Category: personal

Review of Rush’s 40th Anniversary Show – San Jose

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By , July 27, 2015 1:16 pm
Rush in San Jose

Rush in San Jose

As my musical tastes have evolved over the years, one group has pervaded throughout: Rush.  My interest to them grew in parallel with my drumming, at least in my formative drumming years, and that attachment has persisted.  That said, as much as I love Rush, it has been a long time (Roll the Bones tour in 1991) since my last Rush show.  In fact, I didn’t really anticipate seeing them ever again, mainly because I tend to see live music at smaller, more intimate venues, but also because I just haven’t connected with anything they have done in the past 20 years (since Counterparts).  But this tour felt different to me.  This one, I needed to go to.  The Rush 40th Anniversary Tour is likely their last and one that celebrates an incredible run by this quietly influential band.  Moreover, their concert was going to cycle backwards through their copious collection of songs (roughly 170 in total, depending on how you count some of them), touching on Rush-nerd classics such as Natural Science and Jacob’s Ladder.  Again, this felt like a must attend event.

Show Duration

First of all, I do want to highlight the fact that the show had no opening band and lasted over three hours from start to finish.  Not bad for a trio of 60+ year olds, huh?

The show was scheduled to start at 7:30pm.  It actually kicked off at 7:45pm.  There was a fever pitch in the arena starting at about 7:20pm, lasting all the way until the opening video started off the show.  Any time the lights dimmed a little during the time leading up to the start of the show, the crowd noise would swell with anticipation, only to settle back down until the next false alarm.

Once they started, the first set lasted a little more than an hour, during which they played 10 songs, spanning the albums Clockwork Angels through Signals.  The band then took a “short break to rejuvinate” lasting about 20 minutes or so, after which they played another 16 songs (keep in mind that some of these songs lasted 10 or more minutes).  The show closed at 10:50pm.

Stage Design


Simple Stage Design for R40

Simple Stage Design for R40

Unlike previous Rush concerts that I have been to, this stage design was super clean and simple.  There we no big hats with rabbits in them, for example, bouncing around the stage at various points in time.  Most of the stage floor was open and flat, with just a big yellow R40 in the middle near the front.  There were some simple stage affects (e.g. popcorn machine, laundry machines, fake Marshall stacks, etc.) to either side of the drum set that we bordering on goofy, but I found them largely unoffensive.  It was also a bit entertaining to see the guys in orange R40 suits walking across the stage in the open to shift around those affects during the song.  I also appreciated the apparent obliviousness of the band members to these moments which were clearly designed to be there.

The biggest offense in the stage props came in the form of two crew members dressed in a horse suit who then marched across the stage holding a sign that read “Hey”, begging the audience to cheer the word in those empty spaces towards the end of the 2112 Overture.  I mean, seriously guys, this is your 40th anniversary tour.  The place is filled with Rush geeks who know what you expect.  A goofy horse is not necessary…

Behind the drum kit was a large screen flanked by two tall and narrow screens.  These screens were used to present a range of videos between and during songs.  More on this later, but I think it was classy, out of the way of the actual performance, and generally enhancing to the show.


This was the show of two sets.  In the first set, I will sum it up by saying that I felt like Geddy was thrilled to be there, Neil was thrilled to just be playing the drums, and Alex was just thrilled to be alive.

To be more specific, Geddy was bouncing around the stage, deftly managing his significant workload while occasionally doing his awkward duck walk.  His enthusiasm definitely could not have been mistaken.  Meanwhile, Neil was behind the kit with a typical stoic expression.  While he played pretty proficiently throughout the night, he just seemed hunched over the whole time like this tour was weighing him down.  I got the sense that he would be more happy just playing the drums back in their garage in Toronto.  Alex, well, he was very stationary for the first set and there was little evidence that he was even awake.  It really did feel like a two person band for most of the first set.  This is particularly surprising given that Alex is the youngest of the three – he should have the most energy.

Alex looking lifeless

Alex looking lifeless
(courtesy of Jeff Butsch)

Between sets, however, they took a 20-minute break.  I have no idea what they did back stage, but Alex was a different player afterwards.  Maybe he got an injection or perhaps he was uninspired by the more recent material (similar to the sentiment of the majority of the crowd, I presume)…  Whatever it was, the second set put the “life” back into Lifeson.  No change in energy or performance for the other guys, for the most part.


Neil definitely showed his age.  Don’t get me wrong, he is still a great rock drummer and he generally played well, showing the poise of someone who has nearly 50 years experience on his instrument.  I have two major critiques of him in this show though.  First, and more fundamentally, he continues to play most of the parts as he crafted them on the albums.  Granted, the parts are well-constructed.  But he has the ability and creativity to improvise or vary things up more.  It would be great to see the fills in Tom Sawyer and YYZ, for example, played differently than their first incarnation nearly 35 years ago.  The second issue is that he simply made a bunch of mistakes during the show.  I don’t mean mistakes like he played the wrong part.  I mean, he would occasionally stumble and miss the one.  The most obvious occasion of such a misstep was in the triplet-based fill leading into the guitar solo of Tom Sawyer – he must have played this a million times correctly in the past, yet this was a big flub.  Geddy and Alex played on and Neil caught up again, so no real harm.  I note this because it is really uncharacteristic of an otherwise very precise player repeating the parts he has always played.  To be clear, this didn’t really adversely affect my enjoyment of the show.  I just noted it as an oddity, one that is likely a result of an aging player who has been touring on and off for 40+ years.

Neil played a mini-solo in the first set.  He played a larger one in the second set which split the uprights between the beginning and the end of Cygnus X-1 (with the middle of the song getting excised completely).  I don’t have much to say about the solos aside from the fact that he played them well and that I am a little disappointed that the majority of both solos consist of parts that I have heard many times before.  There were definitely nuggets in both that were exceptional though.


Neil and his drum set

Neil and his drum set
(courtesy of Jeff Butsch)

I loved Neil’s drum kit choices!  He ditched the circular drum set with all of the extraneous pieces in favor of his older and more traditional configurations.  Of course, the different eras have different percussive needs, so in exchange for the circulating kit Neil had his crew swap out kits during breaks so he can have the appropriate apparatus based on where the set was in the 40-year history.  For example, the kit he played after the big break included the chimes and bells for Xanadu and Closer to the Heart.  It was refreshing to see him get back to some of the roots and to match the simplicity of the stage design with the simplicity in his drum sets (with “simplicity in his drum sets” being a relative phrase).

Geddy with four instruments (vocals, keys, bass, guitar)

Geddy with four instruments: vocals, keys, bass, guitar
(courtesy of Jeff Butsch)

The other really noteworthy detail about the instruments is that both Geddy and Alex pulled out their double-neck guitars for Xanadu.  Those things look great!

Song Choice

First, coming up with a set list for these shows must have been a very difficult task to take roughly 170 songs or so and boiling them down to a set list that would cover about two hours and forty five minutes worth of material.  There are the obvious songs that you would expect, like Spirit of Radio, Closer to the Heart, Tom Sawyer, and Subdivisions.  But I was thrilled that they pulled out some others that cater to the more committed fan, like 2112 and part of Hemispheres.  Songs that surprised me that they didn’t play include Limelight, Show Don’t Tell, and The Trees, I would have gladly forsaken any of these in favor of La Villa Strangiato, Vital Signs, and By-Tor.  All in all, a reasonable set list given the concept they were shooting for.  That said, if I were them, I probably would have trimmed the bookends and had the entire set be material from between Fly By Night and Roll the Bones, giving them more time to fill out the set with their stronger material.  Again, just my opinion.

Video Interludes

There were a bunch of videos that they played throughout the show.  Overall, I found them to be a lot of fun and a good break from the music.  It was great to see the cameos from a range of comedians like Paul Rudd, Jason Segal, Eugene Levy and Jerry Stiller.  I like how they didn’t take themselves too serious during the interludes – they were able to laugh at themselves a bit.  Good stuff.  The videos during the music were also interesting at times, but I found myself not paying attention to them during the actual performance.  Maybe this is because I was sitting off to the side more.

All in all, this was a great show.  With the ticket prices what they were, I feel like I did my part in sending this under-appreciated band out to pasture… but I don’t feel bad about spending that money at all.  The material is as great as ever and they played it well and with dignity.

Thanks for all the memories, Rush!


Skating Lessons

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By , December 31, 2011 4:48 pm

Yesterday, the seven of us (me, Andrea, Maya, Adam, Jenn, Ryan and Allison) went to the ice rink for a little ice skating. Maya has never gone before, so I wasn’t sure how she would react. But Adam was a great coach and she was able to “skate” before too long (and had a great time along the way).

Maya Learning to Skate from Daniel Jacobson on Vimeo.

Meanwhile, Ryan was flying all over the ice! He was weaving in and out of people and deftly shifting gears to avoid collisions as we played chase. It was a lot of fun ad I was amazed at what Ryan could do on the skates!

Ryan Skating Laps from Daniel Jacobson on Vimeo.

Thanks for a great day out on the ice, Adam and family!

Back on the Saddle Again

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By , December 23, 2011 4:29 pm

It has been quite a while since my last blog post.  That might lead someone to believe that I have completely abandoned the blog.  That wouldn’t be an unreasonable assumption.  But the reality is that all of my efforts in writing have simply been dedicated to another project (book).  I will write shortly about that project, but in the meantime, this post is meant to inform the huge audience that I plan to write at least once a week here again in 2012.


It’s a Miracle!

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By , March 14, 2011 8:22 pm

After nearly three months, FedEx (well, actually an external firm commissioned by FedEx) found our missing package! Fortunately, we put some cards in the massive, 62-pound box that had our current address on them. The firm found the box, dug through its contents (presumably while holding their noses due to the rotting lemons) and sent us a note in the mail telling us that they would send us the box if we could provide appropriate verification information. Of course, they would send it to us via FedEx, which was a bit concerning…

Anyhow, the result of all of this is that the packaged arrived at our house today. Again, it is 62-pounds, so it is sitting on our front stoop right now Assuming it doesn’t get stolen, it should be interesting to dig through its contents to see what survived and what has been destroyed by rotting lemons. More on that later.

The Case of the Missing Box

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By , March 5, 2011 3:05 pm
No FedEx

I have finally summoned the intestinal fortitude to write about our most recent shipping mishap. Here is the backstory…

On Christmas day, the three of us were to fly from San Francisco to Ft. Lauderdale to visit family. The expectation was that Florida would be warm. From there, we were headed to DC where forecasts were projecting massive snow storms and cold weather. We were going to be gone a total of 10 days, heading back to the bay area after New Years.

Traveling with Maya is already less than ideal, especially given that she requires a ton of extra stuff, like a stroller, toys for the plane, etc. Consequently, we did not want to bring more bags with us on the place carrying things like winter jackets, sweaters, boots, etc. Instead, we had the brilliant idea of shipping it ahead to DC so it will be there by the time we arrived. Moreover, since we were already shipping stuff, we decided to also put a bunch of other stuff in the box, including a stereo receiver, hand-me-downs for Allison, some other electronics and a big bag of fresh lemons hand-picked from the lemon trees in our yard. Sounds like a great plan, doesn’t it?

We shipped this package on Friday, Christmas Eve, with an expected arrival date of Monday. We then left for Florida without a worry. A few days later, we touched down in DC and ask my parents if they received the package (at this point, it was Tuesday). They hadn’t. A tad concerned, I called FedEx, expecting that the holidays tied it up a little. We also looked at the tracking for the package. It turns out that the package left the Redwood City FedEx location on the 24th, went to the Menlo Park location, then carried on to Oakland the same day. That was the last stop. FedEx, meanwhile, has no record of what happened next and they have no idea where the package is.

Let me take a moment to explain to you how amazing it is that they lost this package. It is not as if the box was branded and indicated that it could be some prize for someone to snag, like an Amazon package. And this was not a small package that could easily take a walk without anyone noticing or that could be hiding in some corner of the warehouse. Rather, this was a large 65-pound box that stood about 2.5 feet tall, was incredibly cumbersome to move, and looked like it had been shipped a few times already. The only thing that suggested that it was worth stealing was the fact that it was large, that it was shipped around the holidays, and that we elevated the insurance level a little. But it does seem clear to us that it went missing due to bad intent.

The only solace we have at this point is in imagining the look of that poor thief’s face when he opens his prize and sees a bunch of beat up clothes, some crappy electronics, kids apparel and a bag of lemons coating all of the other items with an everlasting sour odor.

As a side note, after doing some research, it seems as though FedEx loses almost 1% of all packages! That is astonishing to me! UPS, while better, still has a high error rate of about .5%.

(I should also report that FedEx did pay out the insurance money pretty quickly and even refunded us the amount of shipping.)

Foot Fun!

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By , January 8, 2011 7:13 pm

For those of you that might remember my episode with the glass in my foot about two years ago (culminating in multiple surgical procedures to get it out), last night was the reprise…

Maya and I were playing in the living room last night. Afterwards, I started walking into the other room when the big toe on my left foot caught a rogue toothpick that was caught in the carpet. And by caught, I mean the toothpick went straight into my big toe about 1/4 inch and then snapped off inside.

Given the complications resulting from the glass episode, I decided it was better to spend three hours in Urgent Care in Palo Alto to get it removed professionally.

Again, better my foot than Maya’s. That said, better no foot than mine!

Our First Earthquake as CA Residents

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By , January 8, 2011 7:49 am

We can now call ourselves California residents… Today, a
4.1 earthquake registered just southeast of San Jose
Interestingly, I did not feel the quake even though I was only a
few miles away in Los Gatos. I was in a meeting at Netflix at the
time. The topic of that conversation must have been very compelling
because almost everyone else in the building felt it.

One Small Difference Between DC and CA

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By , December 12, 2010 5:10 pm

After a few weeks as California residents, we have already seen quite a few differences. I already wrote about the garbage/recycling/compost removal. Other differences include the harsh 60-degree California winter and the fact that everyone here will talk to you if you show a hint of interest in talking to them. All of these, however, were expected and well-advertised prior to moving here.

There is one difference that we didn’t expect… The number (and size) of the spiders! They are all over the place, with monster webs that stretch for yards connecting virtually any two things that don’t move much.

This nasty-looking orange spider was hanging out in a corner near our front door. It was about 2.5 inches including the legs and looked as though it could be poisonous (at least according to very very novice eyes).

I found this spider, perfectly silhouetted against the sunset, just dangling on it’s web between two trees that were about 10-feet apart. My best guess us that this one is 2 inches.

When looking at vacant houses prior to the move, I can’t tell you how many massive spiders in huge webs I almost walked into in their backyards… Eeewww!

California Trash

By , November 23, 2010 5:55 am

One of the simple things that makes me smile is the way California handles trash (at least relative to DC). First of all, there are three distinct bins compared to DC’s two. Second of all, we have a compost bin! Finally, of the three bins, the biggest (green) is the compost bin, the medium sized one (blue) is for recycling, and the smallest (black) is for garbage. That’s right, the smallest bin is for trash.

Go California!

California House

By , November 15, 2010 12:57 pm

It has been a bit since my last post, but obviously, things have been pretty busy over the last week. Thanks to Jenn for the reminder to update the log…

Since my last update, we have actually moved into our new house. Well, all of our stuff is there but we are sleeping in the hotel. We expect to get enough unpacking done tomorrow, however, to move in for good. Maya loves her new room too. The first time she saw the house, she ran upstairs to stake claim to the room that met her rigorous standards. Once determined, she jumped on the floor with glee, rolling around and giggling the whole time. Needless to say, a better reaction than we expected!

Finding a school is the next big hurdle. Andrea has seen quite a few already. We hope to have that solved in the next few days.

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