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Story and Photos by Andy ArgyrakisWho ever would've though Rush would return to full steam following 2002's highly disappointing, muddily mixed Vapor Trails, let alone the overall resurgence in progressive rock as an entire genre? In the case of front man/bassist/keyboardist Geddy Lee, guitarist Alex Lifeson and drummer Neil Peart, 2007's Snakes & Arrows is amongst the most acclaimed of its latter catalogue, while the past year also saw the partial reunion of Atlantic label mates Genesis, a full-fledged King Crimson tour, plus fresh CDs from The Mars Volta, Porcupine Tree, and Coheed and Cambria from the style's current class.
In any case, the end result for Rush faithful meant a second leg in support of its latest studio CD, which also earned the double disc concert chronicle Snakes & Arrows Live earlier this year. And even though the band just played Tinley Park's First Midwest Bank Amphitheatre and Milwaukee's Marcus Amphitheater just shy of a year ago, the trio had no trouble filling the United Center (stacked to the ceiling with gargantuan production- including three ovens randomly roasting dozens of chickens) to near capacity, adding and subtracting just enough from the last outing's set list to warrant a worthwhile return trip.
The first act of the marathon evening was a mixture of old and new, with the familiar thunder crashes of "Limelight" and "Freewill" unloading with unparalleled instrumental precision and Lee's rivalable range that thankfully steered towards the more melodic side of his shrieking tendencies. "The Larger Bowl" caught Rush up to speed with more contemporary trends, channeling an acoustic undercurrent through an otherwise epic landscape. A flashback to "The Trees" continued to fill in the band's broad sonic brushstrokes, though the current instrumental "The Main Monkey Business" was a primary example of how those ambitious musings can quickly turn pretentious.
Nonetheless, the rest of the Snakes & Arrows presentations shined in the second half, particularly the riveting percussion clashes of "Far Cry," the enchanted imagery-laden "Armor & Sword" and the bone-crunching "Workin' Them Angels." Yet the band truly rounded the bases with single staples like "The Spirit of Radio" and "Tom Sawyer," which remain endearing examples of Rush's ability to balance commercial appeal with intelligence and ingenuity. After the double dose of sing-a-longs, Rush's encore straddled between the murky miss of "One Little Victory" and the more attractive 2112 track "A Passage To Bangkok," ending the evening in the wordless, flawless fusion of "YYZ" to cap off Rush's fitting (even if somewhat unexpected) return to prog rock royalty.
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