The first band I ever saw perform live was Rush.

It was on April 23rd, 1980 at Wings Stadium in Kalamazoo during the "Permanent Waves" tour. I was a sophomore in high school and that Rush concert was the most amazing thing I'd ever seen.

I vividly remember a moment during "Jacob's Ladder" when the music slowed and Geddy sang...

All at once, the clouds are parted
Light streams down in bright, unbroken beams

...and suddenly there was an intense spotlight streaming down from the ceiling of the arena, penetrating the smoke...in bright unbroken beams. It was beautiful and I was awestruck and it gave me chills. It still does.

Drawing I made of my Rush concert shirt. 1980.

The show opened with the entirety of 2112, which might be my favorite 20 minutes of music ever committed to vinyl. Here's the full playist (via setlist.fm)

  • 2112 Part I: Overture
  • 2112 Part II: The Temples of Syrinx
  • 2112 Part III: Discovery
  • 2112 Part IV: Presentation
  • 2112 Part VI: Soliloquy
  • 2112 Part VII: Grand Finale
  • Freewill
  • By-Tor & The Snow Dog
  • Xanadu
  • The Spirit of Radio
  • Natural Science
  • A Passage to Bangkok
  • The Trees
  • Cygnus X-1
  • Cygnus X-1 Book II: Hemispheres Part I: Prelude
  • Cygnus X-1 Book II: Hemispheres Part IV: Armageddon
  • Cygnus X-1 Book II: Hemispheres Part V: Cygnus
  • Cygnus X-1 Book II: Hemispheres Part VI: The Sphere
  • Closer to the Heart
  • Beneath, Between & Behind
  • Jacob's Ladder
  • Working Man
  • Finding My Way
  • Anthem
  • Bastille Day
  • In the Mood
  • Drum Solo

The encore was "La Villa Strangiato", an instrumental which, in my opinion, they never topped. Not even by everyone's favorite, "YYZ".

And that drum solo! I'd never seen nor heard anything like that. Neil Peart on drums was a joy to behold.

Neil Peart. (Fin Costello/Redferns/Getty Images)

I used to put on a Rush record and headphones and listen to only the drums for the entire album. I don't do that with other bands. There's something about the way Neil plays that makes me want to stop and just soak it in. To revel in it.

It isn't just the way he plays. There's something about Neil that makes him special. I'd always liked the way he kept to himself. He seemed to be an introvert perfectionist just doing his thing out there. Also, he wrote most of the lyrics on the records I listened to most while in my teens (and beyond). I'd say he was formative for me.

I saw Rush for a second time in 1982 during the "Moving Pictures" tour and then only once again in 2013 for "Clockwork Angels" and those shows were also amazing.

But that first time sure was something special.

Rest well, Professor, and thank you.