The first hit song in the catalog of the classic rock band Rush is the aptly titled “Working Man” from the band’s 1974 debut album.
On Friday night, before a crowd of about 6,000 at Intrust Bank Arena, the band proved that after 36 years, it still lives up to the title of its debut hit by powering through a 25-song, three-hour set divided into two acts.
There was no opening act for the legendary Canadian power trio of bassist/singer Geddy Lee, guitarist Alex Lifeson and drummer Neil Peart. Instead, the show opened with a short film featuring the band members poking fun at themselves and their long history together.
The crowd was filled with fans of all ages, but clearly dominated by men, all of whom rose to their feet as the notes of the band’s 1980 hit “The Spirit of Radio” filled the arena just before 8 p.m. The first act featured hits going back as far as 1977 plus some current, more obscure material, such as “BU2B,” a song yet to be released on an album.
After more than an hour of music, Lee announced to the crowd that rockers as old as they are (all in their 50s) needed a break, and a 15-minute intermission followed.
If ever there was evidence of the makeup of Rush’s fan base, one only needed to see the line stretching from the men’s restroom during the intermission, a problem usually reserved for women at arena events.
The highlight of the night was the opening of the second act, which kicked off with the band’s well-known song, “Tom Sawyer” from its 1981 album “Moving Pictures.” The album took Rush from cult status to mainstream rock stars. Never ones to take themselves too seriously, the band members performed as a giant screen behind them featured three chimpanzees playing the song along with them.
Rush gave its fans a special treat by performing the entire “Moving Pictures” album. The current Time Machine tour is the first time the band has played the entire seven-song album since it’s been released.
“Hard to believe that album was recorded 30 years ago,” Lee said after they finished performing “Moving Pictures.”
The band immediately followed with a new song, “Caravan,” and a display of pyrotechnics that could be felt at the back of the arena. Not long after came another Rush staple — an extended drum solo by Peart, featuring a revolving drum kit.
The stage was decked out in a 1940s industrial theme, and singer Lee wasted little time with banter. Instead, the music, played to near perfection, and a spectacular light display — something the band has always been known for — went on almost nonstop.
After the second act, the band played a two-song encore to a crowd still filled with enthusiasm after nearly three hours of music. The show ended with the only obvious choice: the 36-year-old “Working Man.”