And this week’s no different as the North East’s very own rock god offers his opinion on Rush’s Time Machine setlist – so look away now if you want this month’s UK shows to be a big surprise…
For bands that have been around for 20 years or more, compiling a setlist to go on tour must be one hell of a task,
Rush, who kick off their UK tour next week, are masters of the art, however.
As most rock fans will now by now, their Time Machine tour features their 1981 album Moving Pictures in its entirety.
But if that forms the centrepiece of their three and a half hour show, their choice of accompanying music is fascinating.
With apologies to those fans who prefer to be surprised ahead of a gig rather than knowing what’s in store, look away now because I’m gong to divulge large chunks of their setlist.
I’ve always been impressed with Rush’s willingness to resurrect songs that they haven’t played for years and their ruthlessness in ditching crowd favourites.
For example on their last appearance in this country, they played Circumstances from 1978’s Hemispheres and Digital Man from Signals (1982) while leaving 2112, Xanadu and Closer To The Heart of their setlist.
This time around 2112 is re-introduced along with a much-adapted CTTH but still no Xanadu, nor The Trees or indeed anything off the ever-popular Grace Under Pressure or Roll The Bones.
They’ve also ignored material from 2001’s Vapour Trails and the covers album Feedback which featured prominently when they toured here in 2005.
But there are some real surprises including Presto and Faithless for the first time ever plus Stick It Out, Marathon and Time Stands Still for the first time this millennium.
One or two bands of a similar age could learn from Rush’s flexible song choice instead of sticking to the safe, some would say, staid “best of..” formula.
In the past, I’ve talked about UFO’s reluctance to veer too far away from the songs featured on their Strangers In The Night double live album. They would argue that’s what their fans want and judging by the cheers songs such as Doctor Doctor and Rock Bottom are afforded compared to fresher material, they may be right.
But I am encouraged to see that on their current US tour, Phil Mogg and the boys are being a little less conservative. Indeed, they open with The Wild, the Willing and the Innocent from the previously forgotten Paul Chapman era of the early-80s, they resurrect Venus from 1998’s comeback album Walk On Water and, I’m delighted to say, Try Me, one of the finest songs they ever wrote, is now on the set list.
Bands such as The Scorpions asked fans who logged on to their own website to vote for their favourites, which is a path I suggest others could follow even though in all probability, the result will be a greatest hits package.
Neil Young, as befitting an individual with the capacity to surprise, has over 40 years of material from which to choose from and he is someone never afraid to omit famous songs, juggle things around and even play songs that even hardcore fans had never heard live.
When I saw him in Dublin two years ago, he even gave an airing to Burned from his Buffalo Springfield days for the first time since the sixties and, despite loud appeals from his audience, stubbornly refused to perform After The Goldrush.
Rush, of course, are not the only band to incorporate into their shows, an album in its entirety. A few years ago, Deep Purple launched their UK schedule at Newcastle’s Arena and their decision to play Machine Head from start to finish went down a treat – well at least to the audience.
By the time, they played their second gig of the tour, they decided to change the format, dropping Never Before and rejigging the running order, claiming the planned setlist didn’t work.
Anyone who has bought the quite brilliant Live at the River Plate this week, AC/DC’s eagerly awaited DVD from their recent Black Ice tour will note they err on the side of caution, playing just a handful of songs from their latest album but generally sticking to the tried and tested. There is absolutely nothing wrong with that policy as evidenced by the vitality of the show.
Nevertheless, bands with such a rich back catalogue should be applauded for trying to be a little bit different..
Personally, I’d love it if Rush played my all-time favourite Jacob’s Ladder and encored with Bastille Day when I see them next Saturday but the fact the Canadian power trio are arguably more popular now than when Moving Pictures was in the charts, suggests they must be doing something right.