Rush Rocks Red Rocks

This week I made a what I regarded as a sacred pilgrimage to see my favorite rock band. You could say that Rush’s Geddy Lee gave a star performance at Red Rocks this week, but as is the case with each event at the Rocks, the venue is always the evening’s first star.
It was my first visit. The Canadian trio is Gary-Roberts-getting-up-there in chronology (“I don’t like the term ‘old song,'” Lee joked with the Red Rocks throng, “I prefer ‘veteran.'”) and in weighing the travel costs and such associated with an across-the-country trek, I was motivated primarily by a hunch that a Rush concert at Red Rocks was an opportunity that may well not present itself again. I was damn glad I made it.
Too much focus I think is placed on the amphitheater itself — which is stunning — and not on the larger park proper, which is nothing short of a geological marvel and a fabulously isolating and enriching immersion in starkly beautiful and rugged terrain. You really do feel transported virtually onto another planet in this mountain carving of a monument. Two three-hundred-foot-tall rocks, each taller than Niagra Falls, afford perfect acoustics and a mesmerizing backdrop for the shows at Red Rocks.
There are records of public performances on the site that date back more than 100 years, but the amphitheater as it’s generally known today was constructed in 1941.
Geddy Lee on Red Rocks: “It’s an amazing location. One of the most beautiful venues in America . . . or anywhere. I would hazard a guess that it’s one of the most beautiful anywhere.”
I agree.
Amazingly, during the concert’s intermission, I stood at a men’s room urinal next to man who’d also traveled all the way from Washington, D.C., for the gig. I found that both marvelous and fitting of the occasion. There were as well Canadians in no small number in attendance, including a few in Maple Leafs’ regalia; Californians; Texans; East Coasters, Midwesterners; at least one Brazilian (he a new lover of Coors, incidentally); and two couples I chatted up from London. Red Rocks, as you might imagine, has a novel way of luring in a very global crowd for its special gigs. The pre-concert beer swigging up top on the park-sprawling patio affords visitors encounters with travelers from literally around the world.
It’s admittedly elitist of me to express it, but such is the splendor of Red Rocks that at times I found myself silently cursing the pedestrian acts so regularly permitted to perform there. Of course, taste in music is like taste in wine or film or food: necessarily subjective. Still, years back, Rush was welcomed at Radio City Music Hall (for a week) while almost all other rock peers were shunned. Just saying. I imagined a Hall and Oates gig profaning this hallowed place, for instance; please do not comment with any affirming (and weekend-ruining) note of their actually appearing.
This is a great venue for great musicians, and Rush this week at Red Rocks reminded us of their greatness.
I was in row 48, center, and a man to my immediate right earlier in the week had retired from 26 years of duty in the Air Force, and made the trip with his wife from Cheyenne, Wyoming. For some months he’d identified the venture as the first significant act in his retirement. I thanked him for his service to our nation and complimented him on his sense of rewarding leisure. Like me he drank draft beer liberally and believed ‘Subdivisions’ the most stunning of the sets’ songs.
Ominous clouds settled in over the Rocks, and just moments into the set, nine thousand sets of eyes widened over lightning bolts that began belting lower Denver. There were moments when Mother Nature timed the strikes to coincide perfectly with Lee’s piercing vocal pitch. The man-made lighting for the show was impressive, but the natural illumination was both frightening and engrossing. Of that dramatic Rocky Mountain weather: early this last week back East I was vexed with rapidly deteriorating forecasted conditions for greater Denver. But locals are quick to observe of their elevated environs, “If you don’t like the weather, give it 15 minutes.”
Rain made only a light and intermittent appearance. But wild wind whipped through the amphitheater, often shrouding Geddy’s face in his flowing hair but never seeming to hinder his impassioned vocal performance. We 9,000-plus however stood in apprehension for nearly the entirety of the first set as the threat above persisted.
The intermission was the longest I’d ever experienced at a Rush show (30 minutes plus), and I couldn’t help but wonder if that was in deference to the conditions. Mercifully, the storm clouds parted during, and the second set was performed under clear skies and soothing air — Denver earlier that day had seen temps flirting with the middle 90s, but by 9:45 that night we couldn’t have been at 70.
Of course I’m partial to new media, and I knew that non of the old would chronicle the show in newspaper or on TV, despite the fact that about 25 million Rush fans world-wide would have been interested in hearing about so special a gig. So I found great delight in seeing, within hours of the show, video images of numerous tracks from the set posted on YouTube. The evening’s opener, the vintage guitar-riff-ed ‘Limelight,’ can be found here.
For me, Lee was the second star of the night. Overall, the band’s sound was high-tech crystal clear and spectacularly loud — I mean really, really loud. Red Rocks ensures that loud bands sound spectacularly loud there. Lee’s vocals were wonderfully out in front of the mix. He really sang with passion and that piercing emotional pitch the band’s devotees cherish. There was, seemingly, no letup either among the three of them even as their playing stretched past 11:00.
I found it quasi horrific to depart Red Rocks when park staff wanted us all to. The evening had offered up all that I’d hoped, and more, and I found myself emotional in comprehending my great fortune with cooperating weather gods — we easily could have been sky-electrified out of the performance.
I want badly to return Red Rocks, but only for a Rush show.

This entry was posted in Puck Sodas, Rush. Bookmark the permalink.

6 Responses to Rush Rocks Red Rocks

  1. chanuck says:

    I am envious that you went to Red Rocks and saw Rush, but I got to ask. How does one start a conversation at the urinal?

  2. “They’re bleeping kicking bleep tonight!”
    “Bleep yea.”
    “Where’d you come from?”
    “[insert city”

  3. James says:

    Sounds great, looks like I found a new trip to take.

  4. robert says:

    Saw Rush in Houston last year. Favorite band of all time!

  5. chanuck says:


  6. Grant Beery says:

    Glad you enjoyed Colorado, and Red Rocks more specifically. Growing up in Denver, I’ve had the privilege of seeing quite a few bands there. Let me tell you, any chance you can get to go there, go. I don’t care who’s playing; It’s always a good show.

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