Rush and Alchemy with Clockwork Angels

Frank Erwin Center was full to capacity last evening with old fans and new ones and there was a sense of anticipation that can only be evoked by legends. Rush kicked off their 2013 tour with their first stop in Austin. Many bands sound better through the airwaves but Rush manages to take complicated, lyric heavy music and turn it into a tour de force.

Geddy Lee kicks it off with Subdivisions and I choke up as any old fan would do. The rest of the show is history with much of it devoted to their new album, Clockwork Angels. Neil Peart and longtime friend and science fiction writer, Kevin Anderson, collaborated to develop Clockwork Angels which is the story of a sixteen year old boy whose world is ruled by The Watchmaker – an overlord intent on providing stability everywhere. The boy of course, has to follow his dreams and so the scene is set.

I loved most of the songs – especially Caravan, Clockwork Angels, The Garden, Headlong Flight. On the way home, I realized why this band has been around for 38 years and why with this comeback they once again prove that they understand their core values.

Message matters
There are popular songs and there is brilliant music. Music that has been written with wisdom transcends time and becomes inter generational.

Tom Sawyer: No his mind is not for rent/To any god or government/Always hopeful, yet discontent/He knows changes aren’t permanent/But change is
The Trees: There is unrest in the forest/There is trouble with the trees/For the maples want more sunlight/And the oaks ignore their pleas.
Subdivisions: Nowhere is the dreamer or the misfit so alone
Losing it: Sadder still to watch it die than never to have known it/For you the blind who once could see/The bell tolls for thee
Clockwork Angels: Moved to worship, we bow and close our eyes/Clockwork angels, promise every prize
The Caravan: I can’t stop thinking big/In a world where I feel so small/I can’t stop thinking big
The Garden: The treasure of a life is a measure of love and respect/The way you live/The gifts that you give/And the fullness of time is the only return that you expect

The Band
Any band that has stayed together for 38 years knows their way around each others strengths and weaknesses. It is a marriage to friendship as much as it is to their music. That Lee, Lifeson and Peart are still here despite personal tragedies and the many hours of fame is a tribute to the essence of Rush. Progressive Rock that has stayed committed to a strong core while adapting to a changing world. In a great team you see evidence of collective and individual prowess. Though he is not quite able to hit all his sopranoish high notes in the older songs, Lee’s vocals stays exemplary. His relentless energy could rival someone half his age. Peart is outstanding on the drums. Watching his drum solo was witnessing an artist execute a masterpiece without missing a beat. Lifeson was ranked as one of the top 100 greatest guitarists by Rolling Stone and there is no doubt why.

The Experience
You buy the tickets a few months in advance. Then there is the countdown. Finally the concert is here and you are excited. You want this to be memorable because you still believe in the heroism that music can deliver taking you away from the mundane of your existence to a collective experience.
The Rush concert was not just a legendary band playing their music, there were some brilliant special effects. All the music for Clockwork Angels was accompanied by spectacular videos, some great fire action and the occasional fireworks.

Given the book, the music and the videos, I am expecting to see a movie release pretty soon!

You wonder why it took so long for Rush to be inducted to the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame which finally happened this month.

RollingStone remarks – “Finally, it was time for the band that the audience had been shouting for all night long, and no one was as excited as Grohl and Hawkins. Grohl grew red-faced shouting his praise. “Rock & roll has forever been ensconced in mystery,” he said. “But there’s one mystery that surely eclipses them all: When the @#$% did Rush become cool?…Their legacy is that of a band that stayed true to themselves no matter how uncool they seemed to anyone. Rush have always been cool! Consider this mystery solved and it’s our honor to finally induct Rush into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.”

Leaving you with the powerful lyrics from Wish Them Well, the last song played from Clockwork Angels last night.

Clockwork Angels
Clockwork Angels

Wish Them Well
(ClockWork Angels – Rush)

All that you can do is wish them well

Spirits turned bitter by the poison of envy
Always angry and dissatisfied
Even the lost ones, the frightened and mean ones
Even the ones with a devil inside

Thank your stars you’re not that way
Turn your back and walk away
Don’t even pause and ask them why
Turn around and say goodbye

People who judge without a measure of mercy
All the victims who will never learn
Even the lost ones, you can only give up on
Even the ones who make you burn

The ones who’ve done you wrong
The ones who pretended to be so strong
The grudges you’ve held for so long
It’s not worth singing that same sad song

Even though you’re going through hell
Just keep on going
Let the demons dwell

Just wish them well


SXSW was in full swing last week in Austin.  The streets soaked in the art and talent from hundreds of performers, small and big who rocked our town.
This is a tribute to all the artists who turned up.
To your courage to create.


Ask anyone
Serious about their craft
Nothing happens overnight
A price has to be paid
There is no lottery
Spiraling you to fame

Ask anyone
Who taps the muse
A fleeting touch
A spark
A forgotten note

Ask anyone
Who showed up for years
Playing till dawn
Ignoring the whispers
Questioning their talent

Ask anyone
Who worries about mediocrity
Wearing heart on sleeve
About being left to wallow
Like a weed, untended, ignored

Ask anyone
Fearing the day
That nothing will follow
A blank page
With naught to offer
Or a canvas
Of empty
Of feet that fail
Voice that falters
Hands that fumble
Memory that lapses
Leaving fragments of fear

Ask anyone
Who has had one glimpse
Of Creation
Who has experienced
Singular connection
Manna from heaven
Leaving doubt by the wayside
And logic at the wake

Ask anyone
Who knows all of the above
They will tell you
If they had to choose once more
At the road that forked
Between highway and hell
They would still choose the pain
All over again

—Shaku Selvakumar March 2013