Ottawa, Ontario - 9/21/07
This was day five of my east coast Rush tour.
Today, Ray joined Monica and me for our final leg of our journey: Rush shows in Ottawa and Toronto.
As we drove from Buffalo to Syracuse, I sat in the back trying to fix my Palm 700w Smartphone. The day before I had overloaded it by asking it to do too much (GPS, mail, Internet, switching between cell networks in the US and Canada). After talking to Verizon tech support, they told me I probably needed to do a hard reset, which would basically erase all my settings and data. I did the hard reset and got my phone up and running again.
By early evening, we arrived in Ottawa at our hotel, the Country Inn Suites. This hotel was definitely a step up from the Day's Inn in Tanawanda and Toronto. It was also popular with Rush fans, as just about everyone walking around wore a Rush shirt or was talking about the show. One guy in the elevator had a "This is my 50th Rush Show" shirt.
After a brief break in the hotel room, we headed out for dinner at a Wendy's and Tim Horton's combo restaurant. I opted for a sandwich at Tim Horton's, as I'd already had a hamburger at McDonald's earlier. After that, it was back to the motel to park our car.
Walking to the show
Instead of driving to the venue, the hotel recommended that we walk, as it was only about a mile away. They said it would be better because it would take us less time to walk back after the show. I was all for getting a little exercise after sitting in the car all day.
At the entrance of Scotiabank Place, we met Monica and Ray's friend B-man. Many Rush fans will know B-man as Bill Banasiewicz, the author of Visions, the first official biography of Rush. (I had met him once before on the Vapor Trails tour at the Scranton, PA, show.) We spent time talking about the first Toronto show. B-man told us about sightseeing around Ottawa, as well as what it was like to take his mom to the Toronto show earlier that week to celebrate show number 300 (she liked it, but he didn't think she'd be going again any time soon). We also talked about the rumors of Rush adding shows in 2008. B-man told Ray that he "needed to talk to Howard Ungerleider" to get the scoop. Ray agreed.
Once inside, Monica and I found that we had amazing seats. Not only were they in the first 12 rows on the floor, but we were right behind a wheelchair row -- with an aisle in front of that row. Ray's seats were a little farther back.
Once the band started, Monica and I kept commenting to each other about how great these seats were. The band played Limelight beautifully, and in The Digital Man near the end, Alex played to a guy standing on the side who looked (I swear) like Santa Claus. It was hilarious to see "Santa" rocking out with Alex.
Throughout the rest of the first set, it became apparent that all the members of Rush were either tired, unfocused, or on autopilot. Geddy called the album "Snakes & Ladders," and before the song Mission he said, "This is Hold Your Fire." The major musical mistake came from Neil in Dreamline, when he went into the first chorus early (the big snare fill). When Geddy called the album by the wrong name, he quickly joked, "Jeez, I'm getting so old I can't even remember the name of the album!"
Ray, B-man, Monica, and I went up to the concession stand, ate popcorn, drank water, and talked about the show. To fans like Ray and Bill, who saw many more shows than the average person, the set we had just seen was a disaster.
Monica and I listened to their complaints, but didn't add much to them. As I'll always say, I'm just happy that Rush is still out touring and sounding great. There are going to be nights when they don't sound quite as good, as that's just the nature of performing. Still, a "bad" night for Rush is still at a higher level than most bands.
When the band came back out, they played with a vengeance, ripping through the Snakes & Arrows songs with the usual passion. One thing that Monica and I noticed: During the beginning of The Larger Bowl when Geddy is singing alone, Neil was actively scanning the audience. Neil even wrote on his blog about how much enjoys each audience -- their signs, their faces, etc. -- and this seemed like one of the few times he can just look around at everyone without playing.
By the time Rush got to Subdivisions, the audience had turned up the intensity one or two levels. During The Spirit of Radio, I turned around and watched all those thousands of hands clapping in unison during the chorus -- always an incredible sight.
One problem of being in our primo seats was that the seat moochers tried to stand with us and also break through security standing in front of the first 10 rows. Security did a good job for the most part, except one guy was able to talk his way through at the end of the show. I watched one woman yell into the security guard's ear, backed up, and then gave him a flirtatious look. I can only imagine what she had said, but by the guard's reaction I assumed it was sexual.
In our section, people would just come up and stand behind me, and then I'd back up into them, and they'd look at me like, "Hey, what's the problem, man?" We got them booted as quickly as possible. But this kind of distraction can be a real drag after the tenth or fifteen time.
By the end of the show, Rush had redeemed itself and come up to the level I'd seen at the other three shows. On the way out of the venue, we stopped at the soundboard area. As Ray waited to talk to Howard Ungerleider, as he'd promised B-man, the security guards kept trying to get us to leave. Ray stood his ground. Finally, Ray asked Howard, "What's the story with 2008?"
Howard looked at him and said, "Oh, we're going out for six months in 2008."
We had our confirmation that the band was indeed going back out on tour in 2008. We discussed this news and other aspects of the show on the walk back to the motel. The traffic jam on Palladium Drive was awful, and we were glad not to be stuck in it.