Perfection in Catastrophe: My Review of Rush’s Clockwork Angels Performance

This is embarrassingly overdue – but worth the wait. ūüôā

Almost a month ago, Rush visited Boston to perform “Clockwork Angels.” I’ve posted other people’s reviews of that particular show already on this site, so I am not going to comment on the decadent playlist, the fantastic string section, the funny videos, et al.

I’m going to talk about everything that went wrong during this show — and how it is that these mistakes made the show truly stellar.

How can this be, right? Things (in the post-modern sense) cannot be perfect at all, certainly not when they are full of errors, because Things cannot – Be.

Yet: human beings, and art itself, are not Things.

(I know – I’m opening up the can of pastiche and Lacan and Foucault and simulacra anti-Modernist hyper-academia, uh, shit. I’ll take that fight if you want to bring it. ;p)

Things, as Signs, have no meaning other than that which we assign if you fall in with today’s popular theories. I don’t.

This idea of being able to separate the essence of some-thing from the word we use to describe it, even from it Itself, is cute in class, but ask anyone participating in a performance, especially a musical performance of any kind or scale, ¬†and each person will acknowledge the presence of something “more,” something perhaps even “universal” and “larger than us” that happens in the tempo of the act Itself.

Rush concerts are known for being spectacular displays of virtuosity and good humor. The Trio are famous in part for technical prowess and consistently solid, smooth, disaster-free performances.

I lost count of how many things went profoundly Wrong during this show. Gear broke. Screens broke. Geddy’s mic cut in and out. The drum kit needed attention repeatedly. Something¬†happened to Alex during one of the songs that actually stopped Geddy from running in one direction towards stage left and caused him instead to sprint towards Alex, visibly concerned about whether or not Alex had been hurt. My husband and I wondered if the stage was safe, if they perhaps they should stop the show for a moment. It certainly appeared that Geddy was considering it.

Now, if one was not watching the show, but only *listening,* one would have never known that anything was awry. This¬†is staggering when one considers how difficult Rush’s music is to play. The idea of being able to play it perfectly with broken gear and rattled nerves baffles. Yet, musicianship isn’t much to write about with these three anymore. ¬†It is de¬†rigueur¬†to experience perfection.

However, because I was watching and not (just) listening, I saw some-Thing truly glorious: three intimate friends reassuring one another, backing each other up, figuring out how to compensate for broken _______, and still pull off one of the best musical performances of any kind.

It is rare that we get to watch someone do something great or good.

I do not refer to the fact that, unless you’re a¬†caravanning¬†roadie, we don’t get to watch Rush play more than once every couple of years. On October 24th, we at the Garden (how appropriate) were permitted to watch three men – just men like any other, potentially any member of this universal human Thing we each are – take care of one another. ¬†We were permitted to watch them live up to the standards they have set, not merely of musicianship, but of character and kindness. In a profession in which rock stars are allowed – indeed, expected – to behave like tyrannical brats, they demonstrated consideration for each other, and obvious concern that their fans might be unhappy by a less than flawless show. We watched technical problem after technical disaster happen – in tempo – and we watched them respond with grace, ingenuity, and even jokes. (Thanks, Alex.)

The Show became a performance of character and compassion rather than a live production of a fantastic album. The Show became a breathing example of what any man can be, how friendship and kindness can be demonstrated, and how it is that one can react with aplomb in adversity. In the explosion of real time problems with a performance of art, these three hours transcended a mere musical show and became a symbol of the ever present tension between our idea of what can be and the grit of was is. It was breath-taking.

It was an honor.

Herein, this concert became more than the traditional signifer. This evening’s signified was a pulsing, searing, sweaty example of grace under pressure. During these three hours, a bit of the individuals who comprise the band was on display – not the carefully crafted professional personas of RUSH, but three regular guys making it through a rough night in what happened to be a shockingly public venue. It was private, and privileged, and truly special.


PS Thanks so much, guys, for playing “The Pass.” I never thought I’d hear it live, and – well, it’s special to me. Just ask the guy sitting next to me who was knocked over by my reaction. *sigh* It’s a good thing Rush fans tend to be friendly…


About Shannon Blue Christensen

Storyteller. Author. Editor. Literary Critic. Director. Teacher. Knitter. nascent Musician. Student. Operations and Quality. Marketing. Historian. Lear's Fool. View all posts by Shannon Blue Christensen

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