Rush – “Tom Sawyer” (Live)

Yuri and Jeff more than fill any “classical music” or “50’s doo-wop” quotas around here, so I figured I’d do well to veer in a different direction with my posts. This here is Rush performing “Tom Sawyer” live in 2004.

I often measure a group’s true talent by how they sound live versus how they sound in the studio. Going on the assumption that bands have a substantial amount of time and resources to perfect their pieces in the studio, I look at it like this: If their live performances are on par with their studio recordings, they’re a good band. If their live performances far exceed their recordings in quality, they’re a great band. And Rush even takes it a step further – they’re still finding ways of making old music sound new more than 25 years after it has been released. See below for reference.

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Rush was, in my mind, one of the great pioneers of the synthesizer as a “lead” instrument. It’s so seamlessly integrated into this song; the synth melody tag-teams the guitar riffs with such impeccable grace. The way I see it, they were able to incorporate electronic music into their songs in ways that few others have. The sounds are not gimmicky, and they don’t feel tacked on. They’re part of the song. And man, also, Alex Lifeson (guitarist) can shred.

The other thing about Rush that really stands out to me (and that is evident in this video) is their ability to write material that feels satisfyingly theatrical. Not like Queen theatrical; I’m thinking more like Aerosmith theatrical. In your face, passionate, and meaningful. Meat and potatoes. And oh so delicious!

Bonus: I’ve always admired lead singer Geddy Lee’s unique vocals. He might be one of the most underrated lead singers of 20th century rock. But did you know that his name is actually Gary? Turns out, his mother had some kind of zany accent and pronounced his name “Geddy”. And it kind of stuck. Awesome.

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