At a Rush concert, the nerds are first and last.
Filling the Sprint Center in Kansas City on July 11 for its 40th anniversary tour, titled "R40," the proudly geeky Canadian prog-rock trio was heralded and praised in ways mostly reserved for church.
How deep a fan's devotion depended on the tour shirt they were sporting, from "Live In Rio" to "Tour of The Hemispheres" to "Moving Pictures Tour" to the many "R40" jerseys and jumpsuits.
One of the last bands of its generation still touring with its original core members, Rush showed the audience of thousands during the course of three hours why they have such an intense following — by balancing expert musicianship with self-effacing dorkiness and humor.
Starting out with a stage set similar to its previous "Clockwork Angels" tour, with an encased brain and a popcorn machine, the group opened with its newest songs off of "Angels," like "The Anarchist" and "The Wreckers" and worked its way backwards.
The band's aim was to please fans and pay tribute to the devoted, as well as its longevity. Within the first four songs, fans already got a Neil Peart drum solo during "Headlong Flight" and a song scarcely played since 2008, "The Main Monkey Business" from "Snakes & Arrows."
The trio was in top form, with Alex Lifeson smiling and interacting with the crowd before ripping into one of many guitar solos, while bassist and lead singer Geddy Lee, whose voice was shaky throughout the night, grooved and strutted across the stage and Peart focused on the drums like a laser.
There wasn't a noticeable beat or note missed as the band cycled through its enormous catalog, trying to play at least two songs from each of its albums, as fake workers in the background broke down the set, transforming flashy props into washing machines and in the band's second set, taking it back to basics and it scaled down rows of Marshall speakers to a rinky-dink two speakers with a mic hanging down.
Always one for theatrics, the band reached back to the past in the flashiest ways, from having actors and musicians like Paul Rudd, Peter Dinklage and Tom Morello mouth the words to the title track of 1991's "Roll The Bones," a track that feels like the most '90s rock song 24 years later, to the constant multimedia tributes to the fans that played between songs.
There wasn't a whole lot of interaction between Lee and the fans, outside of the obligatory "How are you doing, Kansas City?" and "We're so excited to be here." But there didn't need to be. The fans wanted to hear the many movements of "2112" and "Tom Sawyer," while getting rarely-performed deep cuts like "How It Is" and "Jacob's Ladder." Rush delivered.
Before the night closed, a projection of Eugene Levy as a cheesy concert announcer gave a prelude to the band's final set, stating they've opened for KISS twice (coincidentally, Ace Frehley was also performing in Kansas City that night), and that he wished them good luck and hope they would get more members because a trio needed something more to make it "pop."
The projection ended and the band came out to dash that notion one last time with several songs off of its debut album, as the background transformed into a gymnasium at Rod Serling High School (they couldn't leave without one last geeky reference.)
It was everything fans wanted and if this was, as the band has stated, its last major tour, what a way to go out.