April 01 1983 Hartford Connecticut Rush on the Signals tour

In 1983 I turned thirteen. It was a big year for me- that transition from twelve to thirteen, into junior high, discovering girls, discovering the teen age years, and discovering the music that would help to define my teenage years and ultimately my musical tastes for my whole life.

As with most teens, my best friend and my big brother would be instrumental in the formation of those teen musical tastes. At that time my brother brought home a record and it spent as much time on my turntable as his: Moving Pictures by the band Rush. I wasn’t really familiar with them, but they were being played a lot on the new cable channel we had, MTv and were on classic rock radio, too. The first song on the record became the band’s seminal hit and helped to define rock radio and hard rock fans for decades to come, “Tom Sawyer.”

My best friend came up with two tickets for us to their show on April 1, 1983 at the Civic Center in Hartford CT. This was five days before my thirteenth birthday and just a few days later I would have my Bar Mitzvah and truly, this gift from my friend would be the greatest gift I got that year as it would be one of my first rock concerts and helped to usher me into my fanatic love for the band that continues to this day.

My brother was also going to this show with his friends, but my buddy Evan and I went with his sister and her friends. Billy Idol’s “White Wedding” was on the radio, I remember, and we were all packed into some beater car. Evan’s sister’s friend did something crazy… he had one of those cameras with a huge light bar flash unit, and he had used Wite-Out and ‘drew’ the Rush logo from their first album directly onto the flash bar. So when you closed your eyes, and he operated the flash in your face, you saw the Rush logo explode onto your field of vision where it remained as a ghost image for a good five minutes!

We pulled up to the Hartford Civic Center, two young kids awed at the crowd of Rush fans assembling for the show. We were walking around wide eyed and saw what we knew was the pinnacle of cool at a concert, a dude selling bootleg t-shirts. They were your standard early ’80s issue concert t-shirt with the Rush naked man and the star symbol on it, and the tour dates on the back. We were mesmerized!! The dude was out of shirts when we asked to get some, and implored us to accompany him to the parking garage so he could replenish his stock. We followed him, got our T-shirts, and were super stoked. I didn’t understand why as I was later relating this story to my 15 year old brother why a look of horror crossed his face, but listened when he told me ‘to not tell our mother that part of the story.’

We weren’t murdered, thankfully- and we made our way into the civic center. We found our seats, which were pretty decent- halfway back on the side, with a great view of the stage (Geddy side.) Golden Earring had been scheduled to open the show, and their hit “Twilight Zone” was a staple of radio and MTV. But it had gone top ten in the month prior to the Rush show- so they hopped off of Rush tour to headline their own show and New England hard rocking guitarist John Butcher Axis opened the show. But I was just too excited, I couldn’t pay attention to even a short set by an artist I didn’t know at that young age.

I can still remember the sheer excitement that I felt when the lights went down – I still get a thrill at every big concert that I attend in that moment. The band stormed the stage and the loudest sounds I had ever heard started to roar from the speakers. What I would later learn was a part of Rush’s signature stage entrance was the theme to the Three Stooges. Then, with every ounce of rock energy that they could muster, the band fired into “Spirit of Radio” and my baptism began.

I only had to wait until the second song to get the radio hit, “Tom Sawyer.” While the band was already onto their next album, Signals– and its new radio hit “Subdivisions”- the fan base was still elated at that huge and genre defining song. “A modern day warrior mean mean stride, today’s Tom Sawyer mean mean pride.”

It was almost too much for my pre-teen brain to handle- the lights, the biggest crowd of people I had ever been among, and the loud music. This was the planting of a major seed for me, the dawn of my infatuation with live music, the dawn of my infatuation with the trio from Canada.

One song after another flowed off stage and into my gaping ears, hungry for all that they would give. I was very familiar with the entire Moving Pictures album from start to finish- and the band rewarded me with almost every single song (aside from “Witch Hunt”) from that album from the hits like “Limelight” and “Red Barchetta” to the totally obscure cuts like “The Camera Eye” and “Vital Signs.” They did play a slew of hits from their earlier records too, and a few new songs from Signals, too. The drum solo of course was a highlight and had my friend Evan and I air drumming all the way home.

I continued my infatuation with the band, and saw pretty much every tour for the next three decades. I was lucky enough to continue my friendship with Evan, too. We even went to the final tour together, in Boston. And we didn’t come alone either- while we did not repeat the trip with his sister and her friends, we did each bring our own thirteen year olds with us- me with my son and Evan with his daughter. It was a special way to celebrate a life long friendship between us, and for each of us to pass our infatuation with our favorite band to our kids, too.

The Spirit of Radio
Tom Sawyer
Digital Man
Vital Signs
The Camera Eye
Closer to the Heart
The Analog Kid
Broon’s Bane
The Trees
Red Barchetta
The Weapon
New World Man
2112 Part I: Overture
2112 Part II: The Temples of Syrinx
La Villa Strangiato
In the Mood
YYZ (with Drum Solo and Reprise.)

What was your first show? Do you remember it?

Did it set you on a certain musical course for the rest of your live?

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