In the summer of 1980, I bought my first stereo. And then I started to buy records, though I'm not sure what my first purchase was. I've probably blocked it out because of the whole Christopher Cross/Air Supply thing.

What I do remember is that my good Pam - who I spent 4 years with in independent-study math - and I had a deal. I would buy a record, and she would buy two tapes, so we could each have one (she had a cassette deck in her car but no stereo at home).

And the first record that I bought for this was...

Permanent Waves

27 years later, I took my 13-year-old daughter (and my wife) to see Rush at the White River Amphitheater, for the "Snakes and Arrows" tour.

Before the concert, I had two big questions in my mind.

The first question was whether, to put it simply, they could still rock. After all, they're all in their mid-50s these days, and there aren't many active rockers that age any more.

The second question was what songs they would play. When a group has created 18 studio albums, they have around 200 songs that they can choose from, and of course I had my own personal favorites I was hoping to hear.

The answer to the first question is a resounding "yes". The band was musically tight. And despite having 30 years of rock on his voice, Geddy Lee has lost a surprisingly small amount of his vocal range. Lifeson and Peart are as good as they've ever been. And they are clearly enjoying performing.

The second question had an interesting answer. Here are the songs I remember, in album order (freewill was first, YYZ was last).

  • A passage to bangkok (2112)
  • Closer to the heart (AFtK)
  • Circumstances (H)
  • Spirit of radio (PW)
  • Freewill (PW)
  • Entre Nous (PW)
  • Natural science (PW)
  • Tom sawyer (MP)
  • YYZ (MP)
  • Limelight (MP)
  • Witch Hunt (MP)
  • Subdivisions (Signals)
  • Digital man (Signals)
  • Distant early warning (GUP)
  • Red Sector A (GUP)
  • All of Snakes and Arrows

There's something very interesting there. First, there are no songs (unless I missed some) from the last 5 albums (PW, HYF, Presto, RtB, VT). Second, they are all themetic in nature - along the lines of the new album. For me, there were a couple of nice surprises - Entre Nous and Natural Science have alway been favorites of mine.

The sound was pretty good. The shape of the amphitheater helps, and the fact that there are no back and side walls means there are fewer reflections. The sound level wasn't Green Day loud, but I was still happy to have my Etymotics ear plugs with me.