Rush fans experienced something special Friday night.
Tulsa got to witness the launch of the band’s 40th anniversary tour at the BOK Center with a musical journey through those 40 years. But what Geddy Lee, Alex Lifeson and Neil Peart launched in Tulsa — with what may likely be their last tour — was a master class on rock ’n’ roll.
“This is the very first show,” Lee told the crowd after a few songs. “We’re celebrating way too many years of music.”
Each band member played some of the best solos I’ve seen, and that’s not easy — especially on bass and drums. Peart sets the bar, able to play engaging drum solos that tell a story, have a beginning, middle and end. It’s remarkable to watch.
Lifeson on guitar played effortlessly, solos that sung and showed his control of the instrument that was total.
But probably Rush’s most iconic quality is the vocal work from Lee. His remarkably high and clear voice was impressive when the band was taking off, but he hasn’t lost a single note after more than 40 years. It’s still as high and strong as ever, with a few exceptions on the highest range. But Lee was able to sustain notes for a long time through several songs.
All together, they make the complex and intricate music they have perfected over the years sound effortless. Not many bands can sneak a few measures of reggae into a rock song and make it flow seamlessly, but Rush can. Their skill is limited only by their creativity, which seems endless.
Oh, and they’re hilarious. A quirky intro video showed the band’s evolution. The stage set kept getting rearranged by stage hands while the band played, going from mild steampunk to laundromat to a wall of amps.
Before the band came back after the introduction, a video played showing them in different scenes wearing silly costumes with several actors, including Paul Rudd and Jason Segel (whose characters were enamored of Rush in the film “I Love You, Man”) and the cast of “South Park.”
Their sense of humor has the same strong but seemingly effortless quality that their music does.
A light show took the concert to the next level, adding bright color to already bright and exciting music. They were on fire, with tasteful pyrotechnics and laser effects that made the show as much fun to watch as it was to hear.
Most of the songs in the set followed a pattern that took the crowd on a journey backward in time. Synth usage went from zilch to heavy rotation and back.
For more than two hours, the packed crowd at the BOK Center heard hit after hit and a few songs that haven’t been played live for decades. “Tom Sawyer” and “Spirit of Radio” were played just before songs like “Jacob’s Ladder.”
With no opening act and despite an intermission, the show moved quickly and was engaging and fun throughout.
Forty years is a long time to do anything, so I can understand why they’ve said when the show was announced that this could be their last major tour. This was my first Rush show, and I wish I could have more. But with their skill and strong sound, the Rock and Roll Hall of Famers are going out on top.
And Tulsa got to see it first.
Jerry Wofford 918-581-8346