and when they performed about an hour's worth of it during the last tour, I felt quite disinterested.  For a three hour show, they could have cut it down by 30 minutes with less new material and I would have enjoyed myself more.  This time, they played 9 of the 12 tracks from Clockwork Angels during the second set and I found the new material easier to get into.

Lifeson played keyboards juring "The Garden," which Lee exclaimed was his favorite track from the new album.  During the title track, the lighting rig moved in a fashion probably meant to mimic floating angels.  For the second set and for the first time in their history, they performed with backing musicians, in the form of a string section.  Whether or not these seven or so really contributed to the overall sound, I couldn't say with any certainty.  Right behind them, gasoline bombs, fireworks and explosions went off.  I could feel the heat from the 16th row on the floor.  I can only imagine what nerve it took for them not to jump during those explosions, which always caught me off guard.  The heat must have made quite an impression on them.  Throughout the show, they played humorous short films ("Gearing Up," "The Appointment," and "The Office of the Watchmaker") one of which had the three members acting as scruffy dwarfs in an industrial setting and giving a government bureaucrat the runaround.  Cameramen, some of which were high above in the lighting rig, provided close ups off the band members so that no matter where you sat, you had a good view of the show.  I wish more bands would do this.

Drummer Neil Peart (60) didn't limit himself to one long solo, like he did last time.  Rather, he added some solos to "Where's My Thing?" in the first set, "Headlong Flight" in the second set, as well as stand-alone solo in the form of "The Percussor" in the second set.

Not wanting to become a nostalgia band, Rush are compelled to play plenty of new material, along with several old classics.  I question why they played four tracks from Power Windows, which, while a popular album, surely isn't what the long-time fans consider to be a classic.   

It goes without saying that the band performed like the virtuosos that they are.  Not only are they masters of their instruments, but no other musicians out there sound like the individual members of Rush.  Even in the songs that I wasn't totally into, I was enthralled by their craft.

Overall, I enjoyed this show more than the previous one and I would definitely see Rush again.

Set 1
01 Subdivisions (Signals, 1982)
02 The Big Money (Power Windows, 1985)
03 Force Ten (Hold Your Fire, 1987)
04 Grand Designs (Power Windows, 1985)
05 Middletown Dreams (Power Windows, 1985)
06 Territories (Power Windows, 1985)
07 The Analog Kid (Signals, 1982)
08 The Pass (Presto, 1989)
09 Where's My Thing? (with Drum Solo) (Roll The Bones, 1991)
10 Far Cry (Snakes & Arrows, 2007)

Set 2
11 Caravan (Clockwork Angels, 2012)
12 Clockwork Angels (Clockwork Angels, 2012)
13 The Anarchist (Clockwork Angels, 2012)
14 Carnies (Clockwork Angels, 2012)
15 The Wreckers (Clockwork Angels, 2012)
16 Headlong Flight (with Drum Solo) (Clockwork Angels, 2012)
17 Halo Effect (Clockwork Angels, 2012)
18 Wish Them Well (Clockwork Angels, 2012)
19 The Garden (Clockwork Angels, 2012)
20 Dreamline (Roll The Bones, 1991)
21 Drum Solo (The Percussor)
22 Red Sector A (Grace Under Pressure, 1984)
23 YYZ (Moving Pictures, 1981)
24 The Spirit of Radio (Permanent Waves, 1980)

25 Tom Sawyer (Moving Pictures, 1981)
26 2112 Part I: Overture (2112, 1976)
27 2112 Part II: The Temples of Syrinx (2112, 1976)
28 2112 Part VII: Grand Finale (2112, 1976) 

Bob Dylan w/ Mark Knopfler - MTS Centre, Oct., 5, 2012

Not a huge crowd. One of my friends who works at the MTS Centre figured attendance was around 4200. The Sun said is was around 6500, the Free Press, 5500.

So Mark Knopfler was in the hugely successful 70s and 80s group Dire Straits. At one time, they were the biggest selling group in terms of the new format known as the Compact Disc. Knopfler was backed my a 7-piece band and they wouldn't have been out of place at the Winnipeg Folk Festival. It was a decidedly a twangy affair, rather than pop/rock. When they were jamming, it was outstanding. The level of musicianship was high quality. Like Clapton, Knopfler doesn't strut around and play a showy guitar. He economizes in his playing, not wasting notes for showmanship or applause. But when he plays, it's precise and distinctive. You know it's him. Ditto for his vocals, which were all over rock radio for decades as Dire Straits made themselves heard. The type of songwriting he offers now is the kind where you either have to really pay attention to the words to see that he's telling stories, or you just have to let the exquisite sound wash all over you.

Despite ending Dire Straits with some of their most commercial sounding albums, as a solo artist, he's opted more for quality songs laid back songs that require you to invest more of your attention than easier to digest all out rockers. This was my second time seeing Knopfler, the first being at the Concert Hall a few years ago, so I knew more or less what to expect. Almost as if he was cutting the umbilical cord and sending a clear message to the fans that he's moved on to a different phase in his musical career, he did not play his all-time most popular song, The "Sultans of Swing," from 1978's debut album, Dire Straits. Which went on to sell 6 million copies. He did play one Dire Straits song, "So Far Away," from 1985's Brothers In Arms. That song earned a lot of airplay and the audience definitely perked up when it was performed. For most people, it was the only song they recognized.

Bob Dylan has been at a point in his career for a while now, where he likes to change things up when performing live, regardless of the bad press that he's received for doing so. And for singing like only he can sing, and not caring too much that many people think he should have packed in a long time ago when his vocals really became the topic of much derision. He's not going to play his greatest hits like so many groups who are still touring way past their prime and milking the past for all they can. Doing so would likely be downright boring to him. Nope, he plays mostly lesser-known songs, some material from the last few albums, and maybe handful of old favorites, thrown in to keep the casual fans who make up a huge part of the audience, somewhat content.

Still, like the last time he played at the MTS Centre, fans left early and complained about his vocals and song selection. From where I was sitting, on the floor and fairly close to the stage, the sound was actually very good. No complaints from me about how it sounded. As for his vocals, I mostly gave up on trying to make out what his was singing, although I did catch a few words here and there. But, I knew that this would be the case. On the plus side, I thought his backing band was strong. Charlie Sexton was once again on lead guitar. He was a brief pop sensation in the 80s, before resorting back to his original calling as a rootsy, bluesy, folksy performer, ideal to be in Bob Dylan's band.

I can't recall seeing Dylan grin so much in concert. He was clearly having a good time. The first time I saw him, he played a lot of guitar and the bulk of the solos. That was back at the old Arena back in August, 2002. In Nov., 2008, he played mostly on keyboards as he had an injury that prevented him from playing guitar. This was at the MTS Centre. At that show, his vocals were definitely at a low point. At last night's show, he started off on keyboards, then played some guitar but spent most of the evening on piano, which sounded fine to me. He's not a virtuoso pianist, so I wasn't expecting that type of performance. At one point, he strolled to the front of the stage with a microphone. He did play a little bit of harmonica, which caused some excitement among the fans. About a third of the 15 songs he played were popular classics, but the last one, "Blowin' In The Wind," was impossible to recognize. I don't think he played the entire song but just enough of it tacked onto "All Along The Watchtower" to qualify as a separate song.

If you knew ahead of time what to expect, you probably enjoyed the show. If you didn't, you might have been shocked and disappointed. I had a good time and I would see him again.


Set list
01 Watching The River Flow (Bob Dylan's Greatest Hits Vol. II, 971)
02 It Ain't Me, Babe (Another Side of Bob Dylan, 1964)
03 Things Have Changed (from the film Wonder Boys,released as a single on May 1, 2000)
04 Tangled Up In Blue (Blood on the Tracks, 1975)
05 Tweedle Dee & Tweedle Dum (Love and Theft, 2001)
06 This Dream Of You (Together Through Life, 2009)
07 Summer Days (Love and Theft, 2001)
08 Desolation Row (Highway 61 Revisited, 1965)
09 Highway 61 Revisited (Highway 61 Revisited, 1965)
10 Scarlet Town (Tempest, 2012)
11 Thunder On The Mountain (Modern Times, 2006)
12 Ballad Of A Thin Man (Highway 61 Revisited, 1965)
13 Like A Rolling Stone (Highway 61 Revisited, 1965)
14 All Along The Watchtower (John Wesley Harding, 1967)
15 Blowin' In The Wind (The Freewheelin' Bob Dylan, 1963)

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