Rush at the Pepsi Center in Denver on August 2, 2013: Photos, review - Reverb

Rush at the Pepsi Center, 8-2-13 (photos, review, video)

Every rock show has its defining moment. Sometimes it’s a band’s biggest hit, or sometimes it’s their most obscure B-side. Sometimes it’s a medley, sometimes it’s an arc of songs that worked really, really well together.

When Rush took on a mostly packed Pepsi Center on Friday night in Denver, the defining moment for me was as understated as it was grandiose. Yes, the vaunted prog rock trio from Canada is known and loved for its intricate musicality and frighteningly intelligent lyrics, but what stood out to me the most was frontman Geddy Lee’s groove.

Lee finding his groove only seems to happen three or four times a show, but when he falls into that trance-like space, it’s a beautiful thing.

It goes without saying: Lee is as proficient a frontman as any rock ‘n’ roller out there. He manages his bass and keys and vocals with a gentle ease; The only strain you’ll see him express is his high-arching eyebrows when he’s hitting those scary-high notes. He also knows how to work the stage, nodding a cue to drummer Neil Peart here or going over to jam with guitarist Alex Lifeson there.

But when Lee finds his groove, he jumps into it and feels it with his entire body. It starts in his head and moves down his lanky frame. It’s not so much a back-and-forth rock as it is a bounce — but it’s the kind of bounce that propels his basslines forward, and before long it seems as if an entire arena full of people are feeling the bounce, sunk in the groove, lost in the music.

And that’s a special feeling, getting lost like that with 15,000 other people.

Lee found his groove at least four or five times on Friday night, and the band benefited from the syncopation with the crowd. With a start that focused on night-opener “Subdivisions” and grew to a potent “Force Ten,” a less-memorable middle of “Clockwork Angels” material (this being the Clockwork Angels Tour) and a closing with the expected combo of “Tom Sawyer” and “2112,” fans showed the most love to the band early and late.

Sure enough, even though Lifeson stretches out with some tasty guitar work on the “Clockwork Angels” material, it didn’t hold the crowd’s attention as much as the more familiar songs. And the band anticipated that, compacting the new album’s material into a tightly gathered core that acted as a bathroom and beer break for many.

Of those familiar songs, “Limelight” was slotted surprisingly early into the set and jumped off the stage with the most immediacy of the evening. The “Moving Pictures” favorite still clicks with its many rhythmic switch-ups and melodic vocal lines. Can Lee still handle those high notes? Absolutely, and while the Pepsi Center isn’t the ideal venue for any band that places such a focus on the quality and crispness of its sound, Rush sounded better than most bands choosing to play the venue.

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Ricardo Baca is the founder and executive editor of Reverb, the co-founder of The UMS and an award-winning critic and editor at The Denver Post.

John Leyba is a Denver Post photojournalist and regular contributor to Reverb.

  • josh gardner

    Decent review of a great/fun show, but I disagree with the writer’s assessment of the new material and its impact on the crowd. The new stuff really rocked and had an artistic depth that reminded me of their masterwork Moving Pictures. Maybe the writer himself was out getting a drink during Headlong Flight to make the strange claim that it somehow fell flat. Just shows how subjective musical opinion can be. A review from the show preceding Denver (SLC), also generally positive, was the converse of this review, highlighting “the middle”(new music) part of the show as the last of the grand, bombastic rock shows of yore(specifically the crazy pyrotechnic finale of Carnies). How could this writer like the show but not appreciate the aforementioned new songs, plus The Anarchist, The Wreckers, etc.? His disparaging viewpoint did not comport with the crowd reaction going on in my section. This subjectivity is one reason why it is fun to discuss music. It was really a great show. Where else can you get brain melting hard rock (2112 Grand Finale) amid such positive and happy vibes?

  • Mike321

    I disagree about the writers remarks concerning the new material as in my area it had a great response…especially headlong flight as they had people going crazy over it…I am guessing the writer barely knows the new material so it didn’t resonate much as he just wanted a constant hit parade…and if you know Rush concerts they never do that as every tour they mix it up well.

  • Riley Dangerously

    Anyone who isn’t into the newer material isn’t really a Rush fan and wouldn’t understand.
    Its strong material, extremely well written and performed.
    Rush never stands still, they are always moving their envelope forward.
    I like to hear the old classics as well, but dismissing the new album as a ‘bathroom and beer break’ is pretty asinine.

  • cs2112

    What???? First review I’ve seen this tour that was “just okay” with the reviewer. And the crowd not into it too much? If that’s truly the case, (which I doubt), then that Colorado air is doing something to the fans’ minds. The new material is awesome, and probably the highlight of their shows for me. Then again, I’m not one of those ‘fly by night’ Rush fans who get a ticket just to see them do Limelight or Tom Sawyer for the 5,678,434th time. Rush is at their peak. And the new material proves it.

  • cs2112

    **Meant to say the “new material” just ok with the reviewer…

  • Douglas Maher

    Shocking. A review praising Tom Sawyer, 2112, Limelight, and Subdivisions and saying the rest of the setlist lost the crowd. Classic rock radio has you brainwashed well sir.

  • Frank Durman

    Good review, but the new stuff is brilliant. “Anarchist” and “Wreckers” are amazing.

  • nickels

    The sound quality at the venue sucked. Finally moved to the very side of the stage where it was slightly better. Rush played great considering how muddled the whole sound was.

  • The Anarchist

    Bathroom or beer break during Caravan, Clockwork Angels, Anarchist, Carnies, Headlong Flight, The Wreckers, Halo Effect, Seven Cities, or the Garden? Are you out of your mind? In fact I avoided any liquids before the entire performance so as not to need such a break. Awesome show and a great crowd! Fourth time this tour, and wish I could have gone 10. Rush is simply mesmerizing and inspiring. My only disappointment was the replacement of The Body Electric for Limelight in the Night A set.

  • John

    I was there, first time rush show, and I have to respectfully disagree. I would consider myself being a front runner rush fan, for whatever that means. Pretty familiar with their “best of” catalog, listened to clockwork angels 4 or 5 times the whole way through, and completely unfamiliar with most else. I took my girlfriend who had only heard subdivisions, sawyer, limelight, 2012, and spirit before. Of course, hearing the classic songs was great, but what made the night was the new material with the strings section. I thought it was awesome, she thought it was awesome, and I have no idea what the reviewer is talking about when he mentioned that it was a beer/bathroom break. Not what I noticed at all… it was awesome. Wish I could see it again.