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Dreamline Unlimited 
Concert Report by The Centaur
October 14, 2002

Mmmm... sweet Rush eases the pain.

The past few months of my life have been a personal and creative re-awakening, and it is no coincidence that this period of renewal is bookended by a pair of concerts by the band Rush.

Rush is the quintessential intellectual rock band - luring disaffected youngsters in with hard-rocking songs about independence and teenage angst like Tom Sawyer and Subdivisions, entrancing continued listeners with glistening, virtuoso musical performances on songs like Red Barchetta and La Villa Strangiato, and ultimately rewarding long-time listeners as they mature with deeper songs about life, loss and meaning such as Available Light, Vapor Trail and Roll the Bones.

Rush stumbled over some fairly heavy obstacles in the past few years - primarily, tremendous personal tragedy befalling their drummer and chief lyricist, Neal Peart - stumbled, but did not fall; and last night at Philips Arena they proved that they were not merely on their feet, but were standing tall with strong legs beneath them.

Roll the wayback machine a few months. Two of my oldest friends - Fred and Derek, who introduced me to Rush in college and who have been like blood brothers to me through thick and thin since then - were the first to hear about Rush's return to the studio and suggested we see them when they played in their home town of Toronto. No Atlanta tour was scheduled, and fearing that Rush might pass us up this year, I agreed. (After all, all work and no play makes the centaur throw a shoe.)

For once the stars were right, and we descended upon a Canadian outdoor arena in middle July to see Rush on stage for the first time in five years. The stage was surprisingly stark - the sole visible props were three coin-operated drying machines tumbling t-shirts on the side of the stage - and that starkness made the return of our heroes correspondingly strong.

The first set opened with their classic Tom Sawyer, then veered off into a medley of Rush's more mellow and intellectual songs like Natural Science. Their playing was tight - extraordinarily tight. By the end of the first set the sun had set, and the band hurtled back on stage amidst massive fireballs to dig into a rocking set of newer songs from Vapor Trails mixed in with crackling new approaches to old standbys - even an acoustic set! Afterwards, they left the stage for mere moments, then returned to dig through another medley of old favorites, including a super-crisp rendition of 2112 and ending with the rocking Working Man.

As the concert progressed, my feelings were mixed. Musically, they were dead on - better than I had ever heard - but I was saddened as I realized the playlist would omit the two most lyrical songs off their most recent album: the driven yet defiant Ghost Rider and the glittering, elegaic Vapor Trail. I knew that the very reason I treasured the songs - their unflinching portrayal of pain and loss, which resonates deeply with the loss of my father last year - no doubt makes them too painful for Neal Peart to play. But I missed the songs just the same.

But my strongest feeling was impatience. As the concert whirled through the sparkling kaleidoscope of Rush's creative output, I felt an overpowering urge to jump out of my seat, run back to my hotel room, and just create something - a story, a drawing, a computer program - anything, as long as I was creating! I couldn't bear to leave the concert and its energy and I couldn't wait for it to be over so that I could go begin pouring the ideas bursting in my head out into my sketchbook. The burn contined through the whole of the Toronto trip - throughout the streets of that friendly city, whether eating in its dazzling array of restaurants, dancing in its clubs or even basking in Niagra's dull rour, I couldn't help myself - sketching, drawing, writing, and taking pictures of everything that caught my fancy.

This renewed creative energy energy did not die when I and my blood brothers finally had to part ways and return to our normal lives. While still in Toronto, I had finally begun long-delayed work on a graphic novel version of one of my stories. When I returned, the creative bug pursued me to draw daily, to attend a writing conference at Dragon*Con to spark work on the revision of my novel, and to attend Dragon*Con's costume contest in costume for the first time in all the years that I attended. (I went as Green Lantern, the superhero who fights evil with fantastic images from his mind brought to life with no more than a little green ring and the power of his will).

The Rush concert instilled in me what truly felt like a breath of new life. I began dating again, renewed work on my weblog and comics seriously, and even joined the fight to save a yet another treasured science fiction show from an ignominious fourth-season cancellation (the show being Farscape, continuing the tradition of Babylon 5 in being canceled a year shy of their scheduled run by network programmers more interested in satisfying their own tastes than watching ratings. And then Rush surprised me, scheduling an Atlanta tour date. My blood brothers in Calfornia alerted me that Rush played even tighter later in the tour than in Toronto, and knowing that, I was prepared. Tickets were acquired. Troops were marshaled. Pizza was consumed. All was made ready.

And there we were, not quite three months later, in a wonderful mixture of old and new. Long-awaited friends Rush returned to Atlanta to a newly constructed arena, and everything was as it was five years ago, only better. Old blood brother Gordon joined me at the concert along with my new girlfriend Sandy; old Rush songs were rejoined by new ones with special emotional resonance; and the not-so-old concert that had sparkled in the setting sun in Toronto truly gleamed in the dark caverns of Phillips Arena. The music was tight; the lights were golden; and the band and the audience connected like Rush and their fans have never connected before. As my favorite Rush song - Dreamline - played in a rainbow cascade of glowing light, Sandy said I became so entranced that it looked like I was a wizard throwing the laser light from my fingers.

This is Rush's genius. They understand creativity. They see life as it is ... both its peaks and its valleys. Their words taught that everyone ends up in the gutter ... years before personal tragedy brought that lesson painfully home. Their lyrics showed that everyone can turn inward and implode in the face of crisis ... or turn outward to see beauty even when the heart holds no peace. And their songs prove that sparks of creativity can burst out of any gutter ... to spark new fires in watching eyes, to propel new souls out of their own gutters in a blaze of creation.

Flashfires ... leaping from mind to mind.

As Gordon would say, this is is life as it should be, and it is good to be alive.

And the spark of creativity? I give it to you.

Pass it on.
> -The Centaur

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The Library of Dresan ~ (C) Copyright 2002 Dr. Anthony G. Francis, Jr. ~ All Rights Reserved
Writer / Artist / Producer: Anthony Francis