Evan Chronister is a local music enthusiast, a masterful mix CD maker, and an avid blogger. He can talk your ear off about seeing legendary bands in their prime, but his first show is something he's never forgotten: Rush. In honor of Rush playing the American Airlines Center tonight, we caught up with him and talked about all the times he's seen Rush. He also saw the Sex Pistols on their ill-fated tour in the late '70s.
I've known you for a very long time, but I never thought you were a Rush fan. How did you first hear about Rush? Well, I was moved into Dallas when I was 16 by my parents. I was an angry about it, frustrated, didn't want to be in Dallas. I'll never forget, there was some kind of department store that used to be in Garland, and I was an 8-track person. I always had 8-tracks. I read a review somewhere in some magazine about this little underground band called Rush that kind of sounded like Led Zeppelin. They talked about this science fiction album, 2112. I thought, "What the heck?" All the 8-tracks were stacked behind glass in the department store and I bought 2112, Rainbow's Rising, and, of all things, Bob Dylan's Blood on the Tracks at the same time.
I put Rush on and the album just blew my mind at age 16. What I remember is that the songs were structured oddly. Like, it wasn't verse/chorus, verse/chorus, verse/chorus. It was like, verse/verse/verse then the guitar solo would be at the end of the song or it would be at the beginning of the song. I was angry to be here, I was angry at my parents, I hated authority, and that whole album is about this guy or kid who was all about authority. It didn't really remind me of Led Zeppelin. They said that [Geddy Lee] had this really crazy high voice, the lyrics were really smart. I can tell you that I can remember the second side, but I listened to the first side more than the second side. I always tell people this, but Rush's 2112 saved my life. It had been the first summer I had been in Dallas. I hated everybody, I didn't want to be here. I had zero friends. They were all in Houston and that album saved my life. I just played it over and over and over and over. So that's how I found out about Rush. They were underground. Nobody knew who they were. I reviewed them for my high school newspaper. I ranked it as one of the top three albums of '76, I think.
How long after you bought 2112 did you see them play live? Would have been three months and it was my first concert. My dad used to drive me to the concert hall, go see a movie, go back and sit outside and wait for me and come get me. He would drive all the way to Fort Worth sometimes. I can't believe my dad did that for me. I wanted to see Rush, but also Blue Oyster Cult, Mott the Hoople, and Stars, a band no one remembers now except some of my music buddy friends. Mott didn't show up. They broke up before they got here or something happened. I remember being really angry. Rush played songs I had never heard, because I didn't know anything about Rush except 2112. They played "Anthem," "Bastille Day," but they played the entirety of "2112" straight through. That was back when Geddy could hit the notes. I remember how stunning it was. Absolutely stunning. For that to be my first concert ever, I can't begin to tell you how amazing it was. They played "2112," "Working Man." When I got home, I bought the rest of the Rush albums. The funny thing is, they came on the Farewell to Kings tour and they were playing Memorial Auditorium and there was an ice storm. My parents would not let me go to the concert. I had third row, center stage [tickets]. To this day, the day I turned 18, I have never, ever missed a day of work or missed anything I wanted to go to because of an ice storm. I swore at the time, "I'll show you, I'll drive in ice no matter what happens for the rest of my life." To this day, that's true.
I can imagine you've seen Rush since then. Yes! I saw Rush in '80, '83 or '84, and to be honest, I kind of lost them in the '80s. As vinyl turned into 8-tracks, I didn't like the way their albums sounded. I saw them again in the '90s, and the last time I saw them was either 2003 or 2004 on the Snakes and Arrows tour. The interesting thing about Rush, they're still the same. Live, they're still great. Geddy can't hit the high notes. People make fun of their drummer or their lyrics. The thing that I like about Rush, to this day, is they have a completely unique sound. Their first album may have been a Zeppelin rip, but there's nobody else that sounds like Rush. Nobody even close. Second, their lyrics are fascinating. Listening to a Rush album is like reading a book. You can either agree or disagree with what they're singing about and they've gone through phases, but they're always fascinating. And the third reason is, their instrumentation. Alex Lifeson has found more ways to play guitar solos in the songs than I've ever heard in any other band in my life. When they go on tour, they never play the same set list twice. And they always play new material. I think Rush will put out new albums every two or three years for the rest of their lives and we'll get really interesting music for the rest of our lives.
What was the first show you paid your own money to see? Was it Rush? No, it was not. The first show I paid my own money to see was Be-Bop Deluxe. Be-Bop Deluxe were a British glam band, but they were a glam sci-fi band. They sounded a lot like Bowie. Bill Nelson was a guitar hero who played guitar like Hendrix. He has about 50 solo albums out now. Right after Be-Bop Deluxe broke up, he formed a band called Red Noise that basically sounded exactly like XTC.
Out of all the shows you've seen in your life, is there one show that tops everything? Yes there is, and not just for musical reasons: the Sex Pistols.
Longhorn Ballroom? Longhorn Ballroom. I reviewed that for my high school newspaper. Again, my dad took me there, dropped my off. I remember that the opening band, the Nervebreakers, were amazing. When the Pistols came on, for about three songs, the sound was terrible. Just awful. The soundman figured it out and the band got it together for about six songs, before it degenerated into chaos. The Pistols were everything. They were everything you wanted them to be. They were terrifying. They were monolithic. They were the voice of rebellious doom. I didn't go see Public Image recently because I just can't. I saw [Johnny] Rotten when he was Rotten and he was menacing. They were everything our parents were scared of. It only lasted six songs. After they played "Belsen Was a Gas," that was about the time [Sid] Vicious started bleeding and the crowd started freaking out. I've seen better musical shows. I saw Magazine, the Jam, the Clash, 999 . . .
The Misfits! I saw the Misfits with [Glenn] Danzig. I saw Television open for Peter Gabriel. If you name a band from that period of time, I almost guarantee you that I saw them. But as a 17-year-old, the Pistols were an experience I don't think you can recreate. It was more than music. The fact that my parents let me go in that horrible place, it's stunning to me. I'm very fortunate to have been able to see that. A lot of kids missed out.