Saturday, August 11, 2007

Rush Live at Red Rocks

I've been waiting for this for the last 8 years... and I finally saw Rush... live! Been waiting for tickets since way back when, but it was worth the wait, having bagged Row 17 at Red Rocks Amphitheater :-)

S. and I drove up there with two of his friends. They didn't have tickets, though, so they hiked up a nearby hillside to get a view of the stage. We went in about half an hour early (show was to start at 8:00). From the back, there are some phenomenal views of the surrounding hills. Here's one with a few happy campers getting a free Rush concert...

The view behind the amphitheater

This is what the stage looked like from above Row 99:
Stage from Row 99

Free Image Hosting at www.ImageShack.us
"Really, officer, I'm just drunk with joy!"

The stage before the show was covered up, and one of the mic stands had this mysterious sign in front that read "Big Al's Babes"...

Anyway, the show started promptly at 8:00 with a hilarious video featuring the band, and Geddy playing the role of a Scott! At 8:10, the band ran out and started the first set with Limelight.

Rush: Living in the Limelight
Playing Limelight

The pix aren't the best, but given the rules of the show were "no cameras" (I plead ignorance, it didn't say so on the ticket), I think these qualify as "fair use"

Turns out the sign covered up an array of toy dinosaurs, which were all over the Alex Lifeson's side of the stage. Geddy's bass amps this time around looked like three giant rotisserie machines; roadies dressed up as chefs would periodically check on the chickens during the show! Bit of a change from last tour's clothes dryers...

Next up were Digital Man followed by Entre Nous:
Entre Nous

Here's Lifeson playing the acoustic parts:
Entre Nous (acoustic)

Next up were Mission and Freewill, which was about when the crowd started to pick up some energy (and I got hoarse screaming "I WILL CHOOSE FREE WILL!!!")

Geddy then announced they'd be playing a few newer songs, and started with the awesome The Main Monkey Business from the new Snakes and Arrows. Also featured was a video of, well, monkeys :) Very well received by the crowd.

More songs from S&A and Vapour Trails followed: The Larger Bowl and Secret Touch. Then a real shocker: they played Circumstances from Hemispheres, never thought they'd play it live. Then yet another shocker: Between the Wheels, from Grace Under Pressure... it was about this time that, I'm not ashamed to say, I actually lost it and cried a bit. The set ended with Dreamline which was accompanied by a laser show that I just barely managed to catch:

Laser Show

All the newer songs seemed to be accompanied by BLINDING light shows, I would say they were on par with Pink Floyd's Division Bell tour.

Geddy then apologized that "due to our advanced years, we have to take a half-hour break". I, of course, didn't move an inch, to not lose my spot.

The second set started with a video, and went to Far Cry and Working Them Angels from S&A.

Working Them Angels

It was about this time that one of the bouncers told us that we couldn't have cameras in, and that we had to leave them in the car. S, bless his soul, took the fall for me and double-timed it to the car. He was back within the next two songs... I owe him so much.

Next up were Armor And Sword, Spindrift and The Way The Wind Blows from S&A. Then they went back to Signals and played Subdivisions, with Lifeson doing the "subdivisions" voice and Geddy working overtime playing both bass and keyboards. Then came yet another pair of unexpected tracks, Natural Science from Permanent Waves and Witch Hunt from Moving Pictures.

Then came the second instrumental from the new album, Malignant Narcissism, with the most scorching bassline EVER! The, the moment everyone was waiting for: Neil Peart's drum solo... except this time it was all new! That alone would make the concert DVD worth it. After thrashing the drums to near breaking point, Peart took a break as the Lifeson and Geddy continued with Hope.

Rush was never known for playing covers until Feedback, from which they played the old Eddie Cochran staple Summertime Blues. Then they let loose with The Spirit of Radio, and predictably, the crowd just went ballistic. There was a short South Park video, with Cartman, Kyle, Stan and Kenny pretending to be Rush. Cartman (playing Geddy) starts singing "Modern day warrior, neat neat guy, floating down the river with a black guy...". The band then comes back on and shows them how it's REALLY done.

The encore started with One Little Victory, followed by Passage to Bangkok (with some hilarious videos in the background) and ended with a flawless rendition of YYZ.

The show wrapped up at 11:30, a solid three hours of music. Awesome. In case you didn't get the hint yet, go check the tour list, if they're playing anywhere near you, GO WATCH THE SHOW!

Sunday, August 05, 2007

Barcelona Trip

I got to go to Barcelona for a few days this month, mostly to attend a conference on remote sensing (yawn...), but luckily, I got to spend a few extra days there. Surprisingly, I actually took pictures this time, so I'll put a few on here.

I went with my labmate, N. We stayed at a nice-ish hotel in a newer part of town called "Forum", which had a nice view of... well what I'll politely describe as a ghetto. Still, it was within walking distance of the conference.

Near the hotel was this shopping mall, where we went for lunch. There was this little sand sculpture exhibit in the middle, with models of various famous buildings in town.



The mall itself was kinda interesting, first off, even though nobody who worked there spoke any English, the music played was mostly 80s pop (think Cyndi Lauper). The only way to get drinking water was to buy (expensive) bottled water, water fountains and getting a glass of water with a meal seems to be unheard of. Lucky for me, my Spanish phrasebook helped me out of several situations. Oddly, the one guy at the mall who spoke English was from Pakistan!

All the places to see in Barcelona are quite far off, so we took the city bus to get to the more interesting spots. The hub of most activity is in Plaça de Catalunya, which is also the main bus stop and metro station.



From here, we walked through Las Ramblas, which is a street full of restaurants of all descriptions, with shacks on the street selling all sorts of trinkets. The most fun part, though, are the street performers, most of whom were human statues.

Atlas Shrugged?

In this case, Atlas actually did shrug.

Tree Man

The tree-woman, er, man, er... you figure it out.

Devil-in-a-box

I liked this guy the best, he'd sit motionless in his box, but occasionally turn and glare at someone walking by. Then there was this one time he stared right at me...

Devil-in-a-box-2

...and my camera had to go on the fritz. :-/ This is the best I could do with The Gimp.

Las Ramblas ends by the sea, at the monument to Christopher Columbus.

Christopher Columbus

Nearby was the Museu Marítim de Barcelona, built into one of the ancient shipyards from which ships sailed to the Americas, and around the world. One of the more interesting exhibits was a full-scale replica of one of the early Spanish galley ships (think Ben Hur...).

Ship

We took one of the organized bus tours of the city, which made for some interesting photo ops, given that the buildings in the old town were just so... purdy!

Buildings from the bus - 1 Buildings from the bus - 2

One of the stops along the way was the famous Sagrada Família, which is the unfinished basilica designed by Gaudí, the architect responsible for much of Barcelona's unique buildings.

Sagrada Familia

The church has been under construction for over 100 years now. Apparently, this was by design, and the intended completion date is 2026. Interestingly, the sculptures on one side (the older face) depict one large scene, while the newer ones on the opposite side (depicting the crucifixion) are more like sculptures found on Indian temples, in that they tell a complete story rather than just one scene.

Sagrada Familia

Much of the insides were under construction, so there wasn't much to see. Next up on the bus tour was a ride to Tibidabo, one of the hills overlooking Barcelona. To get there, we had to board this quaint little tram, called Tramvia Blau.

Tramvia Blau

That took us half-way up the hill where there's a cable-driven tram up the steep hill face to get to the top. The paint-job is hard to miss... :-)

Cable-tram

Right at the top, there's a small chapel, the Templo Expiatorio de Espana.

Templo Expiatorio de Espana

There are some spectacular views of Barcelona from up here, of the harbour and the rest of the city.

BCN from up high

One of the more unusual stops we made were to a science musem called Cosmocaixa (hey, the conference folks gave us free tickets!) This place was a lot like a scaled-up version of Vishweshwaraya museum in Bangalore, with the push-button experiments and everything :) I even got a pic with Einstein, wearing a T-shirt with the speed of light on it :)

With Einstein!

(I think I have Chandler's affliction - I absolutely cannot smile for a photo!)

The Bus tour hands out earphones you can use to listen to a commentary. Here's what happens to them:

Bus Stop

We also visited the aquarium, the zoo and wandered around a bit in the Parc de la Ciutadella. One of the park's prominent features is the Cascada, with a large waterfall.

The Cascada

The food was great, although I have a sinking feeling that we didn't really get to have many of the local dishes since we didn't really have any locals to help us. The best local dish I tried was Paella, although mine wasn't entirely authentic since it didn't have any seafood (I was playing it safe). Then there was Jamón ibérico, or Spanish cured ham, which on first sight looks, um, quite unappetizing. The taste, though, is quite amazing.

The ice-cream was really good as well... it's less sweet than American ice-cream, it's at just the right level of sugar. The flavours are quite varied too, with Hazelnut and Tiramisu being my favourites.

Well anyway, after all of that, I'm back in Fort Collins and back to the grind, screaming "it's too SOOON!" I must say, though, that I caught myself almost saying "Gracias" to the person at the local McDonalds...