30th Anniversary Tour Reviews - 4 Shows in July 2004

Las Vegas, NV - MGM Grand - 7/17/04


I've always wanted to see Rush in Vegas. There's something a little incongruous about Rush playing on the strip or, as they did on this tour, playing inside the MGM Grand. 

My friend Dan and I were supposed to drive from Phoenix, but due to several reasons, we ended up flying (one hour verses six!). So, after seeing the Phoenix show, we got up early and went to Sky Harbor airport. We breezed through security and then found out our plane was late.

After we sat down in the waiting area, I noticed there were a lot of Rush fans waiting for the same plane as us. Then we heard two people talking behind us, and the more we listened, the more we realized one of the people actually worked with the band. So I went over and poked my nose into the conversation, and met Kevin, the guy working with Rush, and a longtime fan Mark. Kevin told us a few interesting stories, but what we really wanted to know about was Jack Black at the Irvine show a few nights before. Kevin told us Geddy and the boys had no idea Jack was going to come out.

Anyway, we finally flew down to Vegas on Southwest Airlines and got there at noon. Once we arrived at the MGM, it took us nearly an hour to check in! Not because there were huge lines or anything, but because each person in front of us was literally taking 20 minutes! When it was finally my turn, the person at the desk told me the MGM Grand was sold out that Saturday night. I wasn't sure if it was because of Rush or because it was a Saturday night, but I did notice a lot of Rush fans walking around in 30th Anniversary T-shirts. The video screens in the lobby played Rush advertisements about every five minutes.

As I waited in line, Dan went to scout out the ticket situation (yes, we'd flown down with no tickets). He found some good ones in the 40th row, close to the sound board. 

Dan and I went up to our room, then got something to eat. Then we went and lost hundreds of dollars in the casino. It only took about 45 minutes. After all that losing, Dan needed a nap.


Before Showtime

While Dan slept, I watched a severe thunderstorm out the window for a little while. Our room faced the airport, and the planes were still taking off through the pea-green sky.

Then I walked around the Casino by myself, explored the MGM Grand and New York, New York. Incredibly, they were playing Rush songs over the MGM PA (part of the tour rider?). I mean, they were playing "Time Stand Still," "Jacob's Ladder," even "Tears"!

Around 6:30 p.m., fans started heading toward the arena where Rush would play, forming a human current through the casino and the "Studio Walk." You could feel the electricity in the air. Perhaps it was just that old Vegas magic.

The Show

Our seats, while in the 40th row, were dead center. We had some great fans in front of us with whom we traded stories.

Once the show started, there was a release of energy from the crowd that never let up. I think part of it had to do with it being indoors. I noticed people were singing along with every word. The light show was more intense, the sound crystal clear.

During YYZ, the crowd sang along, Rio-style. Geddy even said "thanks," which I hadn't heard him do in 3 previous shows. Then, the battle began. And I'm not talking about By-Tor.

The security at the MGM grand is much different than any of the outdoor venues. These people are professionals. And there was a middle-aged woman there who was determined to catch anyone trying anything illegal. I was in awe of her abilities.

People would sneak up. She'd bring them back. People would dance in the aisle. She'd push them back. The people in front of us were dancing in the aisle. After doing that one too many times, they decided to challenge the security guard (why shouldn't they be able to block the aisle?). Well, pretty soon the yellow-coated security guards showed up and escorted these fans out of the arena. I kept thinking to myself, "How is their fight with the security guard more important than seeing the show?" Fortunately for them, they got a second chance. I don't know what the security guards said, but they didn't dance in the aisle anymore.

By intermission, we were exhausted.

But the band wasn't. In fact, when they came back to play their energy level had increased. I think a lot of it had to do with that crowd. I've never felt so much energy, not since the Scranton, PA, Vapor Trails tour show.

At the end of the show, Geddy gave us one of his, "You guys have been great." This was the first time I'd heard him say that at a concert I attended. Clearly it was a special night.

After the show, I talked to Monica's friend, Jimmy Lang, as Dan waited in the merch line. Jimmy seemed astounded at the energy of the band, and I had to agree.

Then Dan and I walked off into the Vegas night and lost more money.

Phoenix, AZ - 7/16/04

We got lost on the way to Cricket Pavilion. And, of course, four guys in a car who are lost will never stop and ask for directions. Then we thought we saw a car with two woman with tickets driving ahead of us (you can spot those Ticketmaster printouts a mile away), so we followed them. Turned out they were going to another concert. We finally gave in and called O.T.'s wife on the cell phone. She told us where to go.

I had been nervous about attending a Rush concert in 90-degree, but the air had definitely cooled off. It was in the 80's, I think. Above our heads on the Cricket roof, huge propellers spun around to cool off the audience even more. I think it helped. We went down to find out where our seats were―about 4 rows away from the stage on Alex's side! Unfortunately, a 6-10 guy was standing in front of us. As the night wore on, he would be the least of our worries.

We had some time to get to know the crowd around us. Next to the tall guy, there was a short guy with a ponytail who was very drunk. He turned around and said to O.T., "Is this your first Rush show?" O.T. said it was, and they talked for a while. What this guy was really saying through his drunken haze was, "Wow, I didn't know black people went to Rush shows." O.T. was such a sport.

Dan stood up suddenly. I asked him what was wrong, and he pointed to the guy behind him, puking. The guy next to the puker said, "Hey, why don't you go throw up over there!" The puker went off and threw up somewhere else. Nice.

The show started, and it was shocking to be so close again. Alex would walk over right in front of us, look down at us and smile. He also looked down on a couple of hotties who were giving him the eye. (O.T. thought for sure they were with Alex by the way they interacted throughout the show. I would have agreed if it were any other band.)

The drunk guy with the ponytail in front of us kept trying to stand on his chair. He kept falling off! Later, during Bravado, he picked a fight with a much taller guy behind us, and security kicked him out.

It's always interesting to watch the band at close range. One thing I hadn't noticed was at the end of one of the songs, Neil invites Geddy to hit his cymbal. I watched him do this again in Vegas.

During the La Villa rant, Alex said some funny things, as usual. One thing I caught was, "German pirates are the best pirates." Then he counted off in German with Neil's rimshots.

The tall guy in front of us really made me laugh throughout the second set. He was dancing around in the most "uncool" way possible. He was giving high-fives to a pretty young woman and her boyfriend, and passing a joint to them whenever he got a hold of one. I didn't get the feeling she wanted to give him high-fives.

During this concert, Neil gave his best drum solo of the four shows I saw. Lots of improvisation and "stretching out." He also messed up the last fill in "Limelight," the last fill of the show. I bet he was pissed about that.

For some reason all the drunk, unruly people didn't wreck this show for me like at Clark County.

Clark County Amphitheater - 7/3/04

My brother Erik and I drove down to the Vancouver, WA/Portland, OR, area to see another

Rush for the second night in a row. We had "VIP" tickets from Erik's roommate Aaron, which gave us better parking; a special entrance; a VIP area where we could gamble, eat, and drink; and a nifty VIP patch that we wore on our shirts. (Unfortunately, the VIP bathroom had only 2 toilets, which left a line a mile long during intermission.)

The difference between Friday, 7/2, show and Saturday night was extreme. Gone were some of the smiles on the crowd, replaced by drunken gazes, fights, beer throwing, name calling, and countless people trying to sneak up to better seats. Alex Lifeson, the guitar player for Rush, seemed especially pissed off. When he and Geddy threw out shirts to the audience, I guess a couple guys caught one of the shirts and wouldn't let go. Alex was yelling at them through most of the encore.

The good news: Our seats were dead center, 12th row. I could see Neil perfectly. And while Erik and I didn't have as much energy as we did for the Friday show, we did enjoy seeing the concert again.

My one-word review for this show to my friends Monica and Steve: "Good show, bad crowd."

Photo by Andrew MacNaughton at Red Rocks, Denver

Auburn, WA - White River Amphitheater - 7/2/04

I saw this Rush show at White River Amphitheater with my wife, brother, and four-year-old son, Cameron (a drummer and Neil Peart fan already). It had been about two years since I'd seen Rush, and they were celebrating their 30th Anniversary on this tour. I had the second best seats I've ever had at a Rush show (4th row in front of Geddy).

During the months leading up to the show, we thought a lot about bringing Cameron. Could he handle the over stimulation of a Rock concert? Would he sit still for a three-hour concert? To help our chances, I brought ear plugs and some special earphones that provide 60 dB of noise reduction (he chose the latter), and Brenda brought snacks. It didn't hurt that he took a 1-1/2 hour nap right before the show.

To see the look on Cameron's face as Geddy, Alex, and Neil stepped onto the stage was worth it (even when he had a meltdown about three-quarters of the way through the show).

But we weren't the only ones bringing kids. They were all over the place―their parents trying to share the magic and memories of this band with them. (Rush won't tour forever.) Everyone around us thought it was great that Cameron was there.

The magic for us happened during "Bravado," when my brother was holding Cameron; they both waved at Geddy, and Geddy waved back! I'd never seen him do this before. Then, in the second set, during "Tom Sawyer," Alex made a point of walking over and waving at Cameron (9/1/08 - believe it or not, John Ackley captured this wave on YouTube - see below). I never expected a wave from Neil, but I saw him look over at Cameron a few times.

As for the actual show, it was excellent. I'd never been to White River before, and thought it was a perfect place for a concert. The set list included songs I expected to hear, and some I didn't. "Between the Wheels" was the most surprising song. I also enjoyed hearing "Mystic Rhythms" and "Xanadu" again. It was also funny to hear the "pirate" version of "Temples of Syrinx."

Every so often, a crowd and band come together in a perfect exchange of energy and emotion. Whenever I turned around and looked up at the 10,000-plus fans standing behind me, whenever I saw the smiles on the audience and the band, I knew it was one of those nights.

Photo by Andrew MacNaughton at Red Rocks, Denver

YouTube video taken by John Ackley. Alex Lifeson waves at Cameron near the end of the song