A year ago, my brother, Hanwei, and I were doing our usual one hour youtube session before bed. "Will you believe," he said to me, "that I can tell you about a band that has sold as many records as The Beatles and The Rolling Stones but you will have never heard of them before?"
I snorted. "Try me."
"Do you know Rush?" He said, and my love affair with them started shortly after. It wasn't an instant spark, the music was often a bit of an acquired taste, but once I started liking it, I couldn't go back. It is some of the most beautiful heavy music I've ever heard, always tuneful and funky, and always interesting. A few weeks ago, in Dublin, a Rush poster caught my eye and when I found out they were touring, I hurried home to check if they were headed my way.
Two days ago, I caught them in Birmingham and it was simply amazing. AH-MAZING. I'm about to do a massive photodump, so please bear with me. If you're only here for the outfit, feel free to scroll away to the bottom!
Because I booked quite late, I was seated way at the back between an elderly lady with a white cap of hair who had gone to see them on tour in 2004 and another middle-aged lady.
It was literally packed to the rafters and most of the crowd were a very well-behaved middle aged bunch, many of the men with Geddy Lee hair themselves. I loved it though - it's been a long time since I've been in a crowd this big. I read somewhere that Rush fans are traditionally fanatic about the band, and it's absolutely true.
I really liked the humour of the band - they didn't talk much at all, but the video clips that acted as bookends to the show were quite funny, they dressed up in costumes, as each other and poked lots of fun at themselves.
Above, you can enjoy the many faces of Geddy Lee.
And here are Rush pretending to be each other. Neil Peart looks so cute!
The tour was called the Time Machine tour because they had a clock like this projected on the wall which clicked to the dates of the various songs that they played, which also meant that they ran through all their greatest hits. They opened with Spirit of Radio, and not a moment too soon because by then, it felt like I'd been waiting weeks to scream to "concert hall!". They also got Free Will out of the way quite quickly, another of my favourite songs by them.
A man with butterfly wings on Faithless - a softer side indeed!
Artwork on Workin' Them Angels.
Neil Peart's drumset.
All in all, the musicianship was incredible, and really, you expected no less. Geddy Lee's voice really is that strange live, although I quite enjoy the way it sounds, and it was occasionally shaky, but I was so thrilled to be there that I would have forgiven anything. Plus, he is just the most astounding bassist. There were close-up cameras planted on his microphone and we got to watch his fingers galloping as he sang which was just amazing. And his riffs... fat and sharp and tasty. If that makes any sense at all.
Alex Lifeson played a multitude of instruments including something that I think was a mandolin? And of course, he was just wonderful. Very understated and extremely virtuoso. What is the adjective for virtuoso? Is it virtuosic? Virtuoistic? Is this even a valid question?
And Neil Peart. My god. One of the best drummers I've ever had the good fortune to see live (I attended a Thomas Lang clinic once). He played his solo on his usual 360 set, one side of which was a regular drumset and the other which set off triggers to sounds like bells and clinks and train whistles so that he created a beautiful ambient kind of soundscape (that sounds wanky, but it's not) and then when it was turned round again, it set off triggers to big band sounds like trumpets blasting notes so that he played a big band plus drum solo. Unbelievable.
The last thing that amused me: this strange light contraption above the stage that looked like it was about to beam us all back to the mother ship at any minute. What was that about? Who knew? All in, I was absolutely thrilled to have this chance to catch them, and it's one of those moments I'm really glad to have had to myself as I went alone.
Another great concert I was lucky to attend was Brit Floyd, the tightest cover band I have ever seen. Shriya, Anjuly, Arpit and I spent a night in Manchester to catch their concert and at three hours long, it was well worth the £11 ticket price.
The band was very very solid with not one false note. They churned out hit after Pink Floyd hit with real precision and flair and the lights, as you can see in the pictures were occasionally too bright, but really quite something. We sat there oohing and aahing throughout at the very surreal background images and cool lighting and Anjuly couldn't stop singing Another Brick in the Wall when it was over.
The show was a little weird though, because it was one of the quietest affairs I had ever been to. The audience sat silent through the songs, nodding as if listening to a cd player and then gave gentle golf claps when they ended, as if pleased. The whooping and hollering only really started towards the end and the band did get a standing ovation, but that was the only time the crowd got to their feet. Strange!
Dressing for concerts
I thought it would be funny to do a little tongue-in-cheek bit on how to dress for concerts based on my very unscientific observation. I am by no means an expert but I have picked up some tips from watching audiences all round the world so I thought I'd share them in case anyone is interested.
Loads of people ask this question on wiki answers or whatever, but some of the advice I've read is truly appalling including one website that said "Don't wear the band's t-shirt because you'll just look like a noob." PHWAAT?! Where are the thousands of pieces of merchandise being sold going then, you nimrod?
So, here are my quick tips, none of which are definitive, but all of which have been tried and tested.
1) Yes, please wear the band's t-shirt if you want. If you have one, why the hell wouldn't you? For one, it's a way to show support especially if you're a rabid enough fan to have purchased one, and for another, it creates a great sense of community when you see throngs of people streaming in one direction with shirts that all say one thing. It's just great fun and it's something you shouldn't miss out on if you really love a band.
2) It is quite acceptable to wear the t-shirt of another band as long as you follow certain guidelines:
a) You can wear the shirt of another band if their music is somehow adjacent or similar to the band playing. So you can wear a Judas Priest or Iron Maiden or Dream Theatre shirt to see Rush and feel quite pleased with yourself about it. Or, you could wear a Queen shirt to watch Keane or a HIM shirt to watch Sabbath.
b) You can wear the shirt of a band if it no longer exists and thus does not pose any threat to the band that is playing. So I've seen Pink Floyd and Bob Marley and The Beatles t-shirts at many many concerts that I've attended.
c) You shouldn't be wearing the shirt of a rival band unless you're looking to start trouble. For example, I wouldn't wear a Blur shirt to see Oasis (though honestly, I don't know that I would wear the shirt of either band in any case) or a Beatles shirt to see the Rolling Stones (although this is slightly more acceptable, see rule above).
d) You can wear an AC/DC shirt almost everywhere.
e) You should not be wearing your Avril Lavigne shirt anywhere. Just please.
3) Outside of band t-shirts, there are only two other rules I follow. Dress comfortable. I know the mentality is that you have to look hot and glittery, but if you want to attend lots of gigs, I'd go with stylish comfort over giant hair, loads of jewellery and falsies. To be honest, everyone looks unkempt and sweaty at the end of it and that's part of the experience... Looking overdressed and having to stand aloof just isn't as fun.
People will tell you not to wear heels or slippers or flats or god knows what, but really that's up to you as long as you're comfortable. Bear in mind you might be standing for a very very long time, sometimes on grass, sometimes in the sun and you'll be moving around a lot. If it's going to get cold, bring a light layer. If it's going to be hot, don't layer too much. You get the idea.
So as long as you feel relaxed and agile in the clothes you wear, feel free to wear almost anything. If you're going to be uncomfortable just for the sake of looking glamourous and wear stilettos on grass or something, good luck.
4) Dress safely. If you're going to a fairly tame concert, then anything goes, but I've been in places where people have nearly gotten smashed in the front of the audience and so I would advise some care.
For example, close toed shoes if you're worried about being stepped on, no dangly jewellery if there's any danger that someone could tug at you and hair in a high, safe style. After someone nearly ripped my hair out at Black Sabbath, I've developed a high, tight ponytail or two, equally out of the way pigtails. It's may not be as hawt as letting your hair flow free or whatever, but at least you'll have hair left. Also, try to avoid sharp accessories. I've been at concerts where I've nearly fallen or people around me have gotten into fights and it would have just been awful to get cut.
And finally, a small cross body bag is always helpful if you're going to be standing.
With those rambly tips in mind, here's what I wore to see Rush:
Earrings - F21. Shorts - DIY. Shirt - H&M. Checked men's shirt - H&M.
Tights - H and M. Boots - Dr Martens. Bracelets - Made by mother.
I cuffed my shorts for a cleaner line and more leg, and the only concession to dangling accessories were these amazing 70s-looking earrings which could be removed and stowed in my pocket if things got rough (they totally didn't). Also, I love this men's shirt... I think they're on sale at H&M right now at 2 for the price of 1 and Shriya and I each got one.
Phew! Hope you enjoyed!