While you could argue that there are two types of people in the world, those who like Rush and those who don't, I don't think that's quite right. There is, however, a line in the sand with which you can divide serious students of rock 'n' roll, and that line is Rush.
Rush, the Canadian prog rock trio formed in 1968, is what punk rock rebelled against and the movie, This Is Spinal Tap, satirized. Rush is a band heavy on spectacle, free of irony, and a week after their induction into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, they had a two-thirds-full BB&T Center crowd eating out of the palms of their hands.
True, they were preaching to the choir, but I, on the other side of the sand, was impressed with the skills the members of Rush displayed 45 years into their musical journey. Guitarist Alex Lifeson noodled up and down his instrument with the best of them. Drummer Neil Peart had the endurance of a triathlete banging through two sets that lasted over three hours. Then there's Rush's bassist and frontman, about whom '90s alternative band Pavement sang, "What about the voice of Geddy Lee? How did it get so high? I wonder if he speaks like an ordinary guy."
Lee's falsetto voice is the most distinguishing feature of Rush. And as he hopped around stage on one foot, he hit pitches that would make Mariah Carey's dog whistle envious.
Harder for me to appreciate was the ridiculous bombast that surrounded the music. When the screen behind the band was not focusing on close-ups of the musicians, it showed a series of silly images. At one time, it displayed atomic bombs detonating, other times, it there was a giant baby carriage rolling around the world. During the song "Territories," it flashed computer generated images of balloons shaped like members of the band. Most insane was at the top of the second set, there was a five minute short movie featuring a tax collector having trouble getting straight answers from a trio of wisecracking dwarves.
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There were other unnecessary touches like a string septet that included five violinists and two cellists and a busy stage that was set up to look like a mad scientist's garage sale complete with a popcorn machine. But I suppose if you want subtlety, you must look elsewhere. At a Rush concert, the drum kits rotate 360 degrees have thirteen high hats, six snares, and a partridge in a pear tree.
But the fans love it. They patiently sat through an extended stretch where Rush played songs from their newest album, Clockwork Angels, but were rewarded when Geddy Lee came through with his promise, "That we have 16,000, songs for you guys."
Fifty year old men exchanged high fives with regularity, and sang along with every word to "The Analog Kid." Even with the gray hair and potbellies, they had the enthusiasm of teenagers who skipped their Friday night Dungeons and Dragons game to see what, in their eyes was, is, and always will be the greatest band in the world. Rush.
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