AndyO Blog

Friday, May 30, 2008

Rush at GM Place - Vancouver, B.C. - 5/29/08

This was my second show on the 2008 leg of the Snakes & Arrows tour. The first was in Phoenix, AZ, at the outdoor Cricket Pavilion. This time, it was at the indoor GM Place in Vancouver, British Columbia, with my wife and eight-year-old son, Cameron. We drove to Vancouver from Seattle, which is about a 3-1/2 hour drive. Unfortunately, it took much longer, due to traffic leading into the George Massey tunnel as well as the construction on Cambie street.

Vancouver culture

After we parked, we walked to GM Place to pick up my tickets from Will Call (yes, I lost them so I had to get replacements). Then we walked around the venue so I could show Cameron Neil's bus. Cameron felt a little nervous, as if Neil was going to pop out and tell us to leave.

After that, we went to dinner at a mall on Abbot street. The only thing that looked good was Chinese food. Cameron was more interested in going up the gigantic escalators. He dragged his mom up, and then he wanted me to go. I have to admit that with a chronic fear of heights, these escalators made my hands sweat. Of course, Cameron thought that was hilarious.

A different view

The main reason for going to this particular show was so Cameron could sit on the side and see the band (he was upset at White River last year when his view was blocked by people standing in front of him). The seats, twenty or so rows up in section 119, were OK -- but with the new binoculars I purchased on the way up to the show (in Bellingham), I could see a lot of stuff that you don't usually see when you're in front of the band. For instance:

  • Lorne, Neil's drum tech, sits on a drum throne and watches Neil the entire show -- waiting for a problem to happen.
  • Neil goes through a pair of sticks about every 2-3 songs. After each song, he checks the stick for problems. When he's done with a stick, he throws it to Lorne, who places them in a drawer. Neil grabs a new pair of sticks right before Malignant Narcissism and the drum solo.
  • Neil often rests his left foot on his double bass pedal -- even when he's not playing it.
  • Neil's setlist is on his bass drum. (You can see a photo of it here.)
  • Alex's setlist is on his pedal box.
  • The TelePrompTer that Geddy uses for the lyrics scrolls a few lines at a time and then stops. At the end of the lyrics is the next song title.
  • On the last song, all the techs start packing everything up.
  • One of the computers used for mixing (on Alex's side of the stage) is a Windows Vista box. Tony Geranios, Geddy's keyboard tech, has a Mac. The slideshow that plays when he's not using it has personal pictures of the band and other places.
What's that smell?

During this show, the band played at the high level I've seen for most of this tour -- with very few, if any, mistakes. Geddy and Neil seemed particularly fired up. The arena was at about three-quarters capacity. Unfortunately, the place where we sat is where many of the party concert-goers like to sit.

First, I had to explain to Cameron about the pungent smell wafting by us about every 10 minutes. (Later, when I told people in Seattle about the abundance of pot smoking, most said, "What did you expect, you were in Vancouver." I guess I wasn't aware Vancouver was the pot smoking capital of North America.)

A few songs from the end of the first set, an Amazonian woman and her date sat to my right. The guy decided he was going to talk to the woman instead of watch the concert. Usually, this wouldn't matter too much -- but he ended up being louder than the music at times. Then, the woman leaned over and asked who the bass player was. If I'd told her it was Paul McCartney, she probably would have believed me.

A group of teenagers sat in front of us, drinking from whiskey bottles, smoking pot, but not bothering anyone else for the most part. They disappeared after the first set, which leads me to my next topic...

A lapse of security

Security seemed adequate for the first half of the show, stopping fights, nabbing some of those pot smokers or picture takers, and moving people out of the tunnel entrance just to our left. But something happened during the second set. I guess security decided to take a break, because the floor became a much more crowded place. My friends Monica and Steve, standing in the fifth row, said that security did nothing about people who snuck onto the floor in the second set.

During intermission, I waited in the longest food line of all time. By the time I got up to the counter, they had run out of pretzels (and Cam wanted one). I ordered a couple churros instead and got into the arena to hear half of "Far Cry." I decided to wait until after the pyro explosions to walk to my seat.

Setting records on the run

When the show was over, we got out to our car in record time and tore out of the parking lot. We were out of the GM Place neighborhood and driving up Cambie street 10 minutes after the show was over. Cambie street, currently in the middle of being torn apart for a train project, was much easier to navigate at midnight than at 6:00 p.m.

When we got to the U.S. Border, I told the border guard, "We went to the Rush concert." His response: "How was it?" Sometimes these border patrol types can be a little serious (even before 9/11). But two adults and a kid in the back probably don't fit their profile for people bringing contraband across the border.

After Brenda and Cameron fell asleep, I settled into a relaxing drive through northwestern Washington. After we picked up Drew from my brother's house, we got in the door at around 2:15. And I had to get up for work the next day. As I was falling asleep, I was thinking about the lyrics from Dreamline, "We're only at home when we're on the run..."

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posted by AndyO @ 12:35 AM   2 comments

Friday, May 02, 2008

Phoenix - Day 3

Today I woke up late. My cold was even worse than the day before, probably because of all the singing I did at the concert the night before. Dan also slept in.

Best Egg

We drove off to the Best Egg restaurant, as Dan knows I like to eat a big breakfast every once in a while. After I was done eating, I felt better. Maybe it was the orange juice? Maybe it was the Diet Coke?

McFarlane toys

Before we went to breakfast, Dan looked up McFarlane and we found out they had a showroom right in Tempe -- not too far from Dan's house. We weren't sure what the difference was between a showroom and a store, but once we got there we were pleasantly surprised.

The showroom was basically a place where they could show off the best McFarlane figures -- including prototype figures -- as well as a bunch of McFarlane's sports collection. My favorite items were two original seats from Wrigley Field.

They also sold toys. Many of the boxes were autographed by Todd McFarlane personally. I picked out Wallace (from Wallace and Gromit) and a Halo figure for my boys. I also picked up a Hank Aaron figure for my brother, who a huge baseball fan.

When Dan and I got to the register, we found out the cashier was from our hometown of Richland, Washington. I used this moment to point out to Dan about synchronicity again -- a meaningful coincidence. (I find that synchronicity happens more on vacation or when I'm away from home -- probably because I'm more alert to new things I'm seeing around me).

What were the chances that we'd run into a McFarlane store the night before (one of two stores in existence) -- and that the showroom store was only a few miles from Dan's house? What were the chances that the cashier would be from the same town where Dan and I met in third grade? Interesting stuff, at the very least.

Baseball in Phoenix

Later, Dan, Kim, and I went to Preston's baseball game. Preston is about the same age as my oldest son Cameron. I believe everyone has at least one gift, and one of Preston's is playing baseball. I've never seen an eight year old fielding like an 18 year old. From shortstop, he was firing the ball over to first base. When he was up to bat, he hit doubles and home runs. When the other team hit what looked to be a home run, Preston went into the outfield, grabbed the ball, and threw it in to home to stop the runner.

After seeing Preston tonight, I feel like I've seen a kid who could advance into a baseball career. I know that there are still many more hoops for him to jump through, and many more years for him to play, but you heard it here first. If this kid keeps focused, he'll be going to The Show when he's 18 or 19.

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posted by AndyO @ 12:56 PM   0 comments

Thursday, May 01, 2008

Phoenix - Day 2 - Rush at Cricket Pavilion

Dan and I arrived at Cricket Wireless Pavilion with about an hour to spare. We parked, and then had to walk around to the opposite side of the venue to pick up our tickets at Will Call. Once inside, Dan and I made a few stops and then made our way to our seats. It always feels a little strange to keep walking closer and closer to the stage, as I'm used to sitting farther away. But tonight we had fifth row seats, right in front of Geddy.

Here are my notes from the show (SPOILERS!):

  • Two women are sitting on Geddy's side of the stage. They have their own monitor, and are holding radio station signs. Dan said they had a contest at the local radio station for a meet and greet with Rush. I guess the private seats on the stage were part of the deal.
  • Dan spots Randy Johnson backstage, perusing the drum kit (behind the curtain), talking to the crew. I tell Dan that Randy is friends with the band and is a drummer himself.
  • In general, there are more women at Rush shows these days. I bet this seems a little strange to the band.
  • Lots of kids at the show. Looking around, I can see 4 with their parents in my immediate vicinity. One is sitting next to me.
  • Once the show starts, Alex doesn't hold the note in Limelight. I'm glad they dropped the whole Alex-waits-for-Geddy-who-is-eating-chicken-backstage shtick. Everyone I talked to on the last leg thought Rush was making a mistake -- that Geddy really was late to the stage.
  • I'm getting used to the new arrangement of Digital Man now. The end of the song rocks.
  • It's nice to hear Ghost of a Chance again. The band has changed the arrangement quite a bit. However, I'm not sure switching out Entre Nous with Ghost was a good idea, especially because Mission, another mid-temp song, follows.
  • Geddy makes a comment about how much they love it in Phoenix. (During the day, Dan and I heard on the radio station that Geddy had been at the Diamondbacks game on Wednesday night, and that Alex was golfing in Scottsdale.)
  • Neil is especially into the show tonight. He's hitting hard, grimacing. I can tell when Neil is into it, even from far away.
  • I keep pinching myself, because these are some of the best seats I've had a Rush show. Not too close, and not too far away:


  • Geddy is right in front of us much of the time. His bass playing is astonishing at close range. I noticed that sings his bass parts, too.
  • Geddy: "We have to drink lots of water cause we're from Canada. We're used to shoveling snow."
  • Security cracks down on everyone taking pictures.
  • Right before intermission, Geddy says, "We need to take a break. As you can see, we're no spring chickens."
  • During intermission, I look back into crowd. The place is packed:


  • I also see that the ceiling fans are still (last time they were spinning like airplane props in August heat). That's because a cool breeze is blowing. Perfect night for a concert.

Set 2

  • The new lead-in to Set 2 is hilarious: "Harry Satchel in 'What's that Smell?'"
  • In Subdivisions, Neil has problems with his hi-hat clutch (the piece that locks the top hi-hat to the rod, so that he can open and close it with the pedal). Lorne Wheaton, his drum tech, does a quick fix and then in the intro to Natural Science does more work as Neil takes a break.
  • Also in Natural Science in the Tidepools section, Geddy is clearly having problems with his in-ear monitors. He keeps motioning for the soundman to fix things, and he finally steps back and fiddles with the knobs on his remote. Since I'm so close, I get the feeling that he's angry. I see how important it is to him to give the fans the best show possible.
  • Next, it's Alex's turn. In Witch Hunt, right after the intro, Alex goes to play the opening riff -- but there's no sound. He looks over to his tech. Still nothing's coming out. I can almost feel Geddy Lee's frustration. But then the Witch Hunt riff fades in. As Alex is playing during the song, he looks back over at his tech, who smacks his head in a "D'oh!"-like way. Alex just smiles.
  • By the time the drum solo comes around, the gremlins seem to have been chased away. As always, Neil is amazing -- especially watching from such a close vantage point.
  • In The Spirit of Radio, Randy Johnston comes out with a chicken mask on his head and bastes the chickens in the Henhouse. When he bastes Neil's chicken on the cymbal stand, Neil gives him a smile.
  • I'm happy to hear 2112 Overture and Temples of Syrinx again. Those songs always get the crowd pumped up.
  • Right before the encore, Geddy and Alex throw shirts to the crowd. Just like the last time I saw Rush in this venue during R30, a shirt sails right toward me... and the guy in front of me grabs it. So close.

After the show, after getting out of the parking lot, Dan and I somehow made it back to his house in 35 or 40 minutes. I asked him to stop at Wendy's for a burger, as concerts make me really hungry -- especially when I'm air drumming half the time.

I sleep well.

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posted by AndyO @ 11:52 PM   0 comments

Phoenix - Day 2

I woke up today at 6:30 a.m., still feeling sick from the cold-that-would-not-die. I actually thought it was a good thing, waking up this early, since Dan said he was going in early to work. I figured I could just go with him. But when I walked around the house, everyone seemed to be sleeping.

So I went back to bed.

I didn't wake up until 8:30 or so, when Kim came in to get Preston's shoes. She told me Dan got up at 5:30 and went into work.

Once Kim and Preston left, it was a strange feeling to be alone in a house with no kids, no adults, and no plans (for at least a few hours anyway). It felt kind of like... vacation! I called Dan and told him I was up, and then I just lounged around, surfing the Internet, eating peanut butter toast, and watching TV.

A visit to renderTHIS!

Dan owns a company called renderTHIS!, which creates 3D renderings of buildings before they're built. Check out this amazing work they do:


I'd never seen his new office, so he took me over to check it out. The office was dark (the shades pulled tight against the Phoenix sun), and it evoked a creative, modern mood. My favorite part of the office was a preview room, complete with high-definition projector, screen, chairs, and 5.1 sound system. Dan played me the beginning of No Country for Old Men so I could see this preview room in action.

P.F. Chang's

After the renderTHIS! office, we picked up Kim and drove to P.F. Chang's. I don't know if it's because I live in Seattle, which has a crazy highway system, but the grid system of Phoenix and surrounding area always confuses me. Everything looks the same to me with miles of sub-highways that only connect at right angles to other highways. And it always seems like people are driving way too fast.

We had to wait 15 minutes at P.F. Chang's to get seated. The topic of the lunch conversation was the challenge of raising kids. Between Dan and Kim, they have four kids (including one teen). We mostly talked about the challenges of having a teen in your house, which I'm not looking forward to.

A movie before Rush

Dan thought it would be a good idea to drive out to the Cricket Pavilion area early, which is in Glendale. Even at 3:00 p.m., we encountered heavy traffic. Sadly, I was right at home again.

When we got out to Glendale, we still had a few hours to kill -- so we decided to see a movie. We stopped at WestGate City Center, a beautiful outdoor mall, with one of the biggest AMC movie theater I've ever seen. We wanted to see Iron Man, but it didn't start until 7:00 p.m. Instead, we opted to see 21. Dan enjoys playing poker, and I enjoy watching Dan play, so we thought it would be a good choice.

AMC theaters in Phoenix area

We were the only ones in the theater until a couple joined us right before start time. (I must admit, it's always a little strange to have a semi-private showing of a movie in a theater.) The movie was just OK (two stars out of four), but it was still fun to see a flick with Dan -- something we haven't done together since Star Trek: First Contact.

Inside of AMC theater

On the way out to the car, we stopped at McFarlane, which is a company that Todd McFarlane started in Phoenix that makes detailed models of characters from movies, comics, musicians, and more. Todd McFarlane is the creator of Spawn and has one of the largest sports memorabilia collections. Dan had never heard of McFarlane, and I'd only seen a few of his toy creations (the Predator alien). One thing's for sure: the craftsmanship of these toys is amazing. They even had some figures from Lost, the TV series. We didn't buy anything, but we made a note to try and visit one of the McFarlane stores before I went back to Seattle.

After that, we drove to Cricket Pavilion to see Rush.

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posted by AndyO @ 11:56 AM   0 comments