The big one. Rush tours almost always bypass the UK, and I had been itching to see them for a few years so I literally bit the arm off Star Green Box Office to get my ticket. I hadn’t been massively impressed by Presto, but with Roll The Bones they seemed to be getting back on track, and emphasizing the guitar again, but to be honest I would have gone to see them if they’d put out an album of soul covers.
First up though, a band I’d never heard of, Primus. They were superb, and I can see why they were invited on this tour. Les Claypool is a bass virtuoso, easily as good as Geddy Lee, albeit more slappy and funky and certainly less ‘my bag’, but a virtuoso nonetheless. The air of anticipation around the whole arena was really palpable as Primus’ roadies broke down their gear and cleared the stage. I knew every single Rush bass line note for note, and although I couldn’t quite play all the fiddly bits, it was Geddy Lee that really taught me to play the bass. My seat, about halfway back, up the side, was probably not good enough to get me a great view of the band, and there was no giant screen, nor much in the way of stage set.
Their traditional fanfare, the opening bars of the Three Stooges theme music came on, and they soon launched into ‘Force Ten’. I could not believe how good they were. The sound was remarkably good for Wembley, and I was playing air bass in no time. They played a good half dozen ‘3rd era’ tracks before they even went near ‘Roll The Bones’- ‘Dreamline’ was the first, and I think it’s certainly one of the strongest on that album.
I needn’t have worried about them not playing enough old stuff – they played songs from every album I think, including the ‘Overture’ from 2112 and the only drum solo that doesn’t make me cringe, ‘The Rhythm Method’ (or whatever name it went by at that time). It’s a tired old cliché but it has to be said – all three of them really are maestros, all at the very top of their respective trees. At the time I was pretty much obsessed with Geddy Lee, I knew enough to know how awesome Neil Peart and Alex Lifeson were, but as a student of the bass, I focused on what Geddy was doing. It was several years before I would really study and properly appreciate the technical genius of the other two. My favourite albums have (usually always, I go through phases) always been from the ‘3rd era’ and those are the tracks that stick in my mind from this gig, but I know I screamed all the words and plucked all the notes to each song they served up. After a couple of encores, they finished up with ‘Spirit of Radio’ and that was it – 2hrs of progressive rock bliss, now just a memory. It was to be years before they came here again.