Rush Clockwork Angels@ Glasgow SECC, May 30 2013

In sporting parlance, this was Headingley ’81, Istanbul 2005 or last year’s Medinah miracle in the Ryder Cup.

Bill Clinton, politics’ great comeback kid, had nothing on Rush in Glasgow last night.

This was the slow-burner which transformed into an explosion of nuclear proportions. 

And wouldn’t you know it, Rush did it by breaking every rule in the classic rock handbook.

This was a triumph of new over old. Contemporary trashed nostalgia, 2112 was awesome but 2012, the year they released Clockwork Angels was something else. But more of that later….

During the interval of Rush’s three-hour set of their last UK gig this year, the atmosphere was flat. One wag even remarked it wasn’t so much Alex Lifeson stuck in splendid isolation stage right but Alex Lifeless.

Harsh but quite possibly fair as Geddy Lee’s keyboards provided the dominant sound…Subdivisions from 1982’s Signals kicked off the show after a typically wacky film into and while it’s one of the Canadian trio’s finest synth-driven tracks, it’s hardly the ideal opener.

And that was the problem with the first half of last night’s set. It was techniically excellent and admirably leftfield but a little too pedestrian.

Playing Territories and Grand Designs from Power Windows and The Pass from Presto was fine in theory but in practice, performing  three songs which wouldn’t make the list of most Rush fans’ top 100 songs, meant audience reaction from the sell out crowd was respectful rather than euphoric.

Euphoria enveloped the auditorium during the second half of the gig as Rush showcased nine tracks from Clockwork Angels, accompanied by an eight-strong orchestra, including a rather foxy looking violinist who rivalled the visually stunning lightshow and film for attention throughout.

Within weeks of its release, Clockwork Angels was hailed as Rush’s best release for decades by fans and critics alike.

Listening to the music live, buttressed by a strings section whiich adds breadth and depth to the sound, fuels the belief Geddy Lee, Neil Peart and Lifeson have scaled a creative peak.

Carnies, Headlong Flight, The Anarchist and The Garden were afforded ovations normally afforded to old favourites such as Spirit of Radio and Tom Sawyer.

Most bands nervously throw in a handful of “newies” wanting to promote fresh material but in the knowledge that such songs can be momentum-breakers.

This was different. Very, very different. Rush know Clockwork Angels is good and the nine songs played off it were indisputably the highlight of a memorable night.

Of course, 1977’s 2112 raised the roof at encore time and Neil Peart’s three, yes, three drum solos were wildly received.

But at the end, the talk wasn’t about a rather sedate starter but the meaty main course which sated the most demanding rock music appetite.

Ian Murtagh