Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Rush might have sounded great, but I couldn't tell

The Barclays Center in Brooklyn had a long and twisting path from dream to reality. It took years just to sort through the lawsuits designed to stall or prevent its construction, then once construction began, those of us who live in Park Slope and Fort Greene endured traffic jams, noise, and dust. Finally, late last month, this new arena opened just blocks from my apartment. Monday night's Rush concert was my first opportunity to see the arena and hear a band I've enjoyed for years (and seen live once before, in 1994).

I liked the massive entranceway, with its high ceiling and what should be a gorgeous view of the basketball court as you walk in. The wide concourses looked inviting and the Brooklyn food vendors beckoned with local options like burgers and Fatty Cue barbeque. As we took the escalator to the upper level, I gawked at the club level's carpeted lounge. As we found our seats, while I didn't like the narrow aisles and gaps between rows, I loved the sight lines. The steeply raked upper deck meant that we had an excellent view of the stage below and to the left of us, with no heads in front of us blocking our view. I can only imagine how good the view would be for basketball or, dare I say it, hockey. And I really enjoyed the convenience of walking to and from the venue, a first for me.

Unfortunately, the sound in the upper level was absolutely awful. The bass thrummed throughout the arena, but the notes themselves were so muffled and lost within the space that I sometimes couldn't tell what Geddy Lee was playing. Alex Lifeson's guitar didn't fare much better. Neal Peart's drums sounded great during his solos, except when the bass thrumming shook the entire building and covered him up. The worst part were Geddy Lee's vocals. I'm not kidding when I say that I could barely understand a word he sang or spoke. Most of the set list consisted of newer material that I didn't know, and since I couldn't really hear any of it, I found myself checking Twitter and catching up on the presidential debate. The free wi-fi worked much better than the sound, by the way. Even when the band played songs I know by heart, like "The Spirit of Radio" or "Subdivisions," I couldn't pretend to sing along because I couldn't follow the vocals.

I've never been more disappointed in an arena show. Rush is an amazingly talented band that's been playing for 40 years, and their songs got completely lost in the Barclays Center. I don't know if it was a failure of the band's sound technicians or the arena's acoustics, but something was terribly off. I'm going to wait a while before I go to another concert at this arena.

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