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Today’s political and pop culture climate certainly feels ripe for mockery and pontificating especially by those with “a voice” so little surprise Pet Shop Boys leave little un-turned in their newest EP Agenda, a taste perhaps of a forthcoming  full-length album expected this year.

The four-song EP (released Feb. 8) has made some ripples with their spot-on lyrics for the song “On social media” which makes fun of all the clichés and pretty much takes everything you hate (or maybe love) about one of humankind’s worst endeavors, I mean, social media and put it into a synth heavy pop song. Perhaps some irony here as the band has their own social media accounts, though arguably if artists, especially those whose heyday was decades before the internet, want to remain relevant or even remembered in today’s world you probably need near explicit exposure on Facebook, Instagram and whatever else comes down the pike. Check out the clever video too on, where else, but YouTube the video version of social media.

Pet Shop Boys - On social media (lyric video) - YouTube

Hopefully, Agenda shows the Boys taking their direction away from the dance-heavy tracks that made up most of the last few albums and back to what made them household names in the 1980s with catchy beats, clever arrangements and the tasty ear candy that comprised smash hits like “West End Girls,” “It’s a Sin” and “So Hard.” Though they fell off the radar a bit for me at the turn of the century, partly because of their then-limited touring schedule in the United States, Pet Shop Boys have remained rather active musically in the last 20 years, especially since 2009 as they released four studio albums during that span and have 13 total to their name. They also began touring more, visiting Portland for the first time in 2013 and returned again a few years later.

Agenda sounds like the opposite side of a 20 year bridge from 1999’s Nightlife as the band spent the following decade and more dabbling in other areas like a soundtrack, ballet, remixes and those dance albums that molded 2016’s Super  and 2013’s Electric. The new songs  “Give stupidity a chance,” “On social media” and “What are we going to do about the rich” in many respects return Pet Shop Boys to form as all three reflect a modern touch of 80s synth pop sound. And though I try not to interpret lyrics or try and make much sense of them or even cleave a musician’s personal thoughts into my own life, but perhaps the duo should take a page out of their own songbook (on this very EP no less) for what sounds like a slap at those with healthy bank accounts. Unless they finger point at their more than 100 million records sold selves.

But the best song off the Agenda  EP comes last with “The forgotten child.” While the previous three give radio-friendly upbeat melodies “Child” tones it way back with stripped down instrumentation for much of the track allowing singer Neil Tennant to emote a bit before Nick Lowe chimes in with  a classic PSB keyboard riff. Don’t get me wrong, an element of the hyper-looped drum machine electronic dance beats exist but far from their recent endeavors.

Speaking of vocals. Nearly 40 years after Pet Shop Boys formed, Tennant’s vocals sound just as fresh and young as they did to open Please.

Grade: B

Pet Shop Boys Agenda Track List:

  1. Give stupidity a chance
  2. On social media
  3. What are we going to do about the rich?
  4. The forgotten child
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OK, let’s just forget the music.

You either like KISS and appreciate their music or you just don’t care for it thus don’t listen. Yes, I suppose you can hate them especially if you ever got into a stare down with Gene Simmons. But you can’t really dismiss KISS because no one came before them and no one has come since. No one ever will, either.

But now it’s over.

For real. No really, for real this time. Maybe. The door remains slightly ajar even if it’s someone else that walks through it. Anyway…

It’s been a long road and the road towards retirement remains a long one as the band embarks on an at least two-year (possibly and likely longer) farewell, aptly named End of the Road tour, but KISS has indeed finally called it quits (at least partially claiming to) after 45 years and they bid goodbye to Portland, OR just the second date of who knows how many, on Friday at a sold-out Moda Center that had fans of all ages rocking for 2 hours through a 20 song setlist.

Gene Simmons (L) and Paul Stanley (R) of KISS

Even if you don’t like the music. Go. That’s what I did, but years ago now. And haven’t missed them since. Nor was I going to miss them on this tour. Relax, no I don’t not like their music it just never spoke to me like many other bands have over the years. They have some great tunes which got played and songs probably only the KISS Army enjoy. Those got played too. Every one oozing the essence of KISS. That’s what was promised, after all.

The spectacle KISS brings to the live show has never failed. Arguably, it was their first live album released more than 40 years ago that cemented a following and brought them fame. This spectacle remains.

That’s why you should go.

Nope, none of the no-longer-with-the-band original players in the form of Peter Criss and Ace Frehley made a guest appearance. And don’t expect that to happen at all during the End of the Road tour especially in light of this week’s events that rolled out on social media. Apparently, even nearly 70 year old men get into catfights. Therefore, KISS, as they stand and play, remain lead singer, guitarist and co-founder Paul Stanley, bassist and co-founder Gene Simmons, drummer Eric Singer and lead guitarist and local boy Tommy Thayer.

Tommy Thayer (L) and Paul Stanley (R) of KISS

KISS got a late start because of an apparent delay at the Canadian border which left most fans outside waiting in light drizzle as the roadies set up the stage. A lot of disgruntled ticket holders, no doubt, but once KISS finally took the stage around 9:15 p.m. smiles returned. And, yes it was an explosive, unapologetic, bombastic KISS concert that shows exactly why the band has lasted this long.

They opened with their classic “Detroit Rock City” and worked their way through many of their studio albums while taking heavily from their 1975 self-titled debut and their smash Destroyer. “Shout It Out Loud” followed then the bass thumping “Deuce” as Simmons took his turn on the mic. Stanley sings lead with Simmons usually on back-up but Simmons took the reins on a number of songs including “War Machine,” “Cold Gin,” “I Love It Loud” and of course the heavy “God of Thunder” which lifted him high over the crowd on a platform where he spit up blood during his usual opening bass solo for the song.

Gene Simmons drooled all night

The solo was shortened a bit, not the usual hard and heavy extended play as on previous tours, but he got his point across. The band also had some solid jams together to close out “Lick It Up” and “Let Me Go, Rock ‘N” Roll” and all four members got their turn in the spotlight with individual solos that were not works of art but showed them having some fun at their craft.

The evening fluctuated at times from driving hard rocking energy that helped pace the show along nicely to near abrupt halts that only served to interrupt the aggressive flow. This was perhaps from the band still feeling their way through the setlist (Portland was the second night of the tour and the opener for the full United States tour) or Stanley’s persistence in chatting with the crowd between songs or a combination of both. Who knows if the band was harried from the delay and arriving on time but it didn’t show. Stanley’s voice, fresh off the band’s opening night in Vancouver, BC, was strong and no other glitches, at least obvious ones.

An explosive, confetti filled evening from KISS

KISS closed the first set with Stanley taking a zipline over the audience to an elevated stage on the opposite end of the arena for the title track to 1977’s Love Gun, and “I Was Made For Living You” off 1979’s Dynasty before heading back to the main stage for the closing song off their debut “Black Diamond.” Singer opened the encore on piano for the band’s hit ballad “Beth” and afterwards you couldn’t tell if the evening was done as all four members waved to the crowd and bowed but then Stanley said the evening wasn’t done and they returned to their instruments to finally close with “Do You Love Me’ and a confetti strewing “Rock and Roll All Nite.”

It might be the End of the Road tour, but KISS did little to reminisce about their past, though Stanley mentioned playing at the old Paramount Theater in Portland a few times. Overall, no walk through the band’s history or stories behind the songs, rather the concert felt exactly that, a raucous evening with KISS full of hot flames and fireworks, loud explosions and lasers.

No real goodbye or closing words. Indeed it seems as though KISS wants to rock and roll and party every day from now until eternity.

KISS Setlist in Portland, OR at Moda Center
  1. Detroit Rock City
  2. Shout It Out Loud
  3. Deuce
  4. Say Yeah
  5. Heaven’s on Fire
  6. War Machine
  7. Lick It Up
  8. 100,000 Years
  9. God of Thunder
  10. Cold Gin
  11. Psycho Circus
  12. I Love It Loud
  13. Hide Your Heart
  14. Let Me Go, Rock ‘N’ Roll
  15. Love Gun
  16. I Was Made for Lovin’ You
  17. Black Diamond
  18. Beth
  19. Do You Love Me
  20. Rock and Roll All Nite
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Remember the days when a live album cost a few bucks more than studio albums? Even on vinyl?

No longer the case as Rush finally released their Rush In Rio live album (a culmination of the Vapor Trails tour) from 2003 on record, a near behemoth with the jacket, four disks and a price tag of $70 and up depending on where you purchase. It’s the thickest of any Rush vinyl releases and quite impressive.

All the same songs as the original CD release come with it (no previously unreleased tracks), but some new photos (bigger too) and a rather great write-up inside by Ray Wawryzniak. (Neil Peart’s novella “Leaving Vapor Trails Behind” from the original release not included.) In fact, one of the better synopses I’ve read from any of the Rush re-releases thus far. A thoroughly encapsulating piece that offers a little history you may or may not have known. Some features:

  • First time Rush played in South America (OK, we all knew that!)
  • First time “New World Man” released on vinyl
  • First time “By-Tor & The Snow Dog” was performed in 20 years and first release on vinyl since All The World’s a Stage
  • First time “Working Man” was played live since Moving Pictures tour
  • First time “Tom Sawyer” opened the setlist

I found the “Tom Sawyer” tidbit quite interesting, along with the explanation, as I not only remembered and was surprised when they busted out their most popular song at the get-go but had somewhat scoffed a bit at the band playing the song at all in my Vapor Trails tour review for the Orange County Register when Rush stopped at the Staples Center in Los Angeles.

So how about the music? My does this album deliver a deliciously raw recording. Don’t say I didn’t warn you. The vinyl pressing exceeds the digital release and might just ruin the listening experience of Rush In Rio on any other format.

I had forgotten just how enthusiastic the fans were in Rio. Something you immediately take notice of after the needle drops. In fact, this record captures the essence of the crowd that night on Nov. 23, 2002 at the Maracanã Stadium more than the digital version. So much so the crowd noise sometimes over powers the band and if you close your eyes for a second you just might find yourself embedded with the 40,000 plus on that seemingly magical night.

This was the concert that band members Geddy Lee, Alex Lifeson and Neil Peart were taken aback by just how loud the crowd was and of course the audiences’ lyrical contribution to the instrumental “YYZ.” Rush In Rio captures the heart of a Rush concert like the previous live effort Different Stages, offering something more than welcome after the over-produced  A Show of Hands from 1989. Highlights include:

  • Roll The Bones
  • YYZ
  • Bravado
  • The Trees
  • Driven (Miss this song)
  • Resist (Brilliant)
  • By-Tor and the Snow Dog

Obviously, listening to records forces you to get up and turn the record every 15 to 20 minutes and you can’t take it with you. The pitfalls subsequent technology helped bridge over. But if you miss Rush, long for a bit of yesteryear in Rushdom, and want to experience as close to “I was there” live audio performance then get your turntable and lay down the first record (Geddy Lee side up; not the track listing side)  and experience some of the best Rush has to offer.

It does help to play at maximum volume.

And, don’t be surprised if you walk away a little wistful and perhaps a bit heartbroken.

Grade: A

Rush – Rush In Rio Track List:

Side A:
1. TOM SAWYER
2. DISTANT EARLY WARNING
3. NEW WORLD MAN
4. ROLL THE BONES

Side B:
1. EARTHSHINE
2. YYZ
3. THE PASS
4. BRAVADO

Side C:
1. THE BIG MONEY
2. THE TREES
3. FREEWILL
4. CLOSER TO THE HEART

Side D:
1. NATURAL SCIENCE
2. ONE LITTLE VICTORY
3. DRIVEN
4. GHOST

Side E:
1. SECRET TOUCH
2. DREAMLINE
3. RED SECTOR A
4. LEAVE THAT THING ALONE

Side F:
1. O BATERISTA
2. RESIST
3. 2112

Side G:
1. LIMELIGHT
2. LA VILLA STRANGIATO
3. THE SPIRIT OF RADIO

Side H:
1. BY-TOR AND THE SNOW DOG
2. CYGNUS X -1
3. WORKING MAN
4. BETWEEN SUN & MOON
5. VITAL SIGNS

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A year or so ago Switchfoot announced a planned break and went on hiatus.

Naturally that meant hearing nothing until say at least 2020, right? After all, the band deserved some rest after every other year albums since 2009 and seemingly endless touring. It also raised concerns among the faithful that perhaps this was a slow burn to let fans know Switchfoot was over. Most bands don’t last 20 years.

But in August, mere weeks (ok, maybe a month) after my request for an interview was denied (sad face) Switchfoot announced a new album. Not, intentions to start a new album, mind you, it was clear they band had been at work (they spoon fed fans a taste of their new work in the ensuing months) which culminated in today’s release of their 11th studio album Native Tongue.

Native Tongue sometimes sounds raw, occasionally aggressive but mostly mixes a mellifluous dance inside a 14 song record. Track wise, Native Tongue is the band’s longest album and feels much longer than the 52 minute running time (not sure yet if that’s a good or bad thing). The album carries a much gentler approach to their song writing than 2016’s Where the Light Shines Through yet with more harmony emanating from Drew Shirley’s guitar work than past records.

Switchfoot has never shied away from speaking on touchy subjects – done quite well without preaching – so don’t think they have moved on from that endeavor. Singer Jon foreman said Switchfoot has learned a lot over their past 10 albums and Native Tongue is the band’s attempt to put that journey into words – an album that “celebrates all that we hold in common.” Can’t really argue with that:

  1. Let It Happen – A heavy song, takes a few listens but who knew Switchfoot could bust out a rocking guitar solo
  2. Native Tongue – Fantastic song. So catchy and love the slow down to finish out the final minute
  3. All I Need – Classic Switchfoot, fans will fully embrace
  4. Voices – It’s not rap, but kind of, with a much better jingle but still something to experiment maybe every once in a while
  5. Dig New Streams – So Beatles like, so un-Switchfoot like
  6. Joy Invincible – Great chorus. Let this one sink in for a while
  7. Prodigal Soul – A passionate song with Foreman really showing his range
  8. The Hardest Art – Love the melody; great vocals between Foreman and Kaela Sinclair
  9. Wonderful Feeling – Slow and steady but not a hit single
  10. Take My Fire – Loud and brash, back to harder edge rock; a solid anthem for anyone facing adversity
  11. The Strength to Let Go – Signature Switchfoot
  12. Oxygen – Not a favorite on the first spin but can already feel it settling in
  13. We’re Going to be alright – Their trip to Africa a few years ago probably helped shape this song
  14. You’re the One I Want – Sweet song, not a bad way to close out the album but it feels unfinished.

Switchfoot has come a long way since those early fresh out of college (or is it fresh while still in college) sounds that started their career 20 years ago. Switchfoot has always leaned more towards the spirit of Coldplay and U2 in past albums however they have managed to not only produce their own tone that defines them as a band but now expand their range which keeps them fresh, relevant and a legitimate player in rock music.

You can definitely hear the past two decades of Switchfoot on Native Tongue and just when you think the band sounds ready to rip, they roll back the rock chords, slow the pace then release the emotion. The influence of OneRepublic also shows as Brent Kutzle, bassist for the band helped produce. Switchfoot has always been an impassioned band often speaking of love, embracing the now and encouraging the listener thus inciting such an impassioned fan base. Switchfoot probably fills the various dark holes of life with a bit of light for many listeners who without the uplifting nature of the lyrics would remain somewhat in the shadows.

Though Switchfoot works best when embracing their rock side (“Stars,” “Oh! Gravity.,” “Dark Horses”) they also know how to tug at your heartstrings very effectively and perhaps better than most (“I Won’t Let You Go,” “Your Love Is a Sound,” “Thrive”). And while past albums have felt equal parts driving melodies countered with their softer withdrawals Native Tongue leans heavily on those compassionate tinged melodies.

In many respects, Native Tongue feels like a greater change of direction than their last album. Switchfoot has held on to its core but found a different avenue to drive down. Don’t worry Switchfoot is alive and well but had their break continued through 2019 and they returned with this album certainly the shock value of their return could have been more pronounced.

Wholly, Native Tongue doesn’t have the quick melodic permeation of songs prevalent on prior albums, instead the record invites you to listen. Then listen again. Perhaps, Switchfoot’s entire point behind making the album.

Grade: B

Switchfoot – Native Tongue track list
  1. Let It Happen
  2. Native Tongue
  3. All I Need
  4. Voices
  5. Dig New Streams
  6. Joy Invincible
  7. Prodigal Soul
  8. The Hardest Art
  9. Wonderful Feeling
  10. Take My Fire
  11. The Strength to Let Go
  12. Oxygen
  13. We’re Going to be alright
  14. You’re the One I Want
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Tread lightly when determining the Top 10 Best Rush Songs.

Opinions vary and the faithful quickly cast you out if you dare leave off their favorites or an oh so obvious one. Creating this list was never on my radar as so many strong tracks exist, however, a Top 10 Best Rush Albums certainly floated around over the years. Probably an easier task and the words would flow quite easily. But the challenge of narrowing their catalog to just 10 songs proved interesting therefore challenge accepted.

Rush has 20 studio albums including one collection of covers. If drum solos and exceptional variations accomplished through the live show count, then add another five albums. But for all intents and purposes whittling 40 years of Rush down to 10 songs takes much thought and a bit of care. One must keep in check their emotion detector to avert including or eliminating those tracks that rise or sink based on how they make up the sound track to their life.

But, isn’t that what makes Top 10 song lists so special? Rush boasts a passionate fan base probably on par (if not more than) with those who religiously follow particular sports teams. Of course, what does it for you doesn’t do it for me and how one song affected me hardly resonates with someone else in the same way. Yet, dismissing a clear masterpiece because it’s the only song ever heard on radio anymore doesn’t do anyone any favors. So, with all this in mind, Drew’s Reviews presents the Top 10 Best* Rush songs.

(Note: This list initially started out as an April Fool’s Joke with a lineup including such gems as “Tai Shan,” “High Water” and the filler “BU2B2” but I really could not find 10 bad Rush songs and doing so would ruin an actual Top 10 Best Songs list later.)

As with all other Top 10 lists the * gives me an out because this lineup could very well change in a year but for now these songs represent the Rush fare I’d hate to live without. And as always, this list arrives in no particular order except maybe for #1.

  1. Everyday Glory – Counterparts

Everyone has a specific song that brings back a specific time in their life. For me, “Everyday Glory” arrived during a trying time and helped bring back my shine. Regardless, “Everyday Glory” boasts a fantastic melody, and delivers heart-tugging emotion both musically and lyrically. In the past, I have sent the parting lines to friends needing their own lift in order to fly. Imagine my delight when this song was featured in the Time Stand Still documentary.

I was glad Counterparts was released on SACD a few years ago allowing me the opportunity to give this all-around phenomenal album the rave review it deserved. Counterparts could have and should have been Rush’s first and only #1 album but the powers-that-be decided to release it alongside Pearl Jam’s sophomore effort.

I don’t hang out in Rush forums but back when the internet was new and fun I commented in a Rush chat room that the band had a number of stellar album-closing songs to which someone else agreed and said “Available Light” was a favorite. Don’t know why I remember that.

Everyday Glory - YouTube
  1. Distant Early Warning – Grace Under Pressure

Many years ago, a classmate told me he picked up two Rush albums given away at (if memory serves me correctly) a swap meet. Knowing I was a Rush fan, he offered me one. I already had 2112 and the other one I had never heard before. Turns out it was the brand new album Grace Under Pressure. When I got home that day, my older brother was on his way with my mom to go get the new Rush album. Oh you mean Grace Under Pressure as I held up the cassette. I think that was the day he left Rush for Adam Ant. For some time after I thought maybe my copy was pirated but turns out the beginning static was actually intentional.

To this day I don’t know the exact details behind the story of free Rush albums and I also don’t know why “Distant Early Warning” doesn’t rank alongside the staples played on every tour. A Rush classic combining a perfect mix of synths, guitar, bass and percussion.

Rush - Distant Early Warning - YouTube
  1. 2112 – 2112

Not including the song that ultimately saved Rush’s career would probably border on blasphemous or at least just plain stupid. But how can anyone not include this 20-minute long opus? As a kid, I never much listened past the “Overture” and “The Temples of Syrinx” but later when I finally found a 2112 record containing the album lyrics, I listened all the way through while reading along with the words. It was a moment I won’t forget. Someday, maybe I’ll get a chance to meet Mr. Lifeson and after he realizes I’m not weird, I’ll ask him why in the heck didn’t the band just extend the song to 21 minutes and 12 seconds.

2112: Overture / The Temples Of Syrinx / Discovery / Presentation / Oracle: The Dream /... - YouTube
  1. The Main Monkey Business – Snakes and Arrows

All the recent talk about “La Villa Strangiato” thanks to the 40th Anniversary release of Hemispheres was not enough to change my mind on Rush’s best instrumental. Rush incorporates so many segments, a variety of hooks and melody changes into “The Main Monkey Business” off 2007’s Snakes and Arrows it feels like a mesh of songs expertly combined into one track displaying the band’s prowess of incorporating constant time signature changes with complex arrangements. Sorry if you missed the chance to see this song played live.

The Main Monkey Business (Instrumental) - YouTube
  1. Red Barchetta – Moving Pictures

“Red Barchetta” is just one of three songs I’ve tuned into that thoroughly invites the listener into a fully told story inside the confines of a standard length rock composition. (Billy Joel’s “Piano Man” and Metallica’s “One” the other two.) Red Barchetta often feels like the kid brother to “Tom Sawyer” off Moving Pictures but like lots of Rush songs, “Red Barchetta” pays dividends to last a lifetime.

Red Barchetta - YouTube
  1. Time Stand Still – Hold Your Fire

Little did Rush fans know in 1987, but Rush would prove a bit prophetic as we can only wish that time would indeed stand still. Rarely, does Rush throw an emotional punch but like #1 on this list “Time Stand Still” makes you reflect upon your life and in many ways live for the past. Yes, the video turned out quite comical but the melody makes you long for more. And more Rush – just a little bit longer.

Rush - Time Stand Still - YouTube
  1. Headlong Flight – Clockwork Angels

After a scintillating performance at the Honda Center in Anaheim during the Clockwork Angels tour the guy in front of me turned to his friend and with a mind-blown look on his face asked “What was the name of that song?” That’s how good it was and that’s how good “Headlong Flight” is. If you’re not up to speed on Rush you can find this song buried somewhere in the Clockwork Angels album.

RUSH - Headlong Flight (LYRIC VIDEO) - YouTube
  1. Secret Touch (Remixed) – Vapor Trails

Once you have heard the remixed version of Vapor Trails you probably won’t go back to the original release. It’s that much better and you have to wonder how was this version not released in the first place! Vapor Trails Remixed probably makes my Top 10 albums list and though “One Little Victory” was the first sign of Rush’s return after their extended absence, “Secret Touch” ended any doubts that they were back and in fine form.

Secret Touch - Rush (Vapor Trails Remixed) - YouTube
  1. Freewill – Permanent Waves

Little needs saying about the radio staple and fan favorite “Freewill.” The build-up to the guitar solo culminating with Geddy Lee reaching the stratosphere on his falsetto never gets old.

Freewill - YouTube
  1. Roll the Bones (Roll the Bones), Caravan and The Wreckers (Clockwork Angels), Xanadu (A Farewell to Kings), Far Cry (Snakes and Arrows), Working Man (Rush)

I can’t pick. It’s like asking to choose my favorite among 17 children.  So maybe I should work on the Top 10 Rush Albums.

Honorable Mention: Closer to the Heart (Live) – Different Stages

Since this list focused on studio releases, “Closer to the Heart” was not eligible but I felt the live version  of Different Stages needed mentioning. Every tour Rush played Close to the Heart they seemed to build upon the foundation created on the album version and made it better and better until it reached perfection during the Test for Echo tour. When Lee drops the bass and rips with it then Lifeson softly enters before taking over on guitar the band far surpassed what was recorded in a mere two minutes and 52 seconds. They should have done more of the free play jam sessions.

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Tread lightly when determining the Top 10 Best Rush Songs.

Opinions vary and the faithful quickly cast you out if you dare leave off their favorites or an oh so obvious one. Creating this list was never on my radar as so many strong tracks exist, however, a Top 10 Best Rush Albums certainly floated around over the years. Probably an easier task and the words would flow quite easily. But the challenge of narrowing their catalog to just 10 songs proved interesting therefore challenge accepted.

Rush has 20 studio albums including one collection of covers. If drum solos and exceptional variations accomplished through the live show count, then add another five albums. But for all intents and purposes whittling 40 years of Rush down to 10 songs takes much thought and a bit of care. One must keep in check their emotion detector to avert including or eliminating those tracks that rise or sink based on how they make up the sound track to their life.

But, isn’t that what makes Top 10 song lists so special? Rush boasts a passionate fan base probably on par (if not more than) with those who religiously follow particular sports teams. Of course, what does it for you doesn’t do it for me and how one song affected me hardly resonates with someone else in the same way. Yet, dismissing a clear masterpiece because it’s the only song ever heard on radio anymore doesn’t do anyone any favors. So, with all this in mind, Drew’s Reviews presents the Top 10 Best* Rush songs.

(Note: This list initially started out as an April Fool’s Joke with a lineup including such gems as “Tai Shan,” “High Water” and the filler “BU2B2” but I really could not find 10 bad Rush songs and doing so would ruin an actual Top 10 Best Songs list later.)

As with all other Top 10 lists the * gives me an out because this lineup could very well change in a year but for now these songs represent the Rush fare I’d hate to live without. And as always, this list arrives in no particular order except maybe for #1.

  1. Everyday Glory – Counterparts

Everyone has a specific song that brings back a specific time in their life. For me, “Everyday Glory” arrived during a trying time and helped bring back my shine. Regardless, “Everyday Glory” boasts a fantastic melody, and delivers heart-tugging emotion both musically and lyrically. In the past, I have sent the parting lines to friends needing their own lift in order to fly. Imagine my delight when this song was featured in the Time Stand Still documentary.

I was glad Counterparts was released on SACD a few years ago allowing me the opportunity to give this all-around phenomenal album the rave review it deserved. Counterparts could have and should have been Rush’s first and only #1 album but the powers-that-be decided to release it alongside Pearl Jam’s sophomore effort.

I don’t hang out in Rush forums but back when the internet was new and fun I commented in a Rush chat room that the band had a number of stellar album-closing songs to which someone else agreed and said “Available Light” was a favorite. Don’t know why I remember that.

Everyday Glory - YouTube
  1. Distant Early Warning – Grace Under Pressure

Many years ago, a classmate told me he picked up two Rush albums given away at (if memory serves me correctly) a swap meet. Knowing I was a Rush fan, he offered me one. I already had 2112 and the other one I had never heard before. Turns out it was the brand new album Grace Under Pressure. When I got home that day, my older brother was on his way with my mom to go get the new Rush album. Oh you mean Grace Under Pressure as I held up the cassette. I think that was the day he left Rush for Adam Ant. For some time after I thought maybe my copy was pirated but turns out the beginning static was actually intentional.

To this day I don’t know the exact details behind the story of free Rush albums and I also don’t know why “Distant Early Warning” doesn’t rank alongside the staples played on every tour. A Rush classic combining a perfect mix of synths, guitar, bass and percussion.

Rush - Distant Early Warning - YouTube
  1. 2112 – 2112

Not including the song that ultimately saved Rush’s career would probably border on blasphemous or at least just plain stupid. But how can anyone not include this 20-minute long opus? As a kid, I never much listened past the “Overture” and “The Temples of Syrinx” but later when I finally found a 2112 record containing the album lyrics, I listened all the way through while reading along with the words. It was a moment I won’t forget. Someday, maybe I’ll get a chance to meet Mr. Lifeson and after he realizes I’m not weird, I’ll ask him why in the heck didn’t the band just extend the song to 21 minutes and 12 seconds.

2112: Overture / The Temples Of Syrinx / Discovery / Presentation / Oracle: The Dream /... - YouTube
  1. The Main Monkey Business – Snakes and Arrows

All the recent talk about “La Villa Strangiato” thanks to the 40th Anniversary release of Hemispheres was not enough to change my mind on Rush’s best instrumental. Rush incorporates so many segments, a variety of hooks and melody changes into “The Main Monkey Business” off 2007’s Snakes and Arrows it feels like a mesh of songs expertly combined into one track displaying the band’s prowess of incorporating constant time signature changes with complex arrangements. Sorry if you missed the chance to see this song played live.

The Main Monkey Business (Instrumental) - YouTube
  1. Red Barchetta – Moving Pictures

“Red Barchetta” is just one of three songs I’ve tuned into that thoroughly invites the listener into a fully told story inside the confines of a standard length rock composition. (Billy Joel’s “Piano Man” and Metallica’s “One” the other two.) Red Barchetta often feels like the kid brother to “Tom Sawyer” off Moving Pictures but like lots of Rush songs, “Red Barchetta” pays dividends to last a lifetime.

Red Barchetta - YouTube
  1. Time Stand Still – Hold Your Fire

Little did Rush fans know in 1987, but Rush would prove a bit prophetic as we can only wish that time would indeed stand still. Rarely, does Rush throw an emotional punch but like #1 on this list “Time Stand Still” makes you reflect upon your life and in many ways live for the past. Yes, the video turned out quite comical but the melody makes you long for more. And more Rush – just a little bit longer.

Rush - Time Stand Still - YouTube
  1. Headlong Flight – Clockwork Angels

After a scintillating performance at the Honda Center in Anaheim during the Clockwork Angels tour the guy in front of me turned to his friend and with a mind-blown look on his face asked “What was the name of that song?” That’s how good it was and that’s how good “Headlong Flight” is. If you’re not up to speed on Rush you can find this song buried somewhere in the Clockwork Angels album.

RUSH - Headlong Flight (LYRIC VIDEO) - YouTube
  1. Secret Touch (Remixed) – Vapor Trails

Once you have heard the remixed version of Vapor Trails you probably won’t go back to the original release. It’s that much better and you have to wonder how was this version not released in the first place! Vapor Trails Remixed probably makes my Top 10 albums list and though “One Little Victory” was the first sign of Rush’s return after their extended absence, “Secret Touch” ended any doubts that they were back and in fine form.

Secret Touch - Rush (Vapor Trails Remixed) - YouTube
  1. Freewill – Permanent Waves

Little needs saying about the radio staple and fan favorite “Freewill.” The build-up to the guitar solo culminating with Geddy Lee reaching the stratosphere on his falsetto never gets old.

Freewill - YouTube
  1. Roll the Bones (Roll the Bones), Caravan and The Wreckers (Clockwork Angels), Xanadu (A Farewell to Kings), Far Cry (Snakes and Arrows), Working Man (Rush)

I can’t pick. It’s like asking to choose my favorite among 17 children.  So maybe I should work on the Top 10 Rush Albums.

Honorable Mention: Closer to the Heart (Live) – Different Stages

Since this list focused on studio releases, “Closer to the Heart” was not eligible but I felt the live version  of Different Stages needed mentioning. Every tour Rush played Close to the Heart they seemed to build upon the foundation created on the album version and made it better and better until it reached perfection during the Test for Echo tour. When Lee drops the bass and rips with it then Lifeson softly enters before taking over on guitar the band far surpassed what was recorded in a mere two minutes and 52 seconds. They should have done more of the free play jam sessions.

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2018 marked a decline in the number of concerts attended from last year’s 20. Just 15 (still enough) with 18 bands seen, Metallica the only repeat.

Like all years, I saw an array of styles ranging from folk to heavy metal. Looking back helps keep me going actually, as about a month or so ago I decided to call it quits and leave Drew’s Reviews with “Top 10 Best Rush Songs” as a final post. I’ve been working on it since March.

But I’ve had a small change of heart so we will see what 2019 brings. I’ve got four scheduled and three I’d like to see though I’m afraid the punitive price of tickets will cost me a chance to see the Rolling Stones. Regardless, 2018 introduced me to several bands I normally would not have seen, opened the doors to others and reacquainted me with a couple mostly heard on radio but I never dived deeper than what came through the airwaves.

Familiarizing yourself to bands you have only a basic knowledge of certainly brings a wider understanding of the musicians but helps you appreciate their music more and beyond the usual singles. Only a handful of shows stood out making the Top 5 easier to nail down but deciding on those rounding out the bottom five proved a bit harder as none of the concerts fell short. But if you regularly follow my reviews, then you can guess who ranked #1. So, I give you the Top 10 Concerts of 2018:

10. Alice in Chains, Bush, The Cult and Stone Temple Pilots

Not one, not two, not even three but four iconic bands that made their mark decades ago but still on tour today. In a rather long afternoon, Stone Temple Pilots opened the show followed by The Cult, then Bush and finally Alice in Chains who joined the in-progress Revolution 3 tour as headliner. The six-hour long show offered a great opportunity to see bands who reached their prime a while ago but still going strong today despite the loss of two popular lead singers. Bush took the honors for best performance but all four showed prowess and a desire to continue.

Gavin Rossdale of Bush

From the review: Although this Monsters of Alternative Rock (my slogan) didn’t exactly qualify as a music festival per say,… this show brought out legitimate headliners, albeit at smaller venues, to the large 18,000 seat amphitheater in a who’s who of bands that 20 years ago took college campus radio stations by storm.

Read the entire review: Concert Review: Alice in Chains Headlines but Bush Shines as The Cult and Stone Temple Pilots Round Out Classic Alternative Rock Lineup

9. Howard Jones

Howard Jones and a keyboard. That’s all that encompassed the Solo – The Songs And The Stories tour held at the Aladdin Theater. Jones, who toured arenas in the 80s thanks to “New Song” and “What Is Love” went small, real small, in a setting that held less than 1,000 people who got to enjoy his wit, stories and of course stripped down versions of his hits and deeper album tracks. It was nothing like I had ever experienced and something other artists should take note.

From the review: It was like hanging out in his living room while he dazzled and entertained on piano then turned around to those sitting on the couch to explain the meaning of the song or recall an experience with another.

Read the entire review: Concert Review: Songs, Stories and Some Soul on the Howard Jones Solo Tour

8. Social Distortion

Mike Ness didn’t punch anyone out, but did bellyache a little (seems to be a thing with him now, just play your music, man!), however mostly kept to the music and surprise, what a show. In fact, the setlist did not include some staples which can upset the aura of a performance but on this night Social Distortion produced an authentic concert and if the volume had not been turned up so high, they would probably rank a bit higher.

Mike Ness of Social Distortion

From the review: And while missed, along with some other fan favorites and live staples, Ness tapping into the band’s start, paying homage to an influence and letting everyone know they have songs in the tank bordered on brilliance.

Read the entire review: Concert Review: Social Distortion Keeps it Real in Portland

7. TobyMac

Toby who? TobyMac, one of the members of DC Talk, a Christian rap group that started in the 80s, eventually went out on his own to critical acclaim and success. He filled the Moda Center and truth be told, I went to test out my new camera. I don’t care for hip hop and hate rap but TobyMac is far more than those labels. He hardly raps and when he does it totally fits and accentuates his songs, but I would place his style beside megastar Justin Timberlake.

TobyMac

From the review: TobyMac’s catalogue offers a diverse collection of songs that dives deep into hip hop, of course rap, but with some backbone of rock and a body of pop. Call it a new genre: Hip Pop. (You heard it here first.)

Read the entire review: Concert Review: TobyMac Builds Another Bridge in Portland

6. Chris Isaak

Roy Orbison. Elvis Presley. Nope Chris Isaak. Though he considers the aforementioned two musical idols, Isaak has come into his own and been around forever. He tours all the time and honestly one show pretty much duplicates the one from last year and the year before but this guy was born to play and lives for live music. Isaak would likely have made this list nonetheless but playing at the rather intimate and out of the ordinary Athletic Club of Bend in Bend, OR gets him a notch or two higher.

Chris Isaak

From the review: Isaak and his band don’t put on a flashy rock show with lasers, video backdrops or strobes instead just let the live music do all the talking.

Read the entire review: Concert Review: Chris Isaak Works Out in Bend

5. Foo Fighters

These guys made the Top 10 list last year too! Foo Fighters is the real deal and founder, singer, and guitarist Dave Grohl brings an unmatched entertainment spectacle. Foo Fighters bring fun, hard rocking chords and awesome music wherever they go. Last year, they played a smaller venue than the Moda Center in Portland which got them to #3 and this year they headlined some stadiums, but packed Moda and delivered a great set. I must say though, the constant screaming gets a bit old and takes some charm away from a number of songs.

Foo Fighters

From the review: Who needs a line of coke when you can get three hours of Foo?

Read the entire review: Concert Review: Unrestrained and Unrelenting Foo Fighters Establish New Hard Rock Boundaries

4. Toto

Little gives a music fan more delight when aging rock stars not only show so much left in the tank but that age is just a number. Toto, the curators of classic hits like “Africa” (which some bozo millennial “music reviewer” described as racist), “Hold the Line” and dare I submit their latest “Alone” (seriously check it out), has life and lots of it. Playing a two-hour set at Portland’s finest certainly helped but guitarist Steve Lukather shredded and singer Joe Williams nailed all the notes.

Toto Guitarist Steve Lukather

From the review: Toto might get most of their airplay on adult contemporary or soft rock stations but this guy (Lukather) easily crosses the guitar hero line with straight-up hard rock chords and blistering, sometimes complex, solos.

Read the entire review: Concert Review: Toto Stops in Portland During 40 Trips Around the Sun Tour

3. Simple Minds

I won’t forget about the Simple Minds concert. This band from the 80s who recorded the ultra-smash hit “Don’t You Forget About Me” has not rested on their past but continue to move forward releasing albums and touring, though not so much in the United States. It took these Scots 25 years to visit Portland again but they brought a most memorable show, a new album and hopefully a return sooner rather than later.

Simple Minds

From the review: It didn’t matter if Simply Minds was playing the deeper “Honest Town” or the popular “See the Lights” this hypnotized packed house was into it from the start and didn’t let up until the band stepped off stage for the last time.

Read the entire review: Concert Review: Simple Minds Don’t Forget About Portland

2. G3 – Satriani, Petrucci and Collen

The year’s first concert blew my mind. G3, featuring the extraordinary guitar talents of Joe Satriani, John Petrucci of Dream Theater and Phil Collen of Def Leppard, offered some of the finest musicianship I’ve ever witnessed. Collen is more than the lead on “Pour Some Sugar on Me,” Petrucci dazzled with an dynamic performance and Satriani shows he’s a wizard on the fretboard. The venue, Elsinore Theatre in Salem, OR, was elegant and when all three guitarists took the stage, well, you had to be there. By the way, G3 wasn’t too far away from the #1 spot.

G3 – Joe Satriani, John Petrucci and Phil Collen

From the review:  A few songs into his set, Satriani addressed the crowd and said, “Every night is mind blowing stuff.” Yes. Yes, it was.

Read the entire review: Concert Review: G3 – Satriani, Petrucci, and Collen SHRED Salem

1. Metallica

Metallica in Portland not only was the best concert of the year but now ranks among the top I have ever seen. Venue matters as their stadium show in Seattle last year prevented their inclusion into the Top 10 and had I only seen the Spokane, WA show a few days prior to Portland they would rank #2 on this list. They get short-changed a bit as I won’t include the Spokane show which still deserves ranking but the Portland show far exceeded Spokane and was quite simply electrifying.

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I should take my own advice but when it comes to Rush I tend to hear the voice of reason against the howling mob.

Do I really need another Hemispheres album? No. In fact, I think I have more copies of Hemispheres on vinyl than any other Rush album. Of course, no longer purchasing all these reissues of albums and (hopefully) convincing others to do the same certainly offers one opportunity to get Rush or at least two-thirds of Rush back in the studio for new music. (Clockwork Angels ruled and showed a lot left in the tank.) When the money dries up…

But after reading blogger friend Deke’s review and already expecting to nudge my wife for at least one Rush Christmas present I went ahead and bought the 40th Anniversary Super Deluxe version of Hemispheres.

Sadly, I’m a collector and a sucker and though I “hear the clock ticking” if you will and have started reducing rather than accumulating, Rush stands still and the test of time thus I continue to act like the first time I stood in front of the merch booth at a Rush concert when something new, even quasi new, becomes available. Take my money!

The Backstage Club offers an exclusive Hemispheres 48-page notebook and with the discount the price of shipping costs just a buck more than Amazon. (But, if choose to decide on the deluxe version via Amazon or any version for that matter as you can grab just the CDs or just the vinyl you help me earn on qualifying purchases.)

The Deluxe version actually presents quite handsomely. You get a 40-page hardcover book filled with photos and a history of Hemispheres that holds the CDs, vinyl records of Hemispheres and a live recording of the band’s performance at the June 1979 Pinkpop Festival in the Netherlands and a November 1978 performance of “2112” in Tucson, AZ. . Also included with the Deluxe is a reproduction of the Hemispheres tour book, that exclusive 48-page notebook (like I’ll ever use it), a Rush iron on patch (for that jean jacket, eh!) and a guest pass and faux ticket from the Pinkpop show. A Blu-ray 5.1 digital reproduction of Hemispheres includes promo videos for “Circumstances,” The Trees” and “La Villa Strangiato” shot at Senaca College in Toronto.

All the materials – the hardcover book, the records and an envelope sleeve that holds the replica Hemispheres tour book, the patch and Pinkpop merch, fits rather tight in the box. I actually had a hard time getting them back inside once removed especially the sleeve holding the tour book. Be careful, the edges like to fray. If the record jacket for the Pinkpop vinyl spills out first don’t be surprised by the Pepto-Bismol pink cover filled in with what looks like intestines. Actually, if you have any squeamishness involving internal organs the highly detailed brains featured throughout the packaging might give you pause. Fully exquisite artistically not so much aesthetically.

The 40-page book and records in the 40th anniversary reissue of Hemispheres

I won’t bother with reviewing the Hemispheres album. It sounds great and you probably won’t hear anything different than you have already heard a thousand times before (unless you listen closely for the ghosting of the original guitar solo on “La Villa Strangiato”). And, don’t think I exaggerate using the 1000 times numbers as I am sure many Rush fans can attest.

Rush always manages to produce fine live recordings and the Pinkpop Festival set doesn’t disappoint. Alex Lifeson’s guitar really beefs up this live performance and Geddy Lee’s vocals sound crisp and confident. A glimpse into the Rush of yesteryear for those who came into the fold late, weren’t around then or too young to care. You don’t get much from Hemispheres even though the Pinkpop festival closed their extensive tour in support of the album but “Xanadu,” “La Villa Strangiato” and “In the Mood” standout. Neil Peart’s drum solo sounds familiar (think Exit … Stage Left) and comes across like a work in progress. The abbreviated setlist includes:

  1. A Passage To Bangkok
  2. Xanadu
  3. The Trees
  4. Cygnus X-1 Book II: Hemispheres – The Sphere A Kind Of Dream
  5. Closer To The Heart
  6. La Villa Strangiato
  7. In The Mood
  8. Drum Solo
  9. Something For Nothing

The “2112” recording doesn’t sound as polished as the Pinkpop show, feels quite raw and has some cool moments as the band clearly toyed and tinkered with some sound effects. But overall a bit of a letdown.

The 40-page hardcover book contains a rather extensive re-telling of the Hemispheres recording process featuring quotes from old interviews with the band as well as new commentary. Lifeson insists “La Villa Strangiato” was recorded in one take!

The synopsis also contains comprehensive details of the various instruments played most gear geeks would certainly enjoy reading but details the casual fan probably glosses over. However, reading through some of the trials and tribulations as well as the interesting breakdown of each song off Hemispheres presents a never seen before look (or is that listen) into the album which offers a chance to hear it again for the first time.

Altogether, the 40th Anniversary Deluxe release of Hemispheres provides the rabid fan another mantel item for their Rush cave (I’m running out of room) but a solid history for the music buff of one of the band’s seminal albums (they have a lot, don’t they?) and most challenging and demanding record they ever made. And you will know why. If you get into all the fun details.

Otherwise ask a Rush fan.

So now we wait – two more years for the next release.

Grade: B+

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So, after fighting with my wife about leaving early then getting stuck in traffic (proving my point), then having a hard time finding parking because we left late (again, proving my point) we got to our seats just after 8 p.m.

Showtime 7:30 p.m.

Yes, I already knew comedian Jim Breuer likes to talk, and did he. A cool opening act by the way, much better than an opening band – but Metallica pulled a Madonna and finally took the stage at 9:15 p.m. nearly 30 minutes later than their arrival in Spokane. Thus, proving my wife’s point. We had plenty of time. Seriously, what the heck are they doing backstage? Get on with the show!

And that they did.

Singer and guitarist James Hetfield

In the best concert I have seen all year Metallica fine-tuned the sound and delivered a masterpiece along with a 19-song epic setlist, playing for nearly two and a half hours. Did someone in their camp read the Spokane review and make some adjustments or did a bit larger venue hold the acoustics better?

Doesn’t matter. On this night Metallica delivered their goods to a sold-out crowd at the Moda Center in Portland, OR their first area stop in 10 years as their WorldWired Tour moves into year two in support of their 10th studio album Hardwired…to Self-Destruct released in 2016.

The bass that often overpowered everyone else on Sunday took its rightful place by driving melodies forward in the background as Lars Ulrich’s drums found better life while James Hetfield and Kirk Hammett’s guitars took center stage, when required, striking power chords and blistering solos all night.

Bassist Robert Truillo

Metallica keeps a core set of songs to anchor the setlist and switches out a handful to keep it fresh (no doubt for them too) and the fans guessing – at least for those who may see them more than once or follow the tour to see what they play. Like Sunday, Metallica opened with two off their latest, their old-school classic “Seek and Destroy” and then ripped into one of the most overlooked songs in their catalogue “Holier Than Thou” an absolute gem off their self-titled smash release from 1991 commonly known as the Black Album.

Metallica kept heads banging with “Welcome Home (Sanitarium)” a classic off Master of Puppets before tapping back into the new album with “Now That We’re Dead.”

Hetfield teased the crowd with maybe playing some older songs. Indeed, it was the old songs that built the band’s following nearly 40 years ago and despite some who fell away over the years and not appreciating the band moving forward as all careers demand, Metallica obliged nailing versions of “Creeping Death,” “For Whom the Bell Tolls” and “Fade to Black” – all three off Ride The Lightning from 1984. After a cover song from the defunct Portland punk band Poison Idea sang by bassist Robert Truillo with Hammett at his side, Metallica brought more goodies from the past with “No Remorse” off their debut Kill ‘Em All and the unappreciated “Fuel” off 1996’s Reload.

Guitarist Kirk Hammett

Rarely do I get chills at a band’s performance, but the crescendo to “One” released some shivers and then on to “Master of Puppets” another beloved jewel by fans and radio – a song now more than 30 years old that fully stands the test of time. Metallica concluded the evening with the fifth and final off the new album “Spit Out the Bone” then the metal balled “Nothing Else Matters” and finally “Enter Sandman” those last two off their Black Album.

Metallica seems to enjoy every minute on stage and about midway through Hetfield stopped and expressed sincere appreciation for the fans who have stuck around and kept them around for so long. The “in the round” stage gives them an opportunity to address multiple facets of the audience during the course of the evening whether sticking to one side for the length of a song or moving about freely during another. Rarely, does any one section of the crowd not get at least a front row to someone from Metallica.

Drummer Lars Ulrich

While Hetfield sings to one section, Hammett might play to the other side as Truillo stomps around on stage or plays his bass to a third area. Meanwhile Ulrich remains steadfastly in center, every so often his drum kit moves 45 degrees allowing him to eventually play to the entire crowd. And, don’t bother trying to catch the transition either. If you watch his backside at the start, then before you know it you capture the side view of his drumming then suddenly he stares right at you.

Ulrich is just a blast to watch, too. Check him out during “Creeping Death.” All night, he hits the tom-toms, snare and those poor cymbals  with such fierce determination, bordering on fury, as if to release some inner angst then he pops up from the kit, greets the audience with a smile between songs and then back center stage, sitting or standing, doesn’t matter he hits with precision every time.

It was all worth the wait. Well, at least for me.

Metallica WorldWired Tour Setlist – Moda Center
  1. Hardwired
  2. Atlas, Rise!
  3. Seek and Destroy
  4. Holier than Thou
  5. Welcome Home (Sanitarium)
  6. Now That We’re Dead
  7. Creeping Death
  8. For Home the Bell Tolls
  9. Fade to Black
  10. Poison Idea cover song
  11. No Remorse
  12. Fuel
  13. Moth Into Flame
  14. Sad But True
  15. One
  16. Master of Puppets
  17. Spit Out the Bone
  18. Nothing Else Matters
  19. Enter Sandman
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Metallica last played the Pacific Northwest about a year and a half ago when 70,000 plus filled the massive CenturyLink Field in Seattle. On Sunday, the fathers of Heavy Metal played the rather quaint, comparatively, Spokane Arena where maybe a little more than 10,000 filled the two-level venue that plays home to a minor league hockey team.

And what a difference the place makes.

That’s not to say the show in Seattle under performed, quite the contrary in such a large outdoor setting. However, Metallica’s performance for those who made the trek to Eastern Washington offered a different perspective an outdoor stadium simply cannot attain.

Indeed, Metallica brought a stellar setlist to Spokane, WA. They featured a career encompassing 19 songs that stretched nearly two and half hours as their WorldWired tour in support of their 10th studio album Hardwired…to Self-Destruct, now more than two years old, works in the arena leg after last year’s stadium swing.

Lead guitarist Kirk Hammett of Metallica

The band began the evening with the title track off Hardwired…To Self-Destruct and “Atlas, Rise!” then all the way back to their 1983 debut album Kill ‘Em All for “Seek and Destroy.” They set a blistering pace for the first 13 songs, which included more classics like “Leper Messiah,” “Creeping Death,” “The Unforgiven,” “For Whom the Bell Tolls” and the Ozzy Osborne cover “I Don’t Know” in a tribute to the prince of darkness whose 70th birthday was just a few short hours away, by lead guitarist Kirk Hammett and bassist Robert Trujillo (who sang) before taking a well-deserved breather as (Metallica) lead singer and guitarist James Hetfield thanked the crowd for their dedication and imprinted Metallica on two youngsters in the audience.

Metallica settled in a bit for the slower but heavy “Sad But True” then rode the lightening home with two of their all-time bests in “One” and “Master of Puppets” the latter closing out the main set. They quickly returned for an encore which included an awesome version of “Blackened,” “Nothing Else Matters” and of course the popular, audience favorite and radio staple “Enter Sandman.”

Singer and guitarist James Hetfield of Metallica

Metallica brought the “in the round” stage setup that worked quite well for the Death Magnetic tour and allows the full use of the arena rather than closing off a rear section for the amphitheater layout. The smaller venue stripped the stage setup down some however they still incorporated some pyro techniques that surrounded drummer Lars Ulrich with fire for “Creeping Death” and “Blackened” and a must-see drone configuration of fireflies that scattered from the stage during the eventual vintage “Moth Into Flame” off their latest release. They kept the drum line from the last time out as all four band members grabbed the sticks for a “Now That We’re Dead” finale and dropped as many as 36 box-shaped video screens throughout the evening.

James Hetfield (left) and Kirk Hammett (right) rocking out in Spokane

To experience one of the biggest bands on the globe – they literally have stepped foot and played on all seven continents – in such a small setting (especially after seeing a sea of people the last time out) feels at times surreal but whoever runs the soundboard needs to adjust the settings.  Trullio’s bass often overpowered everyone else (former bassist Jason Newsted would certainly take umbrage) and a few songs took a bit of time before the “oh that song” set in. Some band’s power-up the treble, Metallica powered up the bass and it had just as feeble affects, at times.

Nevertheless, Metallica seems to never sleep. They toured Death Magnetic nearly endlessly (and ripped a solid version of the sorely underappreciated “The Day That Never Comes” off that album) and now continue with multiple legs for Hardwired…” Hetfield told the audience they do what they love and love what they do. Heavy metal doesn’t sink in with everybody but Metallica have advanced the cause and developed a connection with their audience very few bands can advertise.

Wherever they may roam the charmed fans follow. So let this review be written, so let it be done, now let me go to Portland where perhaps I can sit back and enjoy the show without so much the annoyance of pen and paper.

Maybe.

Metallica WorldWired Tour Setlist – Spokane Arena
  1. Hardwired
  2. Atlas, Rise!
  3. Seek and Destroy
  4. Leper Messiah
  5. Unforgiven
  6. Now That We’re Dead
  7. Confusion
  8. For Whom the Bell Tolls
  9. The Day That Never Comes
  10. I Don’t Know
  11. Motorbreath
  12. Creeping Death
  13. Moth Into Flame
  14. Sad But True
  15. One
  16. Master of Puppets
  17. Blackened
  18. Nothing Else Matters
  19. Enter Sandman

Written By: AndrewT

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