It was June 28, 2002 at the Meadows Music Center in Hartford, Connecticut. My wife and I travelled from Boston with tickets for the opening night of Rush’s Vapor Trails tour. Once we arrived at the parking lot (about an hour early) a torrential rain shower let out it’s heavy burden beneath a purple sky.
Our seats were on the left side under cover, so I wasn’t so much worried about that. Getting into the venue would be another thing as we didn’t bring umbrellas with us for protection. We decided that a refreshing jaunt across the blacktop wouldn’t be so bad.
Before actually getting to the front of the venue the rain stopped almost as quickly as it had started. The sun broke through the clouds and we were offered a brilliant rainbow for our efforts. I already knew this was going to be a special evening, but this was even more validation. I doubt the band even knew that the rainbow formed for the fans, but it was there.
You see, Rush hadn’t been on tour for six years before this night. On August 10, 1997 Neil lost his 19-year-old daughter in an accident on her way back to university in Toronto. If that wasn’t enough, Neil lost his wife to cancer 10 months later on June 20, 1998. At his wife’s funeral he told the other members of Rush, “consider me retired.” He spent 55,000 miles travelling on his motorcycle through North America and Central America in order to heal his soul. In early 2001 Neil told the band that he was ready to record and perform again.
June 28th, 2002 was Neil’s first night back touring again with the band, who had essentially called it quits when Neil needed his space to deal with his tragedy those many years ago. We were able to experience Rush again after all that time waiting to see if they would ever do anything ever again. And this was my wife’s first Rush concert, making it even more special.
I remember Geddy Lee’s emotional welcome to the fans after their first song (which was after the normal Three Stooges Intro). This was a special evening, and the band knew it. We knew it. The concert had begun with the sun still taking up a portion of the sky – which felt odd to me as I’ve never been to a partially outdoor concert before. I was used to the darkness of an enclosed space.
They sounded pretty good, considering they had taken so much time off before they got back together to record, etc. A tandem of air-guitarists in front of my wife and I never took a break from their spastic bass soloing… which I rather enjoyed. At one point during the night as Alex was majestically pouring soothing notes from his guitar, my wife turned to me and said, “Wow, that guy is really pretty good!”
Beyond the Lighted Stage (Affirmation)
It was after watching the BluRay documentary “Beyond the Lighted Stage” that I realized just how important that this particular concert was for the band and for Neil. They spoke about their group hug before going out, Geddy checking on Neil during the concert, and how Neil said at the end, “It would have been a shame if that had never happend again.” Watching the interviews and the footage brought me back to that day and what a special night that was for me and maybe my wife (only in regards to it being her first Rush concert and probably one of the 100 or so other females there). Not nearly as emotional for me as for the band, but we welcomed them back and counted our blessings that Neil found solace on that healing road.