My Dream Setlist: Rush’s Greatest Hits

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I was fortunate enough to see Rush live one time during the R30 Tour. Looking back, I had multiple opportunities to see them more. Let’s face it, these guys were on tour more times than they were off tour. Over four decades of live performances, Rush dazzled crowds with the amazing music three people could make, and each live set had it’s own unique flair. The R40 Tour in 2015 was their last, and it featured songs from across their catalog, but it needed more oomph in my opinion. So now, let’s turn their final set list on it’s ear and speculate on what it should have been!

Rush on stage, Nashville, TN
Rush on stage, Nashville, TN

In writing this piece, I have the benefit of already knowing the songs they chose for the last-ever live Rush performance. It was good. However, there were some tunes I would rather hear than the ones they ended up choosing. First, let’s dive in to that final show and see what they played.

Rush’s Final On-stage Performance

Rush performs their final show, August 1, 2015 at the LA Forum
Rush performs their final show, August 1, 2015 at the LA Forum

On August 1, 2015, Rush took the stage for the final time at the Los Angeles Forum. That’s not to say the individual musicians never played again. I have zero doubt the requests for special guest performances poured in from everywhere. Other bands and musicians adored Rush. Many of them wouldn’t be where they were/are if not for our trio of pioneer prog-rockers.

In that final show, they left nothing to chance and ground out a 26-song show that included tunes they rarely played live over their 40+ year touring career. Here’s the last show set list:

Final Concert Opening Set:

The Anarchist, Headlong Flight, Far Cry, The Main Monkey Business, One Little Victory, Animate, Roll the Bones, Distant Early Warning, Losing It, Subdivisions.

Final Concert Second Set:

Tom Sawyer, Red Barchetta, Spirit of the Radio, Jacob’s Ladder, Cygnus X-1 – part II: prelude part 1 and drum solo, Closer to the Heart, Xanadu, 2112: parts I, II, IV and VII.

…and the Encore:

Lakeside Park, Anthem, What You’re Doing, Working Man.

Rush live performance

That’s a who’s-who list of some of Rush’s greatest hits. Also keep in mind their songs are not 3-and-a-half minute pop boppers. These are long and complex tracks. You won’t find the standard, four-chord pop riffs anywhere in here.

Everyone Loves An Opinion, So Here’s Mine On What Rush’s Final Set List Should Have Been.

If I were writing their last set list, Rush would hate me because they probably would have to be carried off stage in stretchers when I was through. Let’s face it, as philosophically dreamy as it is, nothing lasts forever. Not even the on-stage stamina of Rush. The guys were ailing when the R40 Tour rolled around. For any band, life on the touring road is grueling. Though Lee said he felt pretty good throughout, his voice during R40 was different. Lifeson was struggling with staving off arthritis for a three-hour show, and Peart was dealing with some serious medical issues of his own.

Rush - UNIVERSAL CITY, CA - NOVEMBER 19:  (L-R) Alex Lifeson, Neil Pert and Geddy Lee of Rush perform in concert at the Gibson Amphitheatre on November 19, 2012 in Universal City, California.  (Photo by Gabriel Olsen/FilmMagic)
UNIVERSAL CITY, CA – NOVEMBER 19: (L-R) Alex Lifeson, Neil Pert and Geddy Lee of Rush perform in concert at the Gibson Amphitheatre on November 19, 2012 in Universal City, California. (Photo by Gabriel Olsen/FilmMagic)

“(The) last gig was a difficult night. But what you’re talking about is really what was going through Neil’s mind. He was struggling throughout that tour to play at his peak, because of physical ailments and other things that were going on with him. He’s a perfectionist, and he didn’t want to go out and do anything less than what people expected of him. That’s what drove him his whole career, and that’s the way he wanted to go out, and I totally respect that.”

Geddy Lee to Ultimate Classic Rock

Read up on our Rush Review!

live in concert

All that said, sorry boys… my dream set list is going to hurt a little. Here we go.

My dream set list for Rush’s Farewell Tour

Keep in mind while reading this, that Rush cut over 180 songs across their discography and 26 made the original list. That’s nearly 15% of their song catalog in a three-hour show. That is a lot of awesome Rush as it stands. However, if I were king for the day, here’s how it would go. Songs that were not on the original list are in bold.

Opening Set

Opening tape: The Three Stooges Theme, then it fades into the opening riff for what I think it the tightest Rush opening track, Anthem from Fly by Night.

  1. Anthem
  2. By-Tor and the Snow Dog
  3. The Trees
  4. Working Man
  5. Xanadu
  6. Marathon
  7. Test for Echo
  8. The Wreckers
  9. Presto
  10. Far Cry
  11. Countdown
  12. Cygnus X-1: Book II (in it’s entirety)

Second Set

Opening tape: The original 1984 Count Floyd introduction fades into The Weapon

  1. The Weapon
  2. The Main Monkey Business
  3. Closer to the Heart
  4. Spirit of the Radio
  5. Leave That Thing Alone
  6. Dreamline
  7. Losing It
  8. Subdivisions
  9. 2112: Parts I and V
  10. Jacob’s Ladder
  11. Freewill
  12. YYZ

Encore

  1. Red Barchetta
  2. Time Stand Still
  3. La Villa Strangiato
  4. Tom Sawyer

It hurt to cut others I wanted, like A Farewell to Kings, Ghost Rider, BU2B, Bravado. Force Ten, Bastille Day, The Necromancer and Cygnus X-1: Book I, among others. Sadly, a concert can only last so long. By my calculation, this dream list would be just over four hours. However, that’s my list and I’m sticking to it! Oh, and Neil can have drum solos anywhere he wants for all I care!

Final Thoughts On My Rush Dream Set List

While I’m sure my set list will not satisfy every Rush fan, I look through that track list and could simply put it on repeat for days. In my humble opinion, there’s a representation of every era of Rush listed. All the major hits are covered, and there’s a few of my dark horse favorites mixed in.

Rush in concert

This was not an easy list to make by any means. While writing my Rush discography reviews, I listened to each song multiple times over the course of months I was writing it. There’s so many that deserve a spot on this list. I’ll boldly declare there will never be another band quite like Rush. All rock-and-roll fans are fortunate to witness their talent and share in their music.

Check out our other Hashtag Dream Set installments by our own Hunter Bolding! Iron Maiden Dream Set List and Judas Priest Dream Set List here!

Hey Hashtaggers, what does your dream set list look like? Who else would you like to see get a “Hashtag Dream Set” treatment? Sound off in the comments, and hang out with That Hashtag Show for all your fun news and reviews for everything trending in geek pop culture. To learn more about Rush, visit their official site at www.rush.com. Rock on!

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