Geddy Lee and the band stretched out over two long sets, one of which included their new album performed in full.
If any windows were shattered around downtown Minneapolis on Monday, don't blame it on the Yankees' power hitters knocking balls out of Target Field. Blame it on Geddy Lee being back at Target Center.
Rock's shrillest, highest-squawking singer and his veteran band Rush pierced our sonic landscape again Monday on their "Clockwork Angels" tour, a trek that has been clocking in as long as a typical ball game every night. The Canadian trio performed for over three hours, and it was almost a no-hitter: Only two of the band's radio staples were offered at show's end, "The Spirit of Radio" and "Tom Sawyer."
Instead, Lee and his bandmates -- drummer Neil Peart and guitarist Alex Lifeson (all around 60) -- offered two distinct sets, one made up entirely of older, deep-album cuts, and another featuring their new album performed nearly in its entirety. This time around, the gig was for hardcore fans only. Which is pretty much what 80 percent of Rush's usual audience is anyway.
Attendance was down from other recent Rush dates, but how many other classic-rock bands could get more than 8,000 fans to show up and genuinely act excited to hear the new album in full? First, though, came the set of older rarities, starting with two synth-heavy odes to Reagan-era America, "Subdivisons" and "Big Money."
The best of the deep cuts was another song from 1982's "Signals" album, "The Analog Kid," featuring some of the heaviest metal riffing of the night and an ecstatically cheered solo by Lifeson. Peart slipped in his first of three solos in the instrumental "Where's My Thing?" during which a guy in a chicken costume and white lab coat inexplicably ran around the stage as part of the show. Oh, those kooky Canucks!
After a short intermission, which Lee attributed to needing "a brain transfusion," a long and semi-comedic video was shown featuring the band members dressed as munchkin-like fellas working inside a clock. And so began "Clockwork Angels."
As audacious as it was to recreate all 66 minutes of the new album, Rush also took a leap by inviting outside musicians on stage for the first time in the band's 44-year career. The eight-member string section didn't exactly lessen the concert's nerd factor, but it did add greatly to the album's dramatic oomph. And "Clockwork" is a surprisingly heavy disc from the veteran rockers. The climactic title track and seven-minute epic "Headlong Flight" both spawned bursts of headbanging and air-drumming from the crowd, leading up nicely to the lushly crescendoing closer "The Garden."
Fans who didn't pass out from hitting their imaginary cymbals too hard were then treated to a strings-accompanied miniset of other oldies, including "Red Sector A" and "YYZ," followed by an encore featuring three "suites" from the band's cult-loved 1976 album, "2112." You half-wondered if Geddy and the boys wanted to go ahead and play that whole record on Monday, too. To do so, though, would have required them turning into the supermen their fans believe them to be.
See Rush's full set list at startribune.com/artcetera Chris Riemenschneider • 612-673-4658 • Twitter: @ChrisRstrib