Beginning in September of last year, Rush’s Clockwork Angels Tour will resume on April 18th in Los Angeles. A relatively new album. A huge, multi-year international tour consistently filling seats and lawns with dedicated fans. And all of this 40 years after their inception? In the last blog post, I questioned the relevance of The Black Keys after their recent success. Keep in mind, they’re little over 10 years old. Considering this, Rush presents us with a discerning perspective and should carve a new avenue for the popularity discussion. For a bird’s eye view, I’d love to see a study on the average shelf-life of a band or artist, with album and ticket sales as the metric. Do the majority of acts fall prey to a bifurcation of “dominate a scene for a few years, then enjoy solid sales and popularity for another half-decade” or “hit big then remember yourself as only a fad”?
Rush seems to be an anomaly. Despite having 24 gold records and 14 platinum records, most Rush fans I know treat them as some hidden gem. In fact, they lag only behind The Beatles and The Rolling Stones for consecutive gold and platinum rock albums. Though pioneers of the rock genre, these other two bands maintain a very different image than Rush in popular culture, namely, one akin to ‘mainstream.’ Perhaps this is because Rush has delved into various genres untapped by The Beatles or The Rolling Stones, like hard rock, synth-heavy rock, and, Rush’s staple genre, progressive rock. I’d argue the last is what sets them apart and is responsible for that ‘special’ yet non-hipster tone conveyed by Rush fans. Progressive rock, along with the more current genres of post-rock or math-rock, replaces the over-arching genre of ‘rock,’ much like rock fused many genres that came before it and then replaced them. Replace, develop, innovate, replace – the cycle continues, and to my great excitement, especially when we remember roots and influences, and that is exactly what I see with a 40-year-old band maintaining its popularity. Very few genres and artists completely die out. Someone, somewhere, is probably listening to “Thong Song” by Sisqó, because, well, it used to be cool. And to some extent, it’s cool now because it used to be…in small doses, of course.
You won’t know what’s new without having an ‘old’ to compare it to. But does that make Rush nostalgic? Unlikely so, since the chances of someone buying a concert ticket because “I remember liking a few songs from them twenty years ago” seems strange. But, really, so what if their fan-base changes little after four decades? Freshen your present by remembering your past and enjoying it anew with your matured experiences and knowledgeable ears! Moreover, isn’t the present the only accessible temporal stage? Imagine a mindset where you see the past not as some distant object, but kernels of experience you carry with you at all moments in the present, even if these kernels have popped, burnt, or deformed. Experience plays out similarly to music – replace, develop, innovate, replace, sometimes in different orders; nevertheless, something was and something else now is. That doesn’t mean what was is gone, it just isn’t at the forefront.
So, why not go to a Rush concert? A bunch of shows on this tour are going on sale today, Feb 25th – check the official Rush tour page first to see if you can get in the virtual line first. If not, gruvr tickets can help you search for the best Rush ticket prices by sending alerts.
If you do decide to venture into the present, you can probably expect the performance to be segmented. The first set will comprise of tracks from their newest album, Clockwork Angels, followed by the decade-spanning second set that will include the string ensemble that travels with the band. Their addition adds a new layer to the experience, illustrating Rush’s dedication to recreating and enhancing sounds that are normally superior in pre-recorded form. Remember, that’s what makes the present special. Just because you’re playing a decade old song doesn’t make it stale – that only happens if you let it.
40 years doesn’t stop the Rush, and it certainly shouldn’t stop you.