The Rock of Ages

I have just returned from seeing the rock group Rush perform a more than three-hour concert in Concord, California, thus marking at least the dozenth time (maybe closer to 15th or 20th?) that I’ve seen them live since my first Rush show around 1986. After spending the evening with so many for whom rock lyrics are a kind of gospel--sung, shouted, dramatized, memorized, existentially rehearsed--and whose "adherents" are primarily drawn from the generations born from the early 1960s to late 1970s, I could not help but wonder about making a theological sense of the night. The surrender to theatrical lighting; to musical and musicianly processions; to formalized gestures of exuberance, defiance, or witness; to communal recitations of philosophical fragments (as rock lyrics); in other words, the joy and freedom in and through a constellation of askeses, made me wonder whether my Catholicism made me more susceptible to rock, or my rock and roll to Catholicism. I was also struck by the fresh spectacle of rock stars aging before our eyes, and their potential spiritual placements in lives of fans. The three members of Rush are now in their 50s, and as I watched guitarist Alex Lifeson enter an ecstatic guitar solo rendered as trancelike, blissful, mournful, and painful, I thought that those of us who have followed this band for decades, a band now approaching its 35th year of existence, need these musicians to inhabit our time in a particular way: to inhabit this span of time with and for the fans, bridging the 70s, 80s, 90s, and now, by both how faithful they are to their music, and at the same time how they play it now with the faces and hands and bodies of men more like ’us’. These aging rock stars school fans in inhabiting the passing years through profound ’spiritual’ exercises for so many who live and move and have their being in ’secular’ cultures. Tom Beaudoin Palo Alto, California
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