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A Rush Fan’s Perfect Setlist — 20 Songs Hand-Selected From Their 20-Album Career

Photo by Ethan Miller/Getty Images

There aren’t many bands that can quote Shakespeare, sing about magical places and mysticism and even reference the Hobbit. Rush is that band, which is why Rush fanatics like myself have been labeled a bit nerdy. No doubt, lyrically, there is no smarter rock band, and Rush’s fascination with science fiction and fantasy has likened their fans to Dungeons and Dragons players. In the ’80s, the band moved into more humanistic and historical themes, maybe captured best on one of their most underrated albums, Power Windows, with songs like “Big Money,” “Territories” and “Middletown Dreams.”

It’s hard to understand the cult-like way we follow Rush, and strangely enough, it was captured best in the film I Love You, Man when Peter Klaven “slappa-da-bass” with Sydney Fife. Yea, it’s definitely a guy thing (but what do you expect with song titles like “The Necromancer”?), and tonight’s show at the First Niagara Center will surely be a sausage fest.

Having purchased (or at least downloaded) all 20 Rush albums over the last 40 years, I decided to put together my perfect setlist just in case this is the last time the band plays in Buffalo. I eliminated “Tom Sawyer” because while it is the band’s most well-known song, Rush fans don’t need to hear this song live again. I also eliminated some of the concept album stuff, since the band has been performing album sides their last few tours. I tried to spread the hits out over their career for nice balance.

I have a theory that Rush changed sound every four albums, so I tried to get something from every cycle. The so-called keyboard era of the band in the ’80s was their heyday, and they produced one great album after another, so there is a heavy dose of that. While Rush’s music over the last four albums isn’t as good as it once was, they have found comfort in being a straight-ahead rock three-piece again, so I included some songs from the new album Clockwork Angels. It’s reminiscent of their ’70s beginnings when they were influenced by British bands like Cream, Led Zeppelin and The Who. Notably, the band once again is shying away from keyboards on their new album but has returned to long, concept pieces that seem to fit nicely into their catalog.

Once again, Rush is riding the pop culture wave with the hilarious Volkswagen Passat commercial  so I had to include “Fly By Night.” So here it is, my perfect Rush setlist for tonight’s show. It comes out to about a four-hour set — am I asking too much?

  1. Subdivisions
  2. Working Man
  3. Manhattan Project
  4. Roll the Bones
  5. Freewill
  6. Headlong Flight
  7. New World Man
  8. Witchhunt (for Halloween)
  9. In the Mood
  10. Nobody’s Hero
  11. YYZ
  12. Red Barchetta
  13. Distant Early Warning
  14. Presto
  15. The Spirit of Radio
  16. Mission
  17. Mystic Rhythms
  18. Red Sector A
  19. Limelight (encore)
  20. Fly By Night (encore)

Next: See Photos From Rush's Tour Stop in Boston

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